If there is even a small part of Ozzie Guillen that longs to bolt the Chicago White Sox’s Jerry Reinsdorf for the Florida Marlins’ Jeffrey Loria, then everyone’s favorite tweeting manager is even nuttier than we thought.
Reinsdorf, one of the most loyal owners in sports, has employed Guillen through various controversies since 2004.
Loria has changed managers five times since ’03.
No, Edwin Rodriguez didn’t get fired — he resigned. But Loria had ordered the dismissal of the Marlins’ hitting coach, John Mallee, earlier in the month. And he previously had dumped Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez as managers.
Rodriguez, in the middle of a 1-17 stretch, probably surmised that he wasn’t getting a contract extension anytime soon. Loria, impatient and impulsive, is a South Florida version of the late George Steinbrenner, only without the wallet.
Now McKeon is back, 80 years young. Everyone in baseball loves McKeon, reporters perhaps most of all. But does anyone seriously believe that he was the most logical choice to serve as interim manager for the rest of the season?
Loria wanted to keep his options open for another run at Guillen or Bobby Valentine as the Marlins prepare to move into their new downtown ballpark in 2012. Still, as one GM said Monday, Loria could have found someone more in touch than McKeon to manage, or allowed Brandon Hyde to remain manager and hired another bench coach.
People forget, Rodriguez was an early Manager of the Year candidate when the Marlins were 29-19, a respected, dignified presence who even had shortstop Hanley Ramirez playing reasonably hard.
McKeon supposedly made a “statement” Monday night by benching Ramirez for lack of hustle. But Rodriguez made a more compelling statement, saying that the Marlins lack veteran leadership.
Tough thing to buy with a $56.9 million payroll, the seventh lowest in the majors.
True, not everything is perfect for Guillen with the White Sox. It’s possible, as he said Monday, that Reinsdorf and general manager Ken Williams will not want him back. But if Guillen is smart, he will do everything possible to stay.
Truth be told, he has it pretty good — particularly if the alternative is managing for Loria.
WHY NOT BO?
The Marlins interviewed Bo Porter after firing Gonzalez last June. At that time, they wanted to hire Bobby Valentine, but instead wound up with Rodriguez. They interviewed Porter again at the end of the season, but decided to stick with Rodriguez.
Still with us?
This time, the Marlins did not even ask permission from the Nationals to interview Porter, the team’s third base coach. The Diamondbacks granted such permission when Porter was a member of their staff last season.
The Nationals, a division rival of the Marlins’, might have been less willing to lose Porter. But there would have been no harm in the Marlins asking — unless Loria feared that Porter might succeed and screw up his plans to hire a bigger name as permanent manager.
Indeed, one rival GM says that if Porter had been on his staff, he would have allowed the Marlins to interview him only if they were willing to give him a multi-year deal.
Porter, who turns 39 on July 5, could be a candidate for the Marlins again if they fail to hire Guillen or Valentine. He even could emerge as a candidate for the Nationals, though the team’s current 8-1 run should help solidify manager Jim Riggleman’s standing.
The Nats have yet to exercise Riggleman’s option for 2012.
“As of right now, we don’t have a contract extension in place,” says Riggleman’s agent, Burton Rocks. “However, I remain confident that a multi-year extension will be in place by season’s end.
“I feel that the Lerners view Jim an important part of the solution,” Rocks continued, referring to the Nationals’ owners. “I just feel that their timetable might be different.”
AND OUT IN LA-LA LAND
Fear not, Dodger fans: Owner Frank McCourt will not start dumping high-priced players in a last-ditch effort to make payroll on June 30.
Tom Schieffer, the MLB-appointed monitor for the Dodgers, would intercede if McCourt ordered moves that compromised the team’s best long-term interests, according to a major-league source.
The Dodgers are not pondering such trades, another source says. Even if they wanted to get an early jump on the market, their possibilities would be limited.
Many of the Dodgers’ potential chips are injured or coming off injuries. Perhaps their best chip, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, possesses a full no-trade clause.
Kuroda, 36, would appeal to the Rockies and other teams in need of starting pitching, but he turned down better offers to re-sign with the Dodgers for one year and $12 million. He is comfortable in Los Angeles, and only would waive his no-trade clause if he received some form of compensation, a source said.
Five other Dodger trade candidates are on the DL — catcher Rod Barajas, shortstop Rafael Furcal, right-hander Jon Garland and right-handed relievers Jonathan Broxton and Vicente Padilla.
Broxton, recovering from a bone bruise on his right elbow, is expected to begin a rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A on Tuesday night.
The Rays are in their usual difficult spot. They own one of the seven best records in the majors. But it won’t do them much good if they’re destined to finish third in the AL East.
A stretch of 11 straight games against the Yankees and Red Sox in mid-July likely will determine whether the Rays buy or sell. If the answer is “sell,” the Rays’ most intriguing trade candidate would be — deep breath now — right-hander James Shields.
The Rays, due to their low revenues, are in no position to declare any player untouchable. Shields, 7-4 with a 2.40 ERA and a major-league-leading five complete games, could bring a monster return in a market devoid of elite starting pitching. But the Rays probably would not move him unless they received an overwhelming offer in return.
Shields, 29, is earning $4.25 million this season with affordable club options of $7 million, $9 million and $12 million the next three years. The Rays value not just his performance, but also his leadership. And with Shields and left-hander David Price at the top of their rotation, the team stands a reasonable chance of staying competitive over the next several years.
THOSE PITCHING-MAD PIRATES
It’s one of the most surprising statistics of the season. The best rotation ERA in the NL Central belongs not to the Brewers, Cardinals or Reds, but the previously woebegone Pittsburgh Pirates.
Not only do the Pirates lead the Central with a 3.69 mark, but they also rank fifth overall in the NL.
“They’ve probably exceeded everyone’s expectations,” general manager Neal Huntington says of his starting pitchers. “But they’ve exceeded external expectations much more than they have our own.”
Huntington said he pegged left-hander Paul Maholm and free-agent righty Kevin Correia for bounce-back seasons. Righty Charlie Morton was more of a surprise, producing a 2.52 ERA in his first 11 starts before struggling in his last three. And righty Jeff Karstens is perhaps the biggest revelation of all.
Karstens, who was dropped from the team’s 40-man roster in Nov. 2009, is 4-4 with a 2.54 ERA overall, including a 0.65 ERA in June. His fielding-independent pitching ERA is a less spectacular 4.16, but his strikeout and walk rates are the best of his career.
“The games he has pitched have been real,” Huntington says. “He mixes and matches, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, hits his spots.
“Whether he sustains it going forward, I don’t know. But he’s one of those guys, it’s a comfortable 0-for-3. Opposing hitters go back to the dugout and haven’t quite figured out why.”
More good news for the Pirates: They’ve got a number of young starters in the minors who could fill rotation spots prior to the arrivals of mega-prospects Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, Luis Heredia and Gerritt Cole.
YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!
A perception exists among some fans and even some executives that low-revenue clubs exist only to feed players to high-revenue behemoths such as the Yankees and Red Sox.
The reality has become quite different since the introduction of revenue sharing. As low-revenue teams such as the Pirates and Royals improve, they are even less inclined to serve as a 4A club for their high-revenue brethren.
The Royals, for example, feature numerous players who might appeal to contenders — infielders Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit, outfielders Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, closer Joakim Soria.
All of those players, however, are under club control through at least next season. The Royals, trying to build momentum, are not inclined to trade any of them for average prospects. But naturally, they will entertain any reasonable offer.
“It’s important for us to stay open-minded with any potential deal that makes our baseball team better today and puts us in position to be better long-term,” Royals GM Dayton Moore says.
The Pirates, for all of their maneuverings in recent seasons, have traded only one player who was under club control for two or more years – outfielder Nate McLouth, who went to the Braves for Morton, left-hander Jeff Locke and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.
Closer Joel Hanrahan, 19-for-19 in save chances with a 1.35 ERA, is under club control through 2013. While some executives believe that relievers such as Hanrahan and Soria should be traded at their peaks, the Pirates are trying to produce their first winning season since 1992.
Hanrahan fits them now and in the future.
WHY ASTROS DON’T WANT TO GO
One of the problems with moving the Astros to the AL or NL West is the dramatic increase in games that the team would play in the Pacific Time Zone.
Four of the six teams in the NL Central, including the Astros, play in CT; the other two play in ET.
If the Astros slid to the AL West, the Rangers would be their only division opponent in the same time zone. If the Astros went to the NL West and the D-backs to the AL West, none of the Astros’ division opponents would be in CT.
The Rangers, of course, already face a similar problem, where all of their opponents in the AL West play in PT. The later start times of such games make it more difficult for many fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to follow the team on TV and radio.
Should such an obstacle prevent realignment from occurring? No. But from the Astros’ perspective, a move to either western division would be less than ideal.
AROUND THE HORN
• In case you’re wondering, representatives of the players and owners have not discussed a change in the DH rule during their talks on realignment.
The number of interleague games for each team is not likely to increase even if baseball goes to two 15-team leagues, forcing continuous interleague play.
• The time is now for the Rangers to pull away in the AL West. After playing 17 of 20 games on the road — and going 10-10 — the team began a stretch of 19 straight games in Texas on Monday night.
The quality of opponents is not especially high, either — the Rangers face the Astros and Mets at home, the Astros on the road, then the Marlins, Orioles and Athletics at home.
• The wear-and-tear on the Braves’ relievers is a concern — no other bullpen has thrown as many innings. Club officials, though, believe that an improvement in the team’s offense would help alleviate the problem.
Nineteen of the Braves’ last 39 games have been decided by one run. Forty-three of their 74 games on the season (58 percent) have been decided by one or two runs.
A little cushion once in a while wouldn’t hurt.
• Give former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland an assist for the Rays’ signing of right-hander Kyle Farnsworth.
Eiland, now a special assistant with the Rays, had Farnsworth with the Yankees in 2008 and his insight on the pitcher helped persuade the Rays to sign him to a one-year, $3.25 million, free-agent contract.
Farnsworth, 15-for-16 in save chances with a 1.69 ERA, could make his first All-Star team at age 35.
• Phillies outfielder John Mayberry, 27, is back at Triple-A, but one rival scout is impressed by his improvement.
“He has a chance for upside,” the scout says. “I’ve seen him make some adjustments. I’ve seen better at-bats. I think he’s a better player.”
Mayberry isn’t the right-handed hitting solution for the Phillies this season, but he could replace Ben Francisco next season. Francisco, earning $1.175 million, will be entering his second year of arbitration.
• Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta is 8-4 with a 4.45 ERA, and one rival scout compares his potential to that of a left-hander who eventually achieved consistent success, the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson.
“(Arrieta) is very similar to what Wilson was when he started,” the scout says. “He wins games because his stuff is good. When he starts to command his fastball and secondary pitches better, he could make a big jump quickly.”
• One GM couldn’t help but marvel at the Yankees’ underwhelming probables for their three-game series in Cincinnati: Righties Ivan Nova, Brian Gordon and Freddy Garcia.
“That’s a $205 million team?” the GM asked.
Nova, though, produced his best start of the season on Monday night, holding the Reds to one run in eight innings at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.