Ozzie Guillen would be good fit to manage Marlins

BY Ken Rosenthal • September 14, 2010

Ozzie Guillen to the Marlins. It makes almost too much sense.

Guillen lives in Miami. He was the Marlins’ third base coach when they won the World Series in 2003. His relationship with White Sox GM Ken Williams is turbulent, to say the least.

On top of all that, the Marlins want their new manager to be passionate and fiery – the opposite of Fredi Gonzalez, whom they considered to be too vanilla.

Hello, Ozzie?

Maybe, according to the buzz in certain scouting circles. But for now, such talk qualifies only as speculation. Guillen is under contract to the White Sox through 2012. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf will be reluctant to let him go.

Reinsdorf, 74, has a long-standing affection for both Guillen and Williams. He acted to repair a breach between them in spring training. Rather than hire a new manager or GM, he would strongly prefer to retain the status quo.

Still, the talk of Guillen to the Marlins will continue until the White Sox are certain of his return or the Marlins hire another manager.

“Miami? Next year? I have a contract here,” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune after the Marlins fired Gonzalez on June 23. “That’s up to Mr. Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams. If they want me to be here, I’ll be here.”

Reinsdorf will want him. Williams might have no choice.

Memo to the Mets: Call Daniels

The Mets look increasingly likely to replace general manager Omar Minaya with someone from outside their organization.

If they are serious, their first call should be to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, a native New Yorker who just happens to be the leading candidate for Executive of the Year.

The Rangers’ recent change in ownership gave Daniels the right to escape his contract at the end of the season. Daniels has made it clear that he is happy in Texas. The Rangers have made it clear that they want to keep him. But to this point, the two sides have not engaged in serious discussion about a contract extension, sources say.

Such talks, in fact, might not occur until after the season is over; the Rangers are busy preparing for their first playoff appearance since 1999. The delay would give the Mets an opening. If they wanted to make Daniels a big offer, it’s difficult to imagine that he would ignore them while still unsigned.

Then again, who knows what the Mets might do?

They are not acting aggressively on former Padres GM Kevin Towers, evidently believing that he would prefer the Diamondbacks or another team out west. Yet, it’s unclear whether the Mets would be willing to hire a first-time GM such as Marlins assistant GM Dan Jennings or White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn.

The misconception about the Rays

The Rays rank 11th in the AL in batting average, but their offense is not weak.

Inconsistent perhaps, but not weak.

The Rays are second to the Yankees in the statistic that matters most – runs scored. They also are showing improvement in slugging, their one true area of concern.

Batting average is less significant for a team that leads the league in walks and stolen bases and uses its speed in other ways. The Rays also are adept at wearing down opposing starters, ranking second in the AL in pitches per plate appearance. They just haven’t hit for as much power as anticipated.

That might be changing.

The Rays are first in the AL in slugging in September, and Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton are especially hot. The big question is whether the team can get more out of Carlos Pena, who is batting just .200/.328/.417 on the season.

MVPs or homers?

Much has been made of the potential impact of Carlos Gonzalez’s home-road splits on his candidacy for NL MVP. But Josh Hamilton, one of the leading AL candidates, is also far more potent at home than on the road.

Hamilton, who has not played since Sept. 4 due to bruised ribs, leads the AL with a 1.205 OPS at home. His .894 OPS on the road also is quite good, ranking seventh in the league. Still, Gonzalez’s breakdown – 1.198 at home, .760 on the road – is not all that dissimilar.

Hitters generally fare better at home than on the road, and hitter-friendly ballparks such as Coors Field and Rangers Ballpark can create even more of a discrepancy. Gonzalez’s supporters also point out two little-known detriments for Rockies hitters – the increased strain on the body from playing at altitude, and the difficulty of adjusting to sharper breaking balls outside of Coors.

The Helton question

The Rockies’ surge includes a troubling undercurrent: The team is moving into sensitive territory with first baseman Todd Helton.

Helton, after rallying with a .958 OPS in August, is 5-for-30 in September. The Rockies are better offensively with Jason Giambi at first, and they almost certainly will want to diminish Helton’s role next season by adding a right-handed hitter at the position.

The problem is, the Rockies still owe Helton $23.7 million -- $19.1 million next season, plus a $4.6 million buyout. Helton, 37, could accept a settlement and retire, but players of his stature rarely concede that their careers are over.

Red alert: Volquez is back

The Reds’ postseason rotation will look a lot more imposing if right-hander Edinson Volquez continues to pitch as well as he did Saturday night against the Pirates.

Volquez, returning from a brief stint at Class A, allowed one hit in seven scoreless innings, striking out 10, walking one. Never mind that the Pirates are the worst offensive team in the National League. One rival executive said, “If I’m the Reds, I’m definitely encouraged by how he threw.”

The Reds sent Volquez to the minors to work on his delivery and control as he completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The team lacks a No. 1 starter, but Volquez qualifies when healthy, and Johnny Cueto is close. Bronson Arroyo also would be in the postseason rotation, with Homer Bailey and left-hander Travis Wood among the other possibilities.

Reflecting back on Thome

The Twins, with Jim Thome, rank second in the AL in OPS from the DH spot. The White Sox, without Thome, rank 10th. Still, the White Sox’s decision to part with Thome did not seem unreasonable last offseason.

Manager Ozzie Guillen did not want to commit to a full-time DH, particularly one who was a plodder. The greater flexibility has enabled Guillen to give first baseman Paul Konerko 84 at-bats at DH and right fielder Carlos Quentin 75.

There is no way to know how much those two players have benefited from their occasional breaks on defense. But Konerko and Quentin rank first and third on the team in OPS. The down time could not have hurt.

The bigger issue is that Mark Kotsay, the White Sox’s most frequently used DH, has produced only a .687 OPS in 161 at-bats, while Thome boasts a 1.040 OPS in 249 at-bats for the Twins.

In fairness, Thome is playing a larger role than even the Twins envisioned -- he became their regular DH in early July only after first baseman Justin Morneau suffered a concussion, an injury from which Morneau has yet to return.

Thome showed signs of decline last season, producing an .891 OPS before the All-Star break, a .773 OPS after it. The latter number was hardly embarrassing, but Thome also was turning 40 this season.

The White Sox’s decision looks bad now. It wasn’t so ridiculous then.

What a comeback, Part I

Don’t look now, but the Cubs’ No. 1 starter next season might be none other than right-hander Carlos Zambrano.

“I can’t get over him,” one rival executive says. “He has been lights out, throwing 90-91, very aggressive, getting ahead in the count. The movement on his ball is unbelievable.”

Zambrano is 5-0 in seven starts with a 1.60 ERA since his reinstatement from the restricted list. His control was shaky in the first three of those starts – he struck out only seven and walked 15. But in his past four starts, he has struck out 32 and walked only 10.

Is is possible that Zambrano, 29, finally has turned an emotional corner after undergoing anger management therapy? The Cubs do not know for sure, and will not know for sure this offseason. But at least now they have options.

Big Z’s turnaround would make it easier for the Cubs to trade him, even though he is owed $17.875 in 2011 and $18 million in ’12 (a top four Cy Young finish in either of those seasons, unrealistic as it might appear, would guarantee his $19.25 million vesting option for ’13).

Then again, Zambrano holds a full no-trade clause, and he is again saying that he wants to stay in Chicago. That surely would be fine with the Cubs if the Good Z was the one who showed up every fifth day.

The Cubs almost certainly will look to add a free-agent starter, either by re-signing Ted Lilly or finding someone else. But they would be in better shape than most clubs if they entered the offseason with a group consisting of the Good Z, Ryan Dempster, Tom Gorzelanny and Randy Wells.

What a comeback, Part II

Think Zambrano’s revival is a stunner? An even more surprising comeback is occurring in Los Angeles, where left fielder Jay Gibbons has hit five homers in 43 at-bats and might be playing his way into the Dodgers’ plans for next season.

Gibbons, 33, was released by the Orioles in the spring of 2008 after he was mentioned in the Mitchell report on performance-enhancing drug use and received a 15-day suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy.

He bounced from the independent Atlantic League to the Brewers’ organization in ’08, went back to the Atlantic League after the Marlins released him in the spring of ’09, then briefly retired.

Turns out his career had at least one more chapter.

Gibbons paid his own way to winter ball, then signed with the Dodgers as a minor-league free agent without an invitation to spring training. It was the smallest of openings, but he seized the moment, putting up big numbers at Triple-A Albuquerque. The Dodgers promoted him to replace Garret Anderson on Aug. 8.

The Steroid Era has produced its share of discouraging stories, and Gibbons looked like he was going to be one of them. He admitted to using human growth hormone after he was suspended for the first 15 days of ’08.

Give him credit for fighting all the way back.

Around the horn

• The Diamondbacks are 26-39 (.400) under Kirk Gibson after going 31-48 (.392) under A.J. Hinch, a marginal improvement that one rival GM equates to “a 700-pound man who lost five pounds.”

Padres hitting coach and former Triple-A manager Randy Ready could become a candidate to replace Gibson if the D-Backs name former Padres GM Kevin Towers their new general manager.

• Keep this in mind as the Twins and White Sox begin their final series of the season on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field:

The Twins’ 10-5 record against the White Sox this season includes a 7-2 mark in one-run games. Overall, the Twins are 30-21 in one-run games, best in the AL.

• Get this: The Mets did not extend a September callup to second baseman Justin Turner, who led their full-season minor-league clubs with a .333 batting average and went 6-for-6 and hit for the cycle in his final game at Triple-A.

The Mets currently have a number of other second basemen on their roster: Luis Castillo, Luis Hernandez, Joaquin Arias and Ruben Tejada.

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