Five managers on the hot seat

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1. Eric Wedge (Indians) – The Indians might have been more justified in
firing Wedge a month ago, before injuries to Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal
Cabrera, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes gave the team a better excuse
for its poor record. The Indians have been underperforming all along,
though. They’re nine games under .500 even though they’ve scored just
nine fewer runs than their opponents over the course of the year
(308-317). Wedge was too slow to try to put a better defensive team on
the field, and he deserves some of the blame for the bullpen woes. It’s
time for a change.

2. Manny Acta (Nationals) – Acta won’t survive into 2010 if the
Nationals amass baseball’s worst record for the second year in a row.
He’ll be lucky to make it into August unless his team puts together a
winning streak soon. Acta seems more open to new ideas than most and
has shown a willingness to experiment, but he’s done a poor job of
handling what’s been baseball’s worst pitching staff.

3. Cecil Cooper (Astros) – I don’t think the Astros are
underachieving at 25-30 one-third of the way through the season, but GM
Ed Wade and owner Drayton McLane likely disagree. Cooper’s status has
been the subject of speculation since almost the beginning of the
season, and he actually seems a little safer now than he did a month
ago, as the Astros have been winning recently. I still think he’s
likely to go if the Astros don’t move up from last place in the NL
Central to at least fourth by the All-Star break.

4. Trey Hillman (Royals) – The Royals’ surprisingly strong start
raised expectations and thus may have hurt Hillman’s case for sticking
around. Kansas City always figured to be a 75-win team, but that might
not fly after an April in which an AL Central title looked like a
legitimate goal. Hillman’s faults are obvious: he does as poor of a job
of running a bullpen as any manager in baseball and he pays little
attention to platoon advantages on offense or defense. I don’t see him
landing another major league managerial job once the Royals let him go.

5. Bud Black (Padres) – Truly a pleasant surprise, San Diego is just
four games under .500 despite possessing what looked like baseball’s
weakest collection of talent at the beginning of the year. Only the
Nationals and Orioles have worse run differentials than the Padres, who
have scored 221 runs and given up 271. That Black has coaxed the team
to a 26-30 record is quite an achievement. Still, Black is managing a
team that is expected to eventually have a new owner in Jeff Moorad.
CEO Sandy Alderson is gone, and it seems likely that more changes will
come after the year. Black will likely survive the season, but if the
Padres opt to go in a different direction at GM over the winter, then
they may bring in a new manager as well.

Others – Fredi Gonzalez has my vote for baseball’s worst manager,
but the Marlins won’t want to have to pay two managers at once again. …
Jerry Manuel’s Mets are playing better lately, so he should be safe
unless his mouth gets him in trouble. … A’s manager Bob Geren has
plenty of support from good friend Billy Beane and can’t be blamed for
assembling baseball’s most injury-prone team.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

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We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?

Report: Indians have been in touch with Shane Victorino

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 01:  Shane Victorino #18 of the Los Angeles Angels makes a catch for an out against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Outfield is a glaring need for the Indians, but they aren’t expected to shop for any of the big names on the free agent market. Instead, they are looking at potential bargains on short-term deals. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that Shane Victorino falls under this classification and that the veteran outfielder is among many names the Indians have contacted.

Victorino, who turns 35 on Monday, has been limited to just 101 games over the past two seasons due to injury. Coming off back surgery, he batted just .230/.308/.292 with one home run and seven RBI over 204 plate appearances this past season between the Red Sox and Angels while battling calf and hamstring injuries. It’s hard to see the upside at this point, but the Indians could promise him regular at-bats, especially with Michael Brantley likely to miss the start of the 2016 season following shoulder surgery.

The Indians have also reportedly discussed trading either Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco for a bat, which represents their best chance of adding a big name to their outfield this winter.

Korean slugger Byung-ho Park is reportedly traveling to Minnesota

Byung-ho Park

Could the Twins and Korean slugger Byung-ho Park be close to finalizing a contract?

According to Naver Sports (via a translated report from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press), Park is scheduled to travel to the United States on Sunday. The 29-year-old is expected to make a quick stop in Chicago to meet with his agent, Alan Nero, before coming to Minnesota to see Twins officials and take a physical exam. If all goes well, a contract could be finalized as soon as next week.

The Twins bid $12.85 million last month to secure exclusive negotiating rights with Park. The deadline to complete a deal is December 8. If a deal is not worked out, Park would remain with the Nexen Heroes in the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) and the Twins would not have to pay the posting fee.

Right now, it’s unclear how far along the two sides are in negotiations. However, Berardino hears that a guarantee in the range of $20-30 million is reasonable to expect.

Park, a two-time MVP in the KBO, has amassed 105 home runs in 268 games over the past two seasons. It’s hard to tell how those numbers will translate, even after the success of Jung Ho Kang this season, but the Twins are hoping he can be a middle-of-the-order force.