The heat is already on Jerry Manuel

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Jerry Manuel.jpgIt’s a month and a half before the games start and the tabloids are already poised to pounce:

David Wright, Jose Reyes and now Johan Santana all have said they expect the Mets to win the World Series. The Mets are turning the page on an injury-plagued 2009 by making one bold statement after another. That means the pressure is on Jerry Manuel like never before.

The manager has to produce. The Mets must get off to a good start.
Manuel will offer up his State of the Mets address today with his first
formal press conference of the 2010 season. He has made it clear the
Mets have to get off to that good start.

I’m not the world’s biggest Jerry Manuel fan, but to the extent this Mets team has had problems recently, I figure them to be about 50% injury-inflicted, 35% front office-inflicted and 15% on Jerry Manuel, if that.  Fact is a manager doesn’t make nearly as big a difference as most people like to pretend he does, even if he is the first to get the blame when things go sideways.  A manager’s primary job in my view is to manage the clubhouse, diffusing the strife and keeping everything on an even keel. You have to fire the skipper when he loses the clubhouse, but beyond that, personnel and health mean a lot more to a team’s chances at success than the manager.

I don’t doubt that Manuel will get fired if the team starts poorly, but unless players are fighting one another or something, that poor start won’t really be Jerry Manuel’s fault.

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.