It’s open season on managers this morning. First Lou Piniella, now Jerry Manuel, whose head the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro calls for in today’s column:
He is a good and decent man, but increasingly his in-game decisions
and demeanor have been maddening, his uber-reliance on small-ball, his
puzzling lineup decisions. He was unhappy with that eighth-inning home
run that Fernando Nieve surrendered to Coghlan? How much do you suppose
his almost daily reliance on Nieve has helped speed along Nieve’s
regression from dependable to deplorable?
Omar Minaya will make the trip to Atlanta, which might mean he’s
following Brian Cashman’s itinerary from last year, when a surprise
visit to Turner Field served as an unlikely turning point in the Yankee
season. Or it could be his own blueprint from 2008, when he took an
unexpected flight to Anaheim to personally hand Willie Randolph his vest
with the fish inside.
For the sake of this season, it would be wise if he arrived with a
new manager riding shotgun.
I have less of a problem with this than I do with the calls for Piniella’s ouster. Manuel has been a tactical disaster this year, most notably with the bullpen, which he appears to have already burnt out. Though I’m an agnostic when it comes to batting order optimization, Manuel’s Jose-Reyes-bats-third experiment was a failure as well, and given that Reyes himself was opposed to it to begin with, you have to figure that he isn’t a happy camper right now. Oh, and Manuel pinch hit with Jeff Francoeur yesterday for cryin’ out loud, and that should be a firing offense in and of itself.
But even if this is less problematic than the calls for Lou Piniella’s job, I question whether replacing Jerry Manuel would make a big difference for the Mets’ season. To the extent they’re seen as a disappointment right now, that’s because the eight-game winning streak last month made us think they are something more than we thought they were going to be in the offseason. What we’re seeing right now is the Mets finding their true level, not failing to meet some rational expectation. Replace Manuel with Bobby Valentine or Bob Melvin or Wally Backman and you’re still looking at a 75 win team.
But the bullpen management bothers me a great deal, and as long as you’re going to lose a lot anyway, you may as well lose with someone who isn’t going to fry all your arms before the weather gets warm.
One of the more amusing things to spin out of the Super Bowl were Peyton Manning’s little Budweiser endorsements in his postgame interviews. It was hilarious, really, to see him shoehorn in references to going and cracking a crisp cool Budweiser multiple times. It was more hilarious when a Budweiser representative tweeted that Manning was not paid to do that. Of course, Manning owns an interest in alcohol distributorships so talking about The King of Beers was in his best financial interest all the same.
After that happened people asked whether or not Manning would face discipline about this from the NFL, as players are not allowed to endorse alcoholic beverages. This seemed crazy to me. I had no idea that they were actually banned from doing so. Then I realized that, huh, I can’t for the life of me remember seeing beer commercials with active athletes, so I guess maybe it’s not so crazy. Ken Rosenthal later tweeted that Major League Baseball has a similar ban in place. No alcohol endorsements for ballplayers.
I mean, I can fully anticipate why the leagues would say athletes can’t do it. Think of the children! Role models! Messages about fitness! All that jazz. I suspect a more significant reason is that the leagues and their partners — mostly Anheuser-Busch/InBev — would prefer not to allow high-profile athletes to shill for a competitor. How bad would it look for Alex Rodriguez to do spots for Arrogant Bastard Ale when there are Budweiser signs hanging in 81% of the league’s ballparks? Actually, such ads would look WONDERFUL, but you know what I mean here.
That aside, it does strike me as crazy hypocritical that the leagues can rake in as much as they do from these companies while prohibiting players from getting in on the action. If it is kids they’re worried about, how can they deny that they endorse beer to children every bit as effectively and possibly more so than any one athlete can by virtue of putting it alongside the brands that are the NFL and MLB? Personally I don’t put much stock in a think-of-the-children argument when it comes to beer — it’s everywhere already and everyone does a good job of pushing the “drink responsibly” message — but if those are the leagues’ terms, they probably need to ask themselves how much of a distinction any one athlete and the entire league endorsing this stuff really is.
That aside, sports and beer — often sponsored by active players — have a long, long history together:
And the picture at the top of this post certainly shows us that Major League Baseball has no issues whatsoever in having its players endorse Budweiser in a practical sense.
Why can’t they get paid for doing it?
Last summer we posted about Rafael Palmeiro coming out of retirement to play for the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters. The reason: to play a game with his boy Patrick. In that game the elder Palmeiro went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk, and a run scored. His son, who is now 26, went 2-for-4 with a grand slam.
Did that serve as an audition for Patrick? Possibly, as Jon Meloi of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles just signed him to a minor league deal.
As Meloi notes, it’s certainly just an organizational depth move, as Patrick is no prospect. And it’s actually likely something of a coincidence that it’s the Orioles who signed him, as Palmeiro doesn’t have any real contacts with the Orioles baseball operations people, all of whom are different folks now than back in his day.
This may not be the last of the Palmeiros, by the way. Peter Gammons tweeted this morning that Patrick’s younger brother, Preston, is a first baseman at North Carolina State who could be drafted this june. Gammons says he has a swing “remarkably similar to dad.”
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.