Jerry Manuel is on the firing line too

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Jerry Manuel waving.jpgIt’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.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.