Who should be the next Orioles' manager?


Juan Samuel has the job now, but you have to assume that he’s truly just the interim guy.  Based on my perusal of Orioles’ blogs and stuff, O’s fans seem to be begging for an experienced major league manager, and one would think that Andy MacPhail is thinking the same thing.

But who?  The name I’ve heard the most from Orioles fans is Buck Showalter.  I can see the appeal: he’s smart, he’s experienced and he has a track record for turning teams around (see, Yankees, Diamondbacks).

I think people read too much into that, though. Sure, Showalter was around for the rebirth of the Yankees’ dynasty, but that’s more a story of a savvy front office than a managerial genius, ain’t it? Showalter’s success with the Diamondbacks is much the same story. Tell me: was the Dbacks’ 100-win season in their second year of existence a function of Showalter’s multi-year plan to launch that franchise coming to fruition or a function of the front office going out and getting Randy Johnson and squeezing good years out of some aging veterans?  Good job by Buck, sure, but it’s not a model that the Orioles are following.

Other candidates that get talked up by O’s fans are Tom Kelly and Davey Johnson.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but those guys are a bit long in the tooth to bring a young team up from nothing anymore, no? And that’s even if you assume that either of them want to manage the O’s. Davey has a bad history with Peter Angelos and Kelly seems pretty darn comfortable being Twins manager emeritus these days to want to try and figure out what makes Adam Jones tick.  If I had a veteran team I wanted to push over the top, sure, I’d consider both of them, but they just aren’t the right fit for Baltimore.

Who else? The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly has a slide show of twelve potential managers, including Showalter, Johnson and interim guy Samuel.  Others on Connolly’s list are Phil Garner, Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge, Larry Bowa, Bobby Valentine, Bob Melvin, Rick Dempsey and a couple of minor league guys.

Bowa would certainly light a fire for a while, but that’s all he’s shown he can do as a manager and his act gets old pretty quick. Melvin might be a good choice — experienced but not too experienced — but he seems to be the Mets’ skipper-in-waiting and would probably decline. Same with Sandberg and the Cubs.

Valentine seems more like Johnson and Kelly to me inasmuch as I’d rather see him with a veteran team, not kids. Dempsey is a broadcaster and that’s a lot more comfortable a life than that of a manager, so he may have no interest.  The minor league guys would be viewed as Dave Trembley redux (i.e. no major league experience) so I can’t see the team going there.

Of course there’s very rarely a perfect choice when it comes to these things, and often the best man for the job isn’t among the initial group of usual suspects.  If I’m running the Orioles I let Samuel play out the year, wait and see who becomes available, and be confident that my considerable amount of young talent will be a drawing card for a lot of potential candidates.

In other words: wait until this winter, Andy.  You’ll do much better then.

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

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The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.