When you give a talk radio dude a column, it’s always a safe bet to assume that he’s going to use the column to advocate for things that would make his talk radio job more fun and easy. To that end I give you Bill Simonson:
I think, if the Tigers fall to 8-10 games out of first place before the end of June, Leyland and his staff should be fired. It would be a move with no risk involved. He has no contract beyond this season. If he was as highly thought of by management as some Leyland lovers think, then why wouldn’t he have years left on a deal? You can’t fire a team, but showing Leyland the door might be the move this franchise needs.
I know managers get fired simply for losing all the time, but my view of things is that, among the handful of reasons to fire a manager, a poor won-loss record, standing alone, is the dumbest reason.
You fire a manager if he makes a lot of dumb decisions. You fire a manager if he bucks the authority of the front office in a way that prevents the team from carrying out the organization’s plans. You fire a manager if he loses the confidence and respect of the players or his authority over them is otherwise undermined in such a way so as to make his continued leadership untenable. You fire a manager if the composition of the roster radically changes and you suddenly have an awful fit in terms of temperament (i.e. the old vet-friendly manager suddenly finds himself in a rebuild. You fire a manager when a new owner and/or GM comes on board and the team wants to reset.
Now, a lot of those things cause poor records, and the subsequent firing may be chalked up to the poor record. But if none of the above things are present and the team is simply losing, firing the skipper is kind of pointless. He’s the same guy the GM had confidence in before the season. He still has the clubhouse under control. All that has changed is that his players are underperforming. Absent a clear link between things the manager has done and that losing, firing him is a pointless gesture.
Leyland has done none of those things. His team is underachieving. That’s on the players. Some of the players he’s had to work with don’t really belong on a major league roster. That’s on the GM. There is absolutely nothing which suggests to me that firing Leyland would turn the Tigers around because there is nothing that suggests to me that Leyland has done much if anything to make this team lose.
Jim Leyland has managed in the big leagues for 21 seasons. He didn’t suddenly forget how to do it. And getting rid of him isn’t going to suddenly make the Tigers a better team.
With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.
“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”
Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.
The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.
As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.
Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.
Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.
Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.
The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.
This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.