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Showalter rumors way off
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
DIAMOND NOTES: May 18
We probably will never know if, as rumored around baseball, Buck Showalter was the choice of the Royals baseball people to be the club's new manager and that owner David Glass was sold on Tony Pena because of Glass' relationship with Astros owner Drayton McLane. We will never know because Royals GM Allard Baird is too loyal to Glass to ever address the issue, and because Baird and everyone who has ever known Pena roots so hard for him that they believe he will become a good manager.
"When I asked him if he had any questions about the job, Tony asked, 'every off day, can I go to the minor leagues with you, and if we're one player away, can we get him,' " says Baird. "That fascinated me. Two ends of the spectrum. He has unbelievable energy, and he brings a lot to this organization. We got down to four candidates, any of whom would have been an extraordinary manager for the Royals."
Pena will get a lot of help from his coaches, from pitching coach Al Nipper to bench coach Bob Schaefer to first-base coach Tom Gamboa to former interim manager John Mizerock. Baird is easy to work for because he so respects his people.
There also were some unattributed shots taken at Showalter in Kansas City about things that simply aren't true.
"I checked into everything I heard of about Buck," says Baird, "and they all turned out to be false. It's really a shame that anyone that good, whose history of managing is so strong, would have to take some of those shots."
Showalter was never fired in New York; he quit because Yankees owner George Steinbrenner wanted to fire some of his coaches. "I stayed awake at night worried that Buck would get the Boston job," says Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
The Arizona business is very complicated, but suffice it to say that he put the team -- especially the roster -- in place to win a world championship. "Sure, I learned some things," says Showalter. "I learned things in every job I had. I'll be fine."
Cubs manager Don Baylor is taking a public pounding in Chicago, and reports have surfaced about the possibility of Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez being replaced by his third-base coach, Carlos Tosca, although the Blue Jays have played better of late and their pitching is starting to get healthy and straight.
With five managers fired so quickly into this season, it seems every time a team slides, there are cries for more heads. Or for the heads of coaches. And the players are not being held accountable.
Future looking bright for Reds
As the Cardinals and Astros began their charges this week, it was clear that each team fears that if Cincinnati gets enough momentum, with their positional talent and bullpen that they must be taken seriously. Especially if the starting pitching falls in place.
In reality, the Reds' starting pitching had a 26-16 record with a 3.28 ERA after Saturday. Chris Reitsma (2.85 ERA) has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his eight starts, and seems to be blossoming. Elmer Dessens (2.45 ERA) has also been solid. Joey Hamilton looked like the '97 Hamilton and will be back soon. Jose Rijo is also 4-1.
As Bowden gets his other pitchers back off rehab, he has the ability to make a trade. If he can convince ownership to take on a contract or two and write it off as part of moving into the new ballpark, he has positional depth to trade. With a good young catcher in Dane Sardinha (currently playing at Double-A Chattanooga), Bowden can trade a good major-league catcher (Corky Miller or Jason LaRue), a producing outfielder (Juan Encarnacion) and a top minor-league hitter (first baseman Ben Broussard, compared by hitting coach Mike Easler to Jim Edmonds), as well as a reliever. And every one is a low-salaried player.
Oh, so sorry: The labor front and Canseco
Skunkism I. Baseball continues to be the only entertainment industry where those that run the business continually tell their consumers how bad their product is. So it is since the owners, two days after an unforgettable World Series, chose to try to contract two teams and run their business into the ground. It is amazing as they set up a labor stance that failed in 1994 -- unless many owners consider it a victory that they shut down the World Series -- and have spent seven months trying to vilify the product they theoretically are marketing. As both sides essentially bargain in bad faith, the owners simple strategy is to get to an impasse and implement, daring the players to strike, knowing that since the players would have no choice but to prepare for that strike.
That now has happened. It was unwise for the Players Association leaders to put the players back in the public fire by announcing their strike preparations. They should be working harder to make the consumers understand that the players are asking for nothing, this is one of the few unions that does not demand scheduled pay raises and allows laborers to be fired and asked only for a free market (albeit one fueled by the articificial market steering of arbitration).
Skunkism II. Jose Canseco. Blackballed? Give us a break. A tell-all book? Fine, his steroid claims further discount his 462 career home runs, which given the era translates to about 350 for those who came up in the early 1970s.
Canseco led the AL in at least one category four times. He knocked in more than 95 runs once after 1992, inexcusable for a run-producing player who'd let himself get out of baseball shape so badly that he could only DH. Compare him to Dwight Evans, who won nine Gold Gloves, who given the larger ballparks, smaller bodies and for several seasons in the '70s played with the cowhide experiment that led to so many balls falling apart and softening, and the 462/385 home run difference is no difference at all.
Evans played in two World Series, and in both 1975 -- with his catch of a Joe Morgan flyball that rivalled Willie Mays in '54 and Devon White in '93 -- was Boston's best player, finishing with a .300 series average. Canseco's only postseason defensive memory was an embarrassment in the 1990 World Series in Cincinnati that outraged A's manager Tony LaRussa at the time, and his postseason career offensive totals were 19-for-102.
Puhleaze. The notion of a second rate DH being in the Hall of Fame ahead of a superior player who was the best defensive right fielder I saw in 25 years is an affront to the sport. So go write the book, or have someone else write it, and get some Miami talk show host who wouldn't know baseball from dog racing to moan your failure to make it to Cooperstown.
Evans was a better player than Canseco in every single phase of the game. The funny thing is that Canseco is a good guy and was liked by his teammates ... he just wasn't a very good baseball player the last 10 years of his career, which made him one of the biggest wastes of talent of his time.
Around the majors
"Middle infielders are athletes," says Little. "Anyway, the two best infielders I've ever seen go back on balls are Terry Pendleton and Offerman."