Tom Szczerbowsk/US PRESSWIRE
Perhaps J.P. Ricciardi had finally had enough, or perhaps he simply wanted to give reporters something to write about other than his comments regarding Adam Dunn. Whatever the motivation for pulling the trigger, John Gibbons is out as Blue Jays manager, and Cito Gaston is back in.
If you're a Blue Jays fan, you have to hope that the change in leadership will lead to a change in attitude. After all, if Gibbons still had been manager last night, when a line drive deflected off Roy Halladay's head and forced him from the game after seven innings, people would likely have blamed Gibbons for the incident for not having the foresight to pull the league leader in complete games before it happened. (Precautionary X-rays were negative and Halladay is expected to make his next start.) That's the kind of scapegoat Gibbons had become.
But for a fantasy owner, this managerial switcheroo changes absolutely nothing. You still want to have Toronto pitchers. You still don't want to have Toronto batters. Gaston's return to the helm on Friday was merely a microcosm of Toronto's season so far. The pitching staff shined and the offense couldn't score, making Zach Duke (and his 4.24 ERA entering the game) look like a Cy Young candidate. Pittsburgh beat the Blue Jays 1-0 on an unearned run in the 12th inning. No matter who is putting the names on the lineup card, and regardless of the order, it's the same bunch of hitters, and there's no reason to think they'll do anything more than what they've already done.
Toronto is 28th in the majors in home runs. The team's leader in that category is 40-year-old Matt Stairs, with eight. By comparison, Baltimore, the team closest in the standings to the Blue Jays, has five different players with double-digit home runs. Toronto's team batting average is only .258 and last night was the fifth time this season it has been shutout. On 33 other occasions, the Jays have scored three runs or fewer. The team is now 11-19 in one-run games. It's not for lack of trying something different. Five players have been auditioned in the leadoff spot and the team has used 60 different starting lineups this season. Nothing has worked. Meanwhile, despite the appalling lack of run support, the pitching continues to excel. The starting rotation has an ERA of 3.85, ranking fifth in the majors, and a .250 batting average against, which ranks fourth. The bullpen has survived injuries and has an ERA of 3.14, also fifth in the majors.
Sure, maybe a change can come in the form of Adam Lind, currently languishing at Triple-A despite a .929 OPS. It's certainly worth a try, isn't it? But the fact is, this team didn't go through its recent 4-13 stretch out of spite, or because it wasn't trying. The Jays simply aren't that good. And you can dress the team up in whatever hat you want; it's still going to be just as ugly underneath.
Ervin Santana, Angels
Wasn't there a time when he struggled on the road? You would have been especially scared of a matchup at Philly. Seven IP, nine K's and TWO hits. Impressive.
Fernando Rodney, Tigers
It's been a rough road back for Rodney, once a possible future closer. His ERA is 135 after allowing five runs, including four last night, in one-third of an inning.
• Nyjer Morgan was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and should see plenty of action in right field while the Pirates try to figure out what to do with the injured Xavier Nady. Nady hasn't played since June 14, but the team is still resisting placing him on the disabled list. Ryan Doumit is also being rested after suffering a concussion and may not play again until Tuesday, so the Pirates sent down pitcher Marino Salas, rather than lose yet another bat with such a thin bench.
• The Rangers' Gerald Laird injured his right hamstring while beating out a bunt single in the fourth inning and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Catcher Max Ramirez, who was batting .363 with 17 home runs, was recalled from Double-A Frisco, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia should be the one manning the tools of ignorance more often than not in Laird's absence.
• If the Cubs are going to be without Carlos Zambrano for any length of time, don't expect Rich Hill to get a call from Lou Piniella to fill the void. Hill pitched last night for the first time in more than a week, and it was the same old story: six runs and four walks allowed in only two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Iowa. Looks like this is one Rich who is getting poorer by the outing.
• Things aren't looking too pretty for the Twins' Francisco Liriano either. Although he is certainly pitching far better than the 11.32 ERA he racked up in three starts while with Minnesota, there's still a lot of room for improvement. Liriano allowed five runs in five innings for Triple-A Rochester on Friday, although he did strike out seven hitters. With the Twins in no rush, it may take several solid outings before they even consider bringing him back to the bigs. This one doesn't qualify.
• Looking for a deep sleeper to get you September saves? It might just be Zech Zinicola. The Washington prospect was on the fast track to the majors, but had an awful 2007 season, which earned him a demotion back to Class A. However, he has evidently fixed whatever was wrong and has already climbed his way up to Triple-A, pitching a scoreless inning in relief for Columbus in his Friday debut. With the Nationals out of the race already, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a taste of the majors this season.