Phil Plantier had a close call last weekend when the San Diego Padres surprisingly fired GM Josh Byrnes. Plantier, buy troche in his fourth year as San Diego Padres hitting coach, generic doctor was the likeliest target as team owners decided to “do something” about the club’s woeful play. Owners, like the Angels’ Bud Moreno and the Mets’ Fred Wilpon (who delegates often to son Jeff) know the model for getting the attention of key subordinates: fire their close, personal coaching staff choice. Moreno ordered the departure of Skipper Mike Scioscia’s friend and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher early in the 2012 season. It was Wilpon (presumably Jeff) who had Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens fired a month ago. Hudgens is a friend of both manager Terry Collins and General Manager Sandy Alderson. In both cases, the people with on-field responsibility for the teams’ performance – including Angels GM Jerry Dipoto – were put on notice: they could be next.
The “do something” imperative is felt even more often in politics than in baseball. But, as in the sport, decision-makers in political front offices are reluctant to target those truly responsible for making their team look bad. Ever since the sub-prime mortgage debacle of 2008, attentive fans have booed Team Obama’s reluctance to do more than just brush-back banks implicated in the scandal. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged his squad was afraid of economic walk-off losses if it hit big banks too hard. Finally, however, Holder responded to the pressure to do something: with much fanfare, his Justice Department team charged Credit Suisse (of Switzerland) with helping Americans avoid taxes and cited BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, for dealing with blacklisted countries.
The non-profit newsroom Pro Publica noted that the two brush-back targets were foreign teams and that – much as happens in Baseball firings – Team Obama was letting key players in the U.S. banking league get away from jail time, while warning it is ready to be “tough.” Pro Publica’s Jesse Eisinger points out that, up to now, Team Justice “seem(s) to pass on (shady play) that might merit attention if the company involved were American.” He adds: “The real problem is not that the Justice Department singles out foreign companies; it’s that the way it metes out corporate justice is so toothless.”
By the way, we all owe a great debt to Pro Publica, an independent, hit-up-the-middle source of news.
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Closing Time: Derek Jeter had a shaky series at shortstop in Toronto during the middle the week, especially Tuesday night, when he made two misplays on the handling of a single ground ball/rundown situation. SI’s Cliff Corcoran assesses how Jeter’s turning-40 – and final -season has been playing out:
On its face, Derek Jeter’s performance thus far has supported his decision to retire at the end of the year. Leaving out his cup of coffee in 1995 and his injury-plagued 2013, this has been the worst season of the now-40-year-old Jeter’s career…But as Jeter muddles through his 20th and final season, he is actually having one of the greatest age-40 seasons by a shortstop in major league history…That Jeter has already played 64 games at shortstop this year…puts him on a…list of just five men who played 60 or more games at shortstop in their age-40 seasons or later. The others…are Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Luke Appling and Barry Larkin, and the not-yet-eligible but sure to be hotly debated Omar Vizquel. If Jeter can get to 86 games at the position this year, he’ll be on an even shorter list, one that eliminates Larkin and consists of just six player seasons: Three by Wagner, two by Appling, and Vizquel’s age-40 season in 2007. If he gets to 94 games, he’ll eliminate one of those seasons by Wagner, as well.
What’s more, Jeter is currently out-hitting the age-40 seasons of both Vizquel and Wagner. Of course, in the context of dead-ball 1914, Wagner’s .252/.317/.317 performance in his age-40 season was actually superior to Jeter’s current line… However, Jeter is legitimately out-producing Vizquel’s age-40 season, when, as the Giants’ starting shortstop, Vizquel hit a mere .246/.305/.316…(So) it’s not outside the realm of possibility for Jeter to finish this year having been more valuable than Vizquel was that year. If that’s the case, Jeter could be in the middle of the fifth-greatest age-40 season by a shortstop in major league history.
Stat City: Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia: Which should be the AL’s All Star Game second baseman? Neither, say a consensus of MLB-TV panelists. Houston’s Jose Altuve was their choice. And these comparative, selected offensive stats tend to bear them out: Altuve – BA .334, hits, 107 in 77 games; on-base pct .376; stolen bases, 30 of 33. Cano – .324; 94 in 75; 384; five of seven. Pedroia – .265; 83 in 77; .338; two of six. Cano and Pedroia have four HRs each, compared to two for Altuve. Cano, who often hits third, leads in RBIs, 45, compared to Pedroia’s 27 and Altuve’s 25. Defensively, Pedroia has made only one error in 363 chances, Altuve two in 365, Cano three in 307.
Streakers: Tigers +7, Angels +6. Rangers – 8. Tigers now four-and-a-half ahead of KC in AL Central;. Dodgers only two games behind the Giants in NL West
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