In Italian, amaro refers to a bittersweet liqueur, used customarily as an after-dinner cordial, whose origins may have been in monasteries. Well, now. One day after the Phillies were eliminated mathematically from the postseason, Ruben Amaro, Jr. may wish he’d been in a monastery rather than the Phillies’ front office from which he’s just been canned.
When Whitey Herzog resigned as the Cardinals’ manager in July 1990, there were those who said what he really did was upend the usual saying (you can’t can the whole team, so you can the manager) and fire his team. “Herzog had only four rules,” wrote Thomas Boswell. “Be on time. Bust your butt. Play smart. And have some laughs while you’re at it. The Cardinals broke the rules. So Whitey canned ‘em.”
Jonathan Papelbon isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last professional athlete to go lewd and rude in the heat of a moment’s frustration when fans crawl all over him following a moment’s failure. But it doesn’t put him squarely in the right to suggest that Joe West, an umpire who is not allergic to the limelight, the grudge, or the self-appointment of being a law unto himself, was squarely in the wrong for escalating a simple misbehaviour into an unnecessary toxin.
Ryne Sandberg laboured long and hard to earn a shot at major league managing. He’d wanted it with the Chicago Cubs, for whom he’d been a Hall of Fame second baseman, and he’d gone deep into the Cubs’ system for his chance only to be snubbed—despite several seasons’ success, a reputation as a teaching manager, and a parallel reputation as a no-nonsense competitor—for a guy who didn’t last much more than a full season.
* Don’t look now, but the Toronto Blue Jays are turning the American League East into a potential all-out war to the wire. An eleven-game winning streak approaching the All-Star break does that for you. And don’t discount the morale boost when that streak includes thumping the Texas Rangers 24-4 over four games, the Colorado Rockies 15-5 in three, and the Baltimore Orioles, a division rival, 24-13, in three, including that 13-5 fricaseeing Sunday. And to think Sunday’s carnage only began when Edwin Encarnacion scored with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the first after Freddy Garcia plunked Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia on the first pitch. Encarnacion got his payback an inning later, driving one over the left field fence with Jose Bautista aboard—and two out.
When he was spurned as Mike Quade’s successor to manage the Chicago Cubs, the team for whom he shone as a Hall of Fame second baseman, Ryne Sandberg on the record was as gracious as he claimed Theo Epstein, the freshly installed president of baseball operations, had been in delivering the verdict.
“Theo called me 10 minutes after they issued the press release and told me that they have a list of guys and I’m not on it,” Sandberg told the Chicago Daily Herald. “He wished me good luck and said he hoped I got a chance somewhere soon. He didn’t owe me that at all. He didn’t have to do that. It was a classy move and I’m very appreciative of the phone call. In the end, I wished him and everybody there good luck.”
Once upon a time, George Scott, an ertswhile Red Sox star, moved to the Milwaukee Brewers (he was part of the deal that also made ex-Red Sox out of Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett, and Billy Conigliaro), had a conversation with the Brewers’ one-time co-owner, Edmund Fitzgerald. No, silly, not the wreck about which Gordon Lightfoot wrote a certain ancient song hit, however the Brewers weren’t doing at the time. “You know, Mr. Fitzgerald, if we’re gonna win,” the big man called Boomer said, “the players gotta play better, the coaches gotta coach better, the manager gotta manage better, and the owners gotta own better.”
Most baseball analysts blurt out observations that beg for further examination here and there. Ken Rosenthal, the Fox Sports writer and commentator, and one of the best analysts of the breed, is one of them. Here he is, musing about Don Mattingly’s growth as a manager in light of having had “three strikes” against him when he took the command post for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year: He had never managed in the majors or minors. He had to exert greater authority over players who knew him only as a coach. And he had been a great player — a drawback, seeing as how great players rarely make great managers.
How delicious is this?
One of Theo Epstein’s first acts as the Chicago Cubs’ president of baseball operations was to pink manager Mike Quade. That was after he informed Ryne Sandberg—whom he once tried to hire to manage the Boston Red Sox’s Pawtucket minor league affiliate—that he wasn’t going to be in the running for the Cubs’ job.
Meanwhile, Sandberg, now managing the Philadelphia Phillies’ Lehigh Valley (AAA) affiliate, could be a candidate to manage . . . the Cubs’ most bitter National League Central rival, against whom Sandberg became famous in the first place.
You’re not seeing things.
Call it rumours, call it speculation, call it wishful thinking, call it a cursebuster’s wet dream. Call it what you will, but Theo Epstein, the man who co-negotiated the Boston Red Sox’s rise from tragical mystery tours to stupefying world championships, and twice in a four-season span at that, is going to have his crack at co-negotiating the Chicago Cubs from a century plus of calamity and failure to a Promised Land they haven’t seen since the Roosevelt Administration. (Theodore, that is.)