SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

By Murray Chass

November 21, 2010

It would be at about this time in her old “Saturday Night Live” sketches that Gilda Radner as Emily Latella would say, “Never mind.”

That statement, uttered with a look of embarrassment on her face, was Ms. Latella’s reaction to something she had misunderstood and went on babbling about until she was corrected.Terry Collins 225

In this instance, in the best tradition of Emily, I will say “never mind.” I will also say “oops.”

Those remarks are my reaction to my last column, which turned out to be my fantasy tale of the year. I have spent my entire career believing that the best way to deal with a mistake is acknowledging it and correcting it, both as quickly as possible.

Unlike newspapers, the Internet has the ability to make errors disappear so they no longer exist and no one can prove they ever did. That’s a tempting proposition, but it’s not for me. I’m not going to try to tell readers who read the last column that they really didn’t read what they think they did – or know they did.

Contrary to what the last column said, Ms. Latella, Bob Melvin will not be the Mets’ next manager; Terry Collins will be. Collins, as it turned out, had better connections than Melvin.

In the Melvin column, I reported that my information came from a person close to the Mets. I guess that person wasn’t as close to the team as I would have liked.

In writing about what turned out to be an erroneous decision, I concocted an entire scenario that also wasn’t correct. I wrote that Commissioner Bud Selig had influenced the Mets’ hiring because he liked Melvin from the four years he worked for Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers in the late 1990s.

When I spoke with Selig last week, he said of Melvin unsolicited, “I happen to like Bobby Melvin a lot. He’s a good man. He’s a very smart guy. He’s really smart. I’m a very big fan of Bobby Melvin.” And he added, refering to his wife, “Members of his family are related to members of Sue’s family.”

But Selig also said that in conversations last week with Sandy Alderson, whom he encouraged the Mets to hire as their general manager, he had not spoken about Melvin.

Selig’s feelings about Melvin were trumped by other factors. Collins apparently has been a long-time friend of Sandy Koufax, who has been a longer-time friend of Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ owner.

Collins also had a fan in Paul DePodesta, whom Alderson recently hired to work with him in the front office. When DePodesta was general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was on the verge of hiring Collins as the manager when he himself was fired.

The 61-year-old Collins, who never played major league baseball, managed two major league teams in the 1990s, the Houston Astros (1994-96) and the Anaheim Angels (1997-99).

The Astros fired him, and either the Angels did, too, or he resigned, take your pick. In both places, however, his players came to hate Collins, and the Angels’ players went so far as to ask management to fire him.

Collins, an intense, feisty guy, has been compared in some ways to Bobby Valentine, which doesn’t make for a good recommendation. Valentine was a good field manager but, like Collins, incurred the wrath of his players. 

This year Collins served as the Mets’ minor league field coordinator. DePodesta has called Collins a star in player development, but the Mets need someone who is or can be a star manager. Either that or a magician.

 

MINORITIES IN GOOD SHAPE WHEN FIRED

Nineteen former major league managers are on major league coaching staffs for the 2011 season, and perhaps more intriguing than that fact is the fact that 37 percent of them are minorities.Willie Randolph Brewers 225

Last week I wrote about former general managers who work in front offices in lesser jobs. There are 25 of them, and not one is a minority. Baseball’s effort to increase the number of minorities in decision-making positions has clearly been more successful on the field than in the front office.

To be a former manager who is now a coach, of course, requires that the person was fired, and perhaps some would view the relatively high percentage in a different way. Minorities are fired too often, they might say. But before baseball began hiring minorities, their plea was give us a chance to be fired.

So they are being fired, Jerry Manuel (Mets), Don Wakamatsu (Mariners) and Juan Samuel (Orioles’ interim) being the latest. Obviously the majority of former managers now coaching is non-minority, but Wakamatsu has joined the Blue Jays as their bench coach and Samuel is the Phillies’ third base coach .

Manuel has not caught on with anyone. Nor has Willie Randolph, Manuel’s predecessor with the Mets, who lost his two-year job as the Brewers’ bench coach when manager Ken Macha was fired.

Randolph tried to catch on with Buck Showalter in Baltimore, but the Orioles hired John Russell, the recently deposed Pittsburgh manager, as their bench coach.

Eleven of the 19 former managers who are coaches are bench coaches. Besides Russell and Wakamatsu, the newest of those are Trey Hillman (Dodgers), Jerry Narron (Brewers), Carlos Tosca (Braves) and Pete Mackanin (Phillies).

Besides Wakamatsu, Tosca and Samuel, the minority coaches are Don Baylor (Diamondbacks), Lloyd McClendon (Tigers), Tony Pena (Yankees) and Davey Lopes (Dodgers).

The Dodgers haven’t announced that they are hiring Lopes to be their first base coach, but they will make that announcement soon. The Dodgers did not rehire Larry Bowa, who with Randolph is the most noted coach without a job.

The Dodgers’ new manager, Don Mattingly, is one of six managers who have been named this off-season. The Mets’ new manager will be the seventh. Mattingly is one of three who have never managed; the other two are John Farrell of Toronto and Ron Roenicke of Milwaukee. Clint Hurdle of Pittsburgh, Eric Wedge of Seattle and Fredi Gonzalez of Atlanta are the new managers who have previously managed in the majors’.

 

THE MINORITY SPEAKS

felix-hernandez-225So Felix Hernandez, as expected, won the American League Cy Young award, and he won it handily. I don’t have a problem with Hernandez. I think he is the best pitcher in the league, and I think he should have won the award last year.

My problem is with Hernandez winning the award with 13 wins. I am not alone in that view. Four writers voted for David Price (19 wins) and three voted for CC Sabathia (21).

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune voted for Price because, he said, Hernandez’s 13 wins didn’t merit the award and Price was a dominant pitcher in his own right.

Speaking of the one-sided outcome of the vote, Rogers added, “I wonder how much of it was bullying on the Internet. There were a lot of columns written in September saying no one should be stupid enough not to vote for Felix. Maybe that’s what happened, but I hope not.”

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun noted that the difference between the leaders in wins last year was three (Zack Greene 16, Hernandez 19) and this year was eight (Hernandez 13, Sabathia 21.)

“I asked a bunch of players on both teams I saw the last weekend of the season and it came out 9-1 or 10-1 for CC,” Elliott said.

Winning is still the name of the game, Elliott added, uttering a view I agree with wholeheartedly. “If a general manager has been out of touch for a weekend and comes home,” Elliott added, “he says did we win. He doesn’t ask did the starter have a quality start or strike out 10.”

Tracy Ringolsby, a long-time baseball writer but not a voter in this election, offered a theory about the Hernandez vote,

“It’s the trendy thing to do,” he said, “and everybody wants to be part of the trend.”

 

WHERE DOES PALMER REALLY STAND?

In a recent column about Marvin Miller and his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame next month, I quoted Miller as saying he didn’t think Jim Palmer, one of the seven Hall of Fame players on the 16-member veterans committee, would vote for him.Jim Palmer 225

“Jim Palmer was a great pitcher,” Miller said, “but he was an anti-union sonuvabitch.”

The next day, in The New York Times, columnist George Vecsey quoted Palmer as saying he would vote for Miller. A reader of both columns sent me an e-mail asking if I thought Vecsey had seen the Miller comment in my column and contacted Palmer to ask him his position on Miller.

Vecsey told me his communication with Palmer was independent of my column, which he said he had not seen. The reader who raised the question nevertheless found it curious that the one voter Vecsey contacted was the one about whom Miller had spoken.

Perhaps even more interesting, though, was the comment made by another committee member to a friend. I won’t identify the committee member because the conversation was private, but the member suggested that Palmer, despite his comment to Vecsey, could still not vote for Miller on Dec. 5 when he marks his ballot.

It would not be the first time a baseball personality says one thing publicly and votes the opposite way privately. George Steinbrenner did it at an owners meeting in 1980.

The owners were considering Edward DeBartolo Sr.’s attempt to buy the White Sox, and Steinbrenner spoke strongly on his behalf at the meeting. When it was time to vote, the owners thought they knew what the vote would be based on comments made during the meeting.

When the votes were counted, though, there was one more “no” vote than had been expected. The owners subsequently discovered that the extra “no” vote had been cast by Steinbrenner.

 

EMPLOYEES WILL PLAY WITHOUT BOSS TO PAY

A sure sign of the passing of the guard in Yankeesland was offered last week. The team’s media relations department included this notice in a news release last week:

“Please note that the Yankees front office will be closed from Sun., Nov. 21 through Sun., Nov. 28. It will reopen on Monday, Nov. 29.”

A vacation during Thanksgiving week for Yankees’ employees? It would never happen if the senior Steinbrenner were alive,

Comments? Please send email to comments@murraychass.com.