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Baseball Notes

Baylor is feeling skipped over in managerial mix

DON BAYLOR Has experience DON BAYLOR
Has experience
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / June 27, 2010

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Don Baylor reads the names of those being considered for managing jobs and he wonders, why not me?

Baylor, 60, a veteran of 19 years in the majors and a former American League MVP, managed the Rockies and Cubs, but that seems like an eternity ago. He was 1995 Manager of the Year in the National League and is now the Rockies hitting coach.

There are four African-American managers in baseball, and three of them — Dusty Baker in Cincinnati, Ron Washington in Texas, and Jerry Manuel with the Mets — have their teams in or near first place. The fourth is Cito Gaston in Toronto.

Baylor said the last time he even interviewed for a managing job was in 2004 with the Phillies, who hired Charlie Manuel. He has managed 1,317 games in Colorado and Chicago but can’t get an interview.

“It’s not lack of experience,’’ said Baylor. “I have experience. I have the same desire to be on the field and to help an organization put together a winning strategy and work with a GM that has the same goal and philosophy.’’

Could it be a health issue teams are wary of with Baylor, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2003?

“The cancer that I had was multiple myeloma, a blood disorder,’’ said Baylor. “Mel Stottlemyre has it. Geraldine Ferraro has had it. It’s something you live with and go on. I’ve had control of it the last four or five years. So I’m going to take that excuse away from them, because my doctor’s told me if he has to write something for me, he would.

“When you’ve managed for nine years or so and when you’ve been the Manager of the Year in the National League, there are no other issues whatsoever. None.’’

While Major League Baseball strongly encourages teams to conduct an interview process, one that includes minority candidates, Baylor doesn’t even see that anymore.

“I grew up in racism, and I’ve never used it as an excuse. Never once,’’ he said. “And I don’t like to get into that.

“What I see now is that the interview process really doesn’t exist anymore. That’s what I see.’’

By that, he means that general managers and team presidents tend to bring in candidates they know and feel comfortable with rather than interviewing someone they’re not familiar with — someone who might blow them away.

Baylor, who went 627-689 in nine seasons as a manager, was out of baseball for two years before accepting an offer from former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle to be hitting coach last year.

As an ex-Oriole who was schooled under Earl Weaver and Frank and Brooks Robinson in the Oriole Way, Baylor became one of the best leaders in the game among players. He was certainly that on the 1986 Red Sox, putting out brush fires and fostering a cohesiveness on a team that nearly won a World Series.

He is also battle-tested from his experience with the Rockies (1993-98) and Cubs (2000-02).

“I always managed the talent that I had,’’ said Baylor. “In Chicago, they started bringing in a hundred million players after I left. Not before.

“A couple of No. 1 picks they thought were ready to play in the big leagues weren’t ready to play in the big leagues. We had Bobby Hill, Corey Patterson, and they just weren’t ready at the time.

“I’ve been in just about every situation as a player and coach and manager,’’ said Baylor. “I’ve been in the playoffs, World Series, and I know how to get there.

“I took this [Colorado] team to the playoffs early and I know I’m capable of going out there and managing again. I just need someone to give me the opportunity and give me serious consideration to sit down after an interview.’’

He was never considered for the Rockies job that Jim Tracy now holds, but he understood, given that he’d already managed there, albeit under a different regime.

He’d love a chance to manage in Baltimore, where Dave Trembley has already been replaced this year by Juan Samuel, but when candidate names are mentioned, he’s not among them. It was current Orioles president Andy MacPhail who fired Baylor in Chicago.

“That’s where my heart is at,’’ said Baylor. “That’s where I learned to play the game. It’s tough to see the struggles they’ve had there. The AL East is now three teams.

“I know it’s been difficult for the great fans who supported that team for so long and grew up in the tradition there.’’

In his years away from managing, Baylor said there have been changes in the way a manager must run a team.

“It seems like there’s more younger players who get to the big leagues quicker,’’ he said. “Coaches have to teach more and managers have to teach more.

“There are a lot of things I see that I would change. No one takes infield anymore, but I would take outfield. I just don’t see outfielders throwing at all. They don’t throw anybody out. They miss the cutoff man. They play catch, and that’s about it. They don’t really strengthen their arms.’’

The Rockies seem to have a great chance of getting into the postseason if they can make one of their late-season runs. Sometimes a coach needs exposure like that to get him back in the managing mix. Baylor hopes a third chance is still in his future.

Chicago catches fire

Sox are in the market — for a divisional title

A funny thing happened on the way to a lost season: The White Sox found their way.

This is much to the chagrin of contending teams that figured the White Sox might be offering nice trade chips. Paul Konerko was a player teams were hoping would become available. But now? Forget it. Even though the White Sox face a tough offseason decision on whether to re-sign him, it’s hard to imagine them parting with one of the game’s best power hitters now.

There is never a dull moment around the White Sox — with general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen providing fireworks — but give them credit: That stuff seems to spark some kind of passion.

The White Sox were 9 1/2 games out on June 8, but after beating the Cubs, 6-0, Friday, they were on a 10-game winning streak and had won 14 of 15, bringing them within 1 1/2 games of first place.

“They look like a completely different team now,’’ said an AL GM. “They looked like a team that was going to try and sell off some of their veterans, and now don’t be shocked to see Kenny try to go out and add to it and really go for it.’’

Veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski was hitting .211 at the end of May and is now at .245. Omar Vizquel, 43, has done a good job filling in at third base and has hit a respectable .259.

In the process of amping it up, the White Sox have also been able to introduce 21-year-old Cuban third baseman Dayan Viciedo, who was hitting .290 with 14 homers and 34 RBIs at Triple A and could succeed Vizquel if the veteran starts to fade.

And they’re even talking as if first-round pick Chris Sale of Florida Gulf Coast University could be up in the big leagues by August to provide another power lefty arm in the bullpen to complement Matt Thornton. The White Sox are trying to beef him up, because he weighed in at 168 pounds.

With Sale and Daniel Hudson in the wings, the pitching situation is looking strong, and that will be huge when the second half gets cranking.

Terry Francona always says that individuals and teams eventually reach their level. These White Sox, whom many prognosticators picked to be a surprise, seem to have found theirs.

COOLING TREND IN TAMPA

Rays dragging a little after a red-hot start

The Rays will probably be there with the Yankees and Red Sox the rest of the way, but their recent 12-17 run after a red-hot start has brought the expectations down a bit.

The Rays were 32-12 and had a six-game lead on May 23 — an opportunity to run away with the division. Instead, they’ve stumbled a tad (Friday night they were no-hit for the second time this season) and allowed the Yankees and Red Sox to do what the Yankees and Red Sox usually do: contend.

The good news is that the bullpen has pitched far better than anyone thought, but the lineup has its dips and the starters have come down to Earth, with inconsistent performances from James Shields (lost six of his seven starts), Matt Garza, and Wade Davis (hitting the rookie wall with four straight losses).

Carlos Pena, who has struggled to raise his average to .200, called a players-only meeting last week.

“It was just appropriate,’’ Pena said. “We could ignore it and not pay attention to it. Or we could face it and all of a sudden you defuse the bomb. You kind of like shrink the giant. Yeah, you see his shadow, but when you actually look at it, you’re like, ‘You know what? Who cares, guys? We’re right there, let’s play ball.’

“But if we just ignore it, the next thing you know it might become bigger than it really is.’’

There’s a lot at stake for Pena and Carl Crawford, who are due to become free agents after the season. If this is their last tango in Tampa, they want to go out on top.

It’s strange, too, because the Rays have so much going on off the field — including the issue of where their new stadium will be. The Rays need a new venue and are trying to figure out where to build it and who will pay for it and whether fans in the area will ever have enough passion for the team.

Owner Stuart Sternberg is talking about a regional stadium that could draw from outside Tampa Bay. The feeling is the stadium needs to be out of St. Petersburg, but the mayor there warns that the Rays’ lease extends to 2027, so it looks as though a legal battle could be looming if the Rays try to build elsewhere.

Etc.

Apropos of nothing

1. Small World Dept.: Dodgers bench coach Bobby Schaefer once sold Herald columnist Steve Buckley a new Ford Bronco when he was a salesman at a Greenwich, Conn., dealership; 2. Astros catcher Jason Castro hails from Castro Valley, Calif. How cool is that? Cafardoville, Mass.?; 3. Wonder if you, me, and the next guy could combine to do better than a 7.26 ERA and 13 blown saves in the Diamondbacks bullpen; 4. Ubaldo Jimenez and Stephen Strasburg are impressive, but Chris Carpenter is 21-2 since last July 5; 5. I’ve been a little tough on the Pirates, but they did good reinstating the fired pierogi.

Updates on nine
1. Dan Haren, RHP, Diamondbacks — Scouts from the Yankees, Twins, Nationals, Cardinals, and Tigers all came out to watch his last start, a 9-3 loss to the Yankees in which he went seven innings and allowed six hits and three runs. It will be interesting to see whether the Diamondbacks wind up dealing their best starter and whether anyone will break the bank to get him.

2. Erik Bedard, LHP, Mariners — Could the Mariners finally get a return on Bedard, either through performance or trade? He is on schedule to start July 6 vs. Kansas City if his rehab from shoulder surgery continues to go well. In three years, the Mariners have gotten 30 starts from Bedard, whom they acquired from the Orioles at a high cost (four players, including Adam Jones and Chris Tillman). Bedard is 31, and if he’s pitching OK into July, the Mariners might be able to dump him and recoup some of their investment.

3. Cliff Lee, LHP, Mariners — Lee is pitching as well as he ever has, and while the Mariners had won 6 of 8 entering yesterday, they were still 14 games out. It stands to reason that Lee would still be traded at the deadline, with the Twins, Tigers, Dodgers, and Cardinals appearing the most interested.

4. Jed Hoyer, general manager, Padres — They have had the best pitching in baseball, especially in the bullpen. But Hoyer has to monitor the innings of youngsters Mat Latos, Wade Leblanc, and Clayton Richard in the second half. That translates into the Padres being active at the trade deadline. Their scouts are looking at veteran pitchers right now.

5. Scott Schoeneweis, LHP, free agent — The former Red Sox lefty says he would like to pitch again, but his phone isn’t ringing. He said he really wanted to stay with the Sox, who released him, and wishes he’d been used more in the role that he anticipated, as a situational lefty. “I would love to pitch again this season, but it would have to be a special situation given my family situation,’’ Schoeneweis said. Unfortunately, his release came on the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death from a drug overdose. He has been raising his kids.

6. D.J. Carrasco, RHP, Pirates — A reliever who definitely could be on the move at the deadline. He has made 33 appearances, and his versatility as a long to middle man could be in demand. Carrasco had a good season for the White Sox last season, but didn’t fit in that deep bullpen.

7. Garrett Atkins, 1B/DH, Orioles — Baseball people looking at him in the offseason were split on whether he could regain his 2006 form, when he drove in 120 runs for Colorado. The answer was a resounding no. Atkins has been a bust in a ballpark that should be perfectly suited for his swing. He has been on “designated for assignment’’ watch the past month, and the Orioles may pull the trigger this weekend. The Orioles entered yesterday’s game without a home run from a first baseman in their first 72 games.

8. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays — He has been a tremendous disappointment, so much so that he is now playing in Triple A Las Vegas. Encarnacion, 27, did hit nine homers for the Jays but he was supposed to be a lot better when acquired by former GM J.P. Ricciardi at the deadline last year for Scott Rolen. Current Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said he hasn’t given up on Encarnacion, and the hope is that he can fix his swing. Encarnacion is certainly a trade chip.

9. Fredi Gonzalez, ex-manager, Marlins — It’s tough working for owner Jeffrey Loria, who actually thought the Marlins should win with their paltry payroll. While many believe Gonzalez lucked out here and could be Bobby Cox’s successor because of his Braves roots, one Atlanta organizational person didn’t believe it was signed, sealed, and delivered: “Everyone thinks it’ll come from the Cox tree or the Braves tree, but they may surprise you and bring in someone not related at all. Until Fredi was fired, I’m sure they had a few people on their radar. Fredi’s firing was a surprise so I’m not sure he was in the picture. Maybe he is now, but I know John Schuerholz has tried his best to keep this really quiet because he doesn’t want it to take away from Bobby’s last season.’’

Short hops
From the Bill Chuck files: “UZR is a fielding tool directly correlated to run prevention, which should be pretty scary for the Dodgers, who have the worst number in baseball (-27.8) but good news for the Padres, who are at 31.5.’’ Also, “The Blue Jays have the fewest stolen bases in the majors with only 24, but they (and the Royals) have the longest streak of stealing at least one base in eight straight games in April.’’ . . . Former Red Sox reliever Paul Quantrill was recently inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame . . . Quite a program, Mass Pride Baseball. The program has 80 players, 18 and under, from low-income families, yet it has managed to get three players taken in the MLB draft. This year, Eddie Campbell of Bridgewater-Raynham, the Globe’s Division 1 Player of the Year, was drafted by the Reds in the 44th round . . . Happy birthday to Juan Pena (33), Jackie Gutierrez (50), Rico Petrocelli (67), and Eddie Kasko (78).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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