Editor’s note: Doug Bird’s weekly column is moving to Mondays.
It’s almost July and having been lucky enough to watch more than my share of baseball games thus far, today I am offering some quick fixes for those teams which plainly need to do something to either become contenders or to right the proverbial ship. Sometimes these decisions will not be made due to money considerations and sometimes the solution is in house and staring them in the face, money not really being a consideration. Pay strict attention because I’m only going to say this once and afterwards it may well be too late.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are doing much better than expected, (obviously pitching coach Ray Searage has been doing something right, especially with the starters). Offense is and continues to be a big problem for the Pirates. Solution: Say goodbye to Lyle Overbay, move Pedro Alvarez to first now and keep rookie Josh Harrison at third. Give Xavier Paul regular playing time and sit Jose Tabata down or send him down to Triple A.
2. Washington Nationals: Who pays all this money to turn a fifth place power hitter into a leadoff hitter? Can anyone explain to me why Jayson Werth has been the Nationals lead off man Come to think of it, with a .233 average, why is Werth batting anywhere above sixth in the order? Perhaps he’s feeling the pressure of that big contract and let’s face it, he was never a $20 million a year player anyway.
3. Baltimore Orioles: The Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds and Vlad Guerrero era simply isn’t working. It pains me to watch one of my favourite all time players falter, (Guerrero), Derrek Lee hasn’t cared since the big Cubs contract and Mark Reynolds can’t hit .200. Brian Roberts can’t stay healthy either. Time to, once again, load up on young players and deal these guys while they still have something reasonably tangible left.
4. Chicago Cubs: Oh the sink hole of the long term, big money, under performing contract. Everyone knows that Zambrano, Ramirez, Soriano, Fukudome, have to go. Heck, even the Cubs know that. Problem is the Cubs don’t have much on the farm, (Vitters is still in Double A) and the other 29 teams know that they can pretty much call the tune on any deal. The only teams that could afford them don’t want them. Get what you can for them, eat lots of money and finally start over. Wrigley Field is still beautiful…
5. Los Angeles Dodgers: Which, if either of the McCourt’s, will get to keep the Dodgers? Apparently Frank wants them but so does Bud Selig. Don Mattingly’s inexperience is showing. Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp are playing like major leaguers. Can’t say the same for the rest. Rumours have Carroll on the trading block but why sacrifice one of only two position players who gets his uniform dirty? Maybe Selig should buy this team. Maybe Jack McKeon should manage this team instead of Florida.
6. Oakland A’s: Billy Ball should have worked but it hasn’t. The pitching was there until all the injuries and Josh Willingham and company are hitting whiffle balls. The team average is second worst in the league, (.239) with no power. None of the seemingly offensive improving acquisitions can hit. An Oakland A’s rally is a 3-2 count. Firing one bad manager and hiring another bad manager isn’t going to help. In the year of the pitcher Oakland should be in a good position. Trade a couple of the .240 hitters with speed for a power guy. Bat Matsui eighth. Do you know the way to San Jose?
7. San Diego Padres: This team needs to play in a major league park and not the Grand Canyon. You can’t build a team entirely around pitching and I doubt even the New York Yankees could hit much here. After 30 or 40 games here, even the best hitters begin to believe that they really are .230 hitters with no power. Bring in the fences to reasonable dimensions and make the game a two way affair once again. You can’t rally from two or three runs back if it takes seven singles to do it each night. You can’t sign an Albert Pujols if he knows his homerun totals will drop to 10 over the course of 81 games at Petro Park.
Just a few simple strategies. For some, it’s only a speed bump. For others it’s a brick wall. For still others it seems to be both.