- Is it the new manager or is it the stability?
There have been many cases where a team just wanted a manager out of their sight because they couldn't stand him and subsequently went on a tear. It happened twice with former Astros and Blue Jays manager Jimy Williams; with the Marlins when they dumped Jeff Torborg; and with the Red Sox when they fired John McNamara. While it's easy to give credit to the successors----Cito Gaston and Phil Garner replacing Williams; Jack McKeon replacing Torborg; and Joe Morgan (the veteran New Englander, not the inept broadcaster) in replacing McNamara----it's not that easy to automatically think that the new manager was the reason things turned around.
The perception of playing for a manager's job on a nightly basis can't be easy. Most managerial changes don't just come out of the blue; there's usually a series of leaks to the newspapers mentioning that it's possible (sometimes that's done to gauge the temperature of the situation, the fans and the players and see how they're going to react); many times management wants to get a feel as to whether or not the change is actually going to do any good on the field.
Amid all of that, even the Mets players who didn't particularly like Randolph or pitching coach Rick Peterson and wouldn't have minded them being gone don't want to be seen as responsible for getting the manager and pitching coach fired. It wasn't necessarily that the players had simply stopped performing for Randolph on purpose, but it can't be easy for a reliever to come jogging in from the bullpen with runners on base and a one-run lead and all the factors he has to worry about in that situation to be thinking that if he doesn't do the job, he's getting someone fired as well. It gets to a point where even the wins are tinged with the repeated questions about the status of the manager; once the idea of a change is in the air, it's going to be there and fall on the players until the matter is resolved.
There's no question that Randolph had lost his effectiveness as a manager, and if the team turns things around Manuel is going to get the credit, but it might have little to do with what he does as the manager and more to do with the players not having to worry about every loss possibly resulting in the manager getting fired.
- Brewers 7-Orioles 3:
The Brewers took a reasonable chance on Gagne last winter signing him to a one-year deal hoping that a return to the National League would revert the pitcher into what he was with the Dodgers and with the Rangers early last season. Instead, they got the pitcher who imploded for the Red Sox on a nightly basis. They turned to the quirky veteran Torres out of desperation more than anything else and, in a prime example of how finding a successful closer is a flip of the coin, Torres has been excellent. For a guy who was a closer off-and-on for the past few seasons and lost the job as a member of the woeful Pirates last year and also had some bizarre incidents in his career (walking away from the game for five years, etc.), Torres might be remembered as the man who saved the Brewers from 78-win season and a major restructuring. The Brewers are still within striking distance of the NL Central and right in the middle of the Wild Card race. If they hit as they're capable, Ben Sheets stays healthy and Torres continues to perform as he has, they could hang around in both races for the duration and that's a far cry from scanning the want-ads for a closer who wouldn't blow games they should be winning.
- Twins 5-Diamondbacks 3:
Brandon Webb has been getting raked around so regularly that I would be concerned about the pitcher's health; granted it would've been impossible for him to continue pitching shutouts every night, but he's gotten knocked around in three of his last five starts; it could be a mid-season slump, but it's not something to ignore out of hand. Their rotation, which was supposed to be a strength, is looking short. Dan Haren has been everything advertised, but Micah Owings got off to a great start and has been pretty much terrible since late April; Randy Johnson has been more bad than good; and Doug Davis, for all the courage he's shown in coming back from thyroid cancer, is a back of the rotation starter who can't be counted on to pick up for the top of the rotation.
Out of the Moneyball school, Josh Byrnes is probably the closest GM to Billy Beane in terms of temperament, playing his cards close to the vest and making decisive moves. Even though they're in first place, this could mean one of two things: 1) Bob Melvin might be in trouble if they continue sleepwalking; or 2) a big trade is going to be made to shake things up. I don't think Melvin deserves to be fired (for what that's worth), so I would think that Byrnes is scouring the trade market and other teams in need to make a quick and decisive strike to loosen the cobwebs.
- Tigers 5-Padres 3: