YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Time for Managers To Be Written Off


Baseball is a month from playing its entire season without losing a single manager.

That's 30 in and 30 out, closing in on the first time every manager made it through a season since 1942.

A few won't last to mid-October. Larry Dierker in Houston, for one. Gene Lamont in Pittsburgh looks ready. Jack McKeon in Cincinnati, of course. That's just the NL Central.

Davey Johnson's gone. Buck Showalter's close. Terry Francona and Felipe Alou could lose their jobs, and find others. Larry Rothschild is probably done.

The August cool inevitably will give way to an October slaughter. And, thank goodness, Kevin Kennedy will have a real job again.

There are theories. The wild-card races allow everyone to hang around for at least a few months, no matter how incapable the team or the manager. Also, owners recognize that the have-nots often simply cannot, and therefore aren't so hard on their managers.

We prefer another.

"I don't think the writers have been hard enough on them," St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa said. "They're getting soft."


Where were you in High Desert? Generally allotted about six tickets per game, ballplayers return to their hometowns to find themselves overrun with requests. Boston outfielder Carl Everett found a way to cope.

"If they didn't come to see me in the minors," Everett said, smiling, "they don't get them now."


Bathroom humor: A .400 season is out there for Todd Helton. So, it's time to dig deeper. It's time to find out what makes him worthy of Ted Williams, nearly six decades later.

Frankly, it's the personal hygiene.

Careful not to disturb the hitting gods, not to mention the guy sitting next to him on the team bus, Helton's superstitions reside in an unusual place.

"Most of it has to do with--this is going to sound really crazy--what I do in the bathroom," Helton said. "Whether I use a washcloth to bathe with. Or if I brush my teeth in the shower or out of the shower. Where I put the shampoo bottle . . .

That particular day, he brushed in the shower. That night, three hits. There you go.


More Todd stuff: The coolest thing about Helton? He's just like Darin Erstad.

Here's the scenario, put to him by Mike Klis of the Denver Post: Helton's batting .399, last at-bat of the season. One lousy single gets him to .400. Runner at second base, nobody out, ninth inning in a tie game. The Rockies are going nowhere. The pitch is a fastball, outside corner. What does he do?

"I'm going to pull the ball to the right side and hit a slow roller to second base," he said. "That's my main objective when I get to the plate."



The swing is the thing: Luis Sojo doesn't swing a baseball bat as much as he rides it. When he's done, rodeo clowns roll barrels at it. His is a violent, unpredictable swing with an attitude, and Sojo looks as if he's trying to hold on for six seconds and then get the heck out of there.

Still, he's batting .317 for the Yankees, who apparently will need him desperately at second base come playoff time, because Chuck Knoblauch is milking this elbow thing.

"When I see my swing on video, I look so bad," Sojo said. "But I make contact."

Sojo has become one of the big leagues' premier bad-ball hitters. Which is to say, it's next to impossible to walk the guy, so no one throws him strikes.

"They pitch to me right down the middle, I hit ground balls to second, ground balls to shortstop," Sojo said. "They throw one outside, bloop single. Up high? Smoke it down the line. I hit bad pitches. To me, that's what I get right on. When I get something over the plate, I can't do anything. I'm in trouble."


Go Cali: Concerned that Chuck Finley doesn't really feel at home in Cleveland--as if that made him a bad guy, or an unusual one--the Cleveland Plain Dealer hoped to rally Ohioans to the cause.

Of course, short of dragging over the Pacific Ocean, adding some sun and putting all the farm animals in Kentucky, this would appear to be an impossible chore. But, they're trying.

"Start by simulating a Southern California baseball crowd," wrote columnist Bud Shaw. "This can be done in any number of ways. Arrive after Finley has already thrown 68 pitches. Or leave before.

"Bring beach balls. Bat them around like Darin Erstad facing Indians pitching. Tall guys, bleach your hair. Short guys, unbutton your shirts to your navels. Drink something mixed. Make sure everybody around you hears you bark at least once into your cell phone: 'Listen babe, I want Nicholson or nobody. Kapisch?'

"Bald guys, buy a toupee that is so obvious a family of condors is nesting in it."

That seems a little unfair. Russell Crowe is much bigger than Nicholson.


Bagwell, in the zone: The ambivalence hung on Jeff Bagwell like a terrible, terrible goatee.

Asked if buddy Mike Hampton would re-sign with the Mets, Bagwell said, "Anyone who assumes he's going to sign with the Mets can't be serious."

By the same token, he said, "He's a redneck, but that doesn't mean he can't play here."

OK then. Just checking.

Los Angeles Times Articles