5-8-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Once again, we've made it to the end of the week. Not always the most minor of accomplishments. But we did it. It's done. Bring on the weekend!

And because it's Friday, that means it's DFTU time. And what a Thursday it was for one of the DFT's. An opponent busted for PED's, and a manager getting fired. That's one helluva 24 hour period! I'll discuss.

Incidentally, I've recently tested positive for caffeine and acetaminophen. They were taken for personal medical issues and not specifically to enhance my column-writing. I've been advised not to say anything more about that usage for now. I'd like to apologize to Dodger fans and the McCourt family for ever suggesting that they re-sign Manny Ramirez. I know everybody in L.A. is disappointed. So am I.

"I have just returned from Boston. It is the only sane thing to do if you find yourself up there."
- Fred Allen (1894 - 1956), American comedian

Okay, L.A.'s the trouble spot today, but how could I resist this cheap shot at Boston. Generally, I have no trouble with the city itself, but this was just too perfect.

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You've waited all week for it. Yesterday's events have you on the edge of your seat. You'll have to wait no longer! It's time for everybody's favorite segment:

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 13-16, in 4th place in the AL Central and 5 games behind the Kansas City Royals.

Sorry, you'll have to get through the Twins news before we hit the big stuff.

And considering how the Twins have played of late, you might want to skim right over this section. I wouldn't blame you. It pains me to write it.

Where do I even begin? They've dropped 3 in a row and 5 of their last 6. Their starting pitching is still struggling to find a rhythm and the bullpen's not helping much at all. The offense is still unsettled even with the return of Baby Jesus. In short, they're not playing well at all.

I'm trying to keep myself from leaping on the panic button. It's too early in the year, and the Twins traditionally start slow. That doesn't excuse what's going on, it's only a banal attempt to explain it.

Perhaps the most disappointing development this week was the decision to send 2B Alexi Casilla down to AAA Rochester. Don't get me wrong, I agree whole-heartedly with the move. I'm just disappointed that Alexi put them in the position where they had to make it.

Casilla has been struggling at the plate all year. That's not a sin. It happens to a lot of players. But with the Twins, what keeps you in the Big Leagues is not allowing those struggles to affect your effort.

I heard Michael Jordan say once that he felt he'd be a success at whatever he did because he knew there were always two things a person could control: their attitude and their effort. In baseball, effort is a noticeable thing. You can see if a guy runs out his groundouts. You can see if he's focused on his defense and making the correct plays. If you can't get a hit, that sucks, but there are a lot of other ways you can help a team. And if you play for the Twins, they expect you to do those things even if you're not hitting.

Unfortunately for Alexi, he allowed his struggles at the plate to affect the effort he was putting out in the rest of his game. On Monday, Casilla was asked to sacrifice bunt. He popped the ball up in the air, and instead of running it out and forcing the defense to make a play, he stopped and hung his head, allowing the Tigers to make an easy double-play. Sure, they'd likely have completed the twin killing anyway, but as they say, you never assume a double-play. That means you run out every ball and force the defense to get you out. You don't just flat give up and hand them two outs.

That's not the only example of Casilla's lack of effort, but I think it was the one that tipped the scales against him. So now Alexi gets to see if he can get his head straightened out as a Rochester Red Wing. Good luck Alexi!

In the mean time, the Twins have called up utility infielder Matt Tolbert. Tolbert's a nice player and was actually the last guy cut in Spring Training. He's not going to win any batting titles. In fact, he was hitting .260 at Rochester before the call up. But Tolbert's always been known as an effort guy. Maybe he won't break the OPS meter, but he'll give you everything he's got, every play of the game.

And that's exactly the point. Alexi wasn't doing that. Tolbert will. I really do hope Alexi gets things figured out. But until he does, Tolbert's not a bad fill-in.

The Twins have returned home after a rough 4-game road trip and will kick off a 3-game series against Seattle tonight. After a mid-week 3-gamer at home versus Detroit, they head out to *gulp* the Bronx for 4 games against the Bombers. More on that next week.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 12-17 and in 4th place in the NL West, 8.5 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

Okay, on to the big stuff.

First up, Manny. Manny, Manny, Manny. L.A. OF Manny Ramirez has tested positive for a substance banned under MLB's joint drug prevention and treatment policy.

The story, as reported from various sources, is that Manny was prescribed HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) by a doctor for a "personal medical issue". Unfortunately HCG is clearly defined as a banned substance by Major League Baseball, so when Manny tested positive, he was in violation of their policy and suspended for 50 games.

HCG is a female fertility drug which is sometimes prescribed to men as treatment for erectile dysfunction (i.e. the "personal medical issue"). That's in a world where drugs are never used for anything other then their prescribed intention. But that's not the world we live in. In the world we live in HCG is taken by steroid users after finishing a cycle, to boost their testosterone levels which are artificially depressed by the steroid usage.

Is it possible that Manny just couldn't get the soldier to salute and the doctor signed off on HCG rather than Viagra or Cialis? Yes, that's possible. It's also possible that Bill Simmons will be hired as the next GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and I'll become an NBA fan again.

But I wouldn't hold your breath.

I have no doubt that Manny and his agents are trying to lay the ground work for that spin by citing that "personal medical issue" in his prepared statement.

(Aside: What are the odds Manny's even read much less wrote that statement? 200-1 against? sounds about right to me.)

But given the culture of baseball over the last decade and a half, the far more likely scenario is that the HCG was used in relation to steroids. Yet another display of blatant disrespect towards the game by a guy who's made a career out of spitting in baseball's eye and then flashing that doofus smile of his and being forgiven by people who just want to see him hit.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

The second big issue is the firing of Arizona manager Bob Melvin.

This one's tough. I realize that the Manager of the Year award might be the most meaningless award in all of sports. It's impossible to really measure, and generally just goes to the guy who's team exceeded his team's mediocre expectations.

That being said, Melvin did win the award in 2007. And now he's out of a job. Did he forget how to manage in a year a two months? Probably not. But when your team's hitting .222 through the middle of May, something's got to give.

There's two ways to look at this. On the one hand, this could be an indication of chaos within the management structure of the Diamondbacks. Former president Jeff Mooraad is now the owner of the San Diego Padres. And I'm not entirely sure that hole he left behind has been entirely filled. So perhaps this ruckus is indicative of a lack of a focused vision within the Arizona front office.

Not only was Melvin fired, but so was hitting coach Rick Schuh. And coupled with those firings, pitching coach Bryan Price resigned. So this is as big a field staff change as you could have mid-season. That's pretty chaotic.

On the other hand, you could say that D'backs management felt that there's enough talent on this team to compete, and they don't want to give up on this season. So you make a change now, early in the year, and hope that new skipper A.J. Hinch can get things turned around. Hinch was formerly the Diamondbacks minor league coordinator. The last time a guy in his position was promoted to field manager mid-season was in 1979 when Dallas Green took over the Phillies. They won the World Series in 1980.

I'm not saying that's what'll happen to Arizona, but it's an interesting note.

In the end, I'm not sure the D'backs' struggles were Bob's fault. But you can't fire the players mid-stream, so if you're going to make a move, this was it. While Melvin was always regarded as a low-key, unexciteable skipper, Hinch is purported to be the opposite. Maybe he'll bring some fire to the club. Maybe he'll find ways to get guys going that Melvin couldn't. Maybe players will see Melvin get fired and realize that if they don't get it in gear, they could be moved in the off-season.

It's always difficult to predict what impact a managerial change will have on a team. I just hope that of the two theories I outlined earlier, the facts tend towards the latter. I hope this team pulls together and takes advantage of the fact that the Dodgers just lost their best hitter for nearly a third of the season.

Like everything else in baseball, we'll just have to wait and see!

The Hinch era kicks off tonight as the Snakes host the worst team in baseball, the Washington Nationals. After that it's three at home versus Cincinnati before heading out to Atlanta next weekend.

That's all for this week folks. Yes, it was a bit on the long side, but there was a lot to talk about!

Come back on Monday. I'll have a recap of the biggest stories from the weekend.

Until then, thanks for reading!

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