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Managers on the hot seat

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I hand out a yearly predictions sheet prior to every baseball season and we have a little fun with it here at the Sports Network, as we try and figure out who will win the divisions, the MVP and Cy Young awards and things like that.

Last season one of the categories I added was that of first manager to be fired for each league. The powers that be here, though, couldn't add another row to the list without making it look silly, so we decided to scrap it altogether.

In hindsight it was probably a good idea, since there were no major league managers fired in-season during 2006. While we may have had zero changes last season, I think we could have as many as three or four in the coming months.

I would have bet my life before the season that Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel would be gone by now. In fact, I was so sure of it that I was going to choose either Davey Johnson or Jimy Williams as my choice for NL Manager of the Year, since I thought the Phils would start slow, fire Manuel, then get hot and claim the wild card.

Well, they did get off to a horrendous start, but somehow Manuel has weathered the storm and the Phils are playing pretty good baseball right now. Barring a complete collapse now, I cannot see Manuel getting fired. Pat Gillick has only pulled the plug on one of his managers in the middle of a season just one time in all his years as a general manager.

Of course Yankees' manager Joe Torre is the obvious choice to be the first skipper let go, but I don't think he is going anywhere either, especially since Roger Clemens is coming back next week. I wouldn't be surprised if Clemens got some assurances from George Steinbrenner that Torre's job is safe just to get him to come to New York.

Torre, though, is not the only manager in the AL East that is on the hot seat, as Baltimore's Sam Perlozzo and Toronto's John Gibbons both could be looking for work soon.

Despite the Orioles' improved play of late, that team is a mess and Perlozzo has completely lost control. If you don't believe me, just listen to some of the Orioles players, as a number of veterans have come out in recent weeks questioning some of their managers' moves.

Third baseman Melvin Mora was the latest to voice concern. Apparently Mora was peeved that he wasn't told he was not going to be in the starting lineup last Friday against the Oakland Athletics.

"I'm not upset that I'm not in there. I'm upset that they don't communicate with me," Mora said before batting practice. "I could've worked out or come here and worked early. I'm not the kind of guy that wants to work early and play the game, because I don't want to be tired. (Perlozzo's) the boss and he can do anything he wants with the lineup. I don't mind that. He can give me a day off. But we're veteran players here, and we need to know what's happening the next day."

Mora, who nearly came to blows following an on-field confrontation with teammate and longtime friend Jay Payton a few weeks ago, felt Perlozzo did not show him the respect he deserved.

"Mike Hargrove did it. Even Lee Mazzilli did it," Mora added. "I wasn't playing in the big leagues for a long time with the Mets, but Bobby Valentine would tell me, 'You've got a day off tomorrow.' Or, 'You're going to face Tom Glavine tomorrow.' This game is about communication. This game is like how you are with your wife. If you get good communication with your relationship, your relationship's going to be strong. That's the bottom line.

"That's why I see so many players playing hard for their manager -- because their manager treats them well. That's why you see a player like Curt Schilling bleeding on the mound -- because he wants to do everything for Terry Francona."

There have also been reports that the 67-year-old Johnson or reigning NL Manager of the Year Joe Girardi could step in if Perlozzo is in fact fired. One thing Perlozzo has going for him, though, is that only one manager has been let go in-season under owner Peter Angelos' watch. That was Perlozzo's predecessor, Lee Mazzilli.

Gibbons, meanwhile, is probably safer than I think. His team has been ravaged by injuries, most notably to closer B.J. Ryan and staff ace Roy Halladay. But big things were expected from the Blue Jays this season and they have severely underachieved.

Plus let's not forget Gibbons' track record from last year. Not only did he have a pretty public feud with infielder Shea Hillenbrand, but he also got into a physical altercation with starter Ted Lilly.

Halladay will be back this week, but if things continue to go south north of the border, Gibbons will be gone.

Over in the National League, Cincinnati's Jerry Narron has to be checking the Help Wanted ads in the classifieds.

After a promising 2006 campaign, the Reds were picked by some to win the under-whelming Central this year, but they have been the league's worst team with a 19-33 record. And unfortunately for Narron, things don't seem to be getting better anytime soon.

Adam Dunn is a mess. He continues to pile up strikeouts in droves. Some Reds fans I know think the team is going to be able to deal him. I have news for them, nobody wants him. There is a reason Dunn is still on the team now, and that's because nobody wanted him in the offseason. The only way the Reds are going to be able to deal him is if they get 35 cents on the dollar.

The bullpen that general manager Wayne Krivsky worked so hard to improve last season and over the winter has been atrocious. Not only do the Reds have an NL-worst nine saves, but the 4.78 bullpen earned run average is second-worst in the league. Eddie Guardado, though, should be back soon. And if that does not get you excited in Cincinnati, then nothing will.

If I was a betting man - which I am not anymore - I would say Perlozzo has the best shot of going, followed by Narron and Gibbons. Of course, all that could change if the Yankees are swept in Boston this coming weekend. Because Clemens or no Clemens, Steinbrenner will not stand for that and Torre and his four rings will be out of there faster than a New York minute.

Either way, though, I have a feeling that a change could be in the air somewhere soon.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
Chris Ruddick