A man I know thinks he has the ideal replacement if, or when, Don Baylor is fired as the Chicago Cubs' manager.
"Bruce Kimm would seem to be a great choice,'' the man said. Kimm, of course, is the Iowa Cubs' manager. He also is Whitey Herzog's favorite Triple-A manager.
Turn back the clock to when Herzog shocked people in Des Moines last January by saying Kimm was a victim of reverse racism because he's white.
Herzog, who was a longtime major league manager, said Kimm was among those "really getting it stuck to them'' because he's not a minority.
The fact that Herzog, 70, made his comments at the Iowa Cubs' FanFest luncheon made it an even more embarrassing situation. "I just hope that (Kimm) gets the chance someday to manage in the big leagues,'' Herzog said.
So do I. So does the man I mentioned earlier in this column.
The man was on the field prior to a recent I-Cubs game and overheard comments directed toward Kimm. He came away with the feeling that the I-Cubs' skipper has the respect of plenty of players—on his own team as well as opposing teams.
Whether he will have the respect of the Cubs' front office when it comes time to replace Baylor—regardless if it's next week or four years from now--remains to be seen.
One thing is certain in the first week of May. The Cubs—the Chicago version—are a terrible team. They finally broke a five-game losing streak Thursday by winning at San Diego, 6-1, but their record is only 9-17, they're 1-8 in one-run games and, other than Sammy Sosa, their offense is non-existent.
You can't blame all of that on the manager. But, in watching Baylor for more than two seasons, it's evident to me he will never out-manage anyone.
He seems mainly interested in being buddy-buddy with his overpaid players-- avoiding saying anything that might be regarded as being negative.
His team is horrible in fundamentals. The players can't, or won't, bunt. They get picked off base. They throw to the wrong base. They miss signals.
In addition, the Cubs are showing every indication of being a "dead'' team. There's about as much emotion in the dugout as there is at a convention of undertakers.
Those are things for which I can blame the manager. And that's why Baylor probably deserves to be the next manager sacked.
Four major league managers were fired before May 1, and count on it that there will be more. Despite anything Cubs president Andy MacPhail says about not panicking and that Baylor's job is not in jeopardy, the manager will get the ax if the team doesn't improve as this ugly season wears on.
That's just the way it is in baseball or any other professional sport. If the Cubs were a hockey team, Baylor would be gone already. Don't forget, MacPhail has his own job to worry about. And, when it comes down to who heads out the door first—the club president or the manager—it's always the manager.
Unfortunately, I'm guessing Kimm's chances of being named Baylor's successor are slim and none.
If Baylor should get canned next week, my prediction is that either bench coach Rene Lachemann or pitching coach Larry Rothschild would be named the interim manager. Both are former major league managers, and baseball is still a "good ol' boy'' game when it comes to some things.
If Baylor would be replaced by someone already on the staff, then the likelihood is that Kimm, a native of Norway, Ia., who is a former major league catcher and coach, would be left out again. One way Baylor might temporarily keep the wolf away from the door would be to fire hitting coach Jeff Pentland, What that would do is transfer the blame to the guy who is supposed to be teaching the players how to hit. That, too, is classic big league baseball. Tell people you're not panicking, but fire one of the coaches—or all of them—so the manager can keep his job. For a while anyway.
Another Shane Power Rumor
The Shane Power rumors won't end. Power is the Iowa State basketball player who quit the team last week, and so far hasn't explained why. He was the only player to start all 31 of the Cyclones' games last season and averaged a team-high 37.5 minutes per game of playing time.
The latest rumor making the rounds is that Coach Larry Eustachy told Power his playing time would be cut to 20 minutes a game or so next season because of the strength of the incoming recruiting class.
It's hard to believe that Eustachy or any other coach would be specific in the spring about how much playing time one of his best players would get the following season—unless, of course, the coach didn't especially care if that particular player wasn't around the following year.
And Now for the Scoop on Smush
Ever since I wrote earlier this week that a player named Smush Parker would make himself eligible for the June 26 NBA draft, I've been hearing from readers who want to know more about Smush.
Well, Smush is a 6-4, 190-pound guard from Fordham who averaged 16.5 points and 4.4 assists in his sophomore season. ESPN.com reports that NBA "scouts have flocked to see Parker throughout the season and will push for him to get to Chicago for the pre-draft camp.
"Parker declared for the draft and wants to go to Chicago to see whether he is in the draft. If he's projected to be a first-round pick, then he has told Fordham he will stay in the draft. "If he's not assured he would be a first-round pick, then he'll return (to Fordham). He'll have to prove that he's a first-round pick in Chicago because NBA scouts aren't sold on him just yet.'' All I can say is this: Go, Smush! You've got a great NBA name.
Just One Happy Family? Guess Again
Earlier in this column, I talked about the lack of emotion in the Chicago Cubs' dugout. Add the Cubs' clubhouse to that observation, too. In a recent game, second baseman Delino DeShields knocked in the winning run with a fielder's choice ground-out. But he told Chicago reporters afterward that he didn't want to discuss the play. "I have nothing to say,'' said DeShields, who was hitless in his last 13 times at bat. "Bobby will be up here in a minute. Y'all can get all the quotes you need then.''
Y'all could, of course, chip the ice off of those comments.
The "Bobby'' DeShields was referring to was Bobby Hill, the Iowa Cubs' second baseman who is his heir apparent. But, sad to say, Hill's batting average isn't much better than DeShields' average.
DeShields is hitting a less-than-robust .203. Hill is hitting a less-than-robust .213. DeShields has one hit in his last 23 at-bats, Hill began the season 1-for-19. Baylor is telling Chicago reporters the Cubs have no immediate plans to promote Hill. So DeShields apparently can relax until he's 1-for-100.