The Rockies were going nowhere fast when Jim Tracy was hired to replace Clint Hurdle last month. Maybe the Rockies were due to turn it around. Maybe Tracy made the difference.
No matter. The Rockies have gone 15-5 since the switch, including an 11-game winning streak.
It's also getting to the point of the season where management of teams considered to be underachieving start seriously considering a managerial change.
That's why rumors have begun to surface that Cleveland's Eric Wedge could be in trouble. Ditto Houston's Cecil Cooper. And multiple national outlets reported a week ago that Washington's Manny Acta would be gone by now.
All of that raises the question of whether changing managers really matters. And the answer is open to interpretation.
The Washington Times calculated that there were 27 managers fired at midseason from 2001 through 2008. In 22 instances, the team's record improved. But only eight of the replacements had winning records. And the Wall Street Journal figured out that teams had an average winning percentage of .470 after a midseason change compared to .454 before in 178 firings-and-hirings since 1969. But only 14 of those teams made the playoffs in the same year they made a change.
Meanwhile, the well-respected Acta continues to dangle. Team president Stan Kasten wouldn't confirm or deny the rumors but talked about how "perplexed" and "troubled" and "distraught" he is by the team's poor performance.
It could be that the Nats have concluded that Acta is one of the few stable elements of a franchise that's been beset by turnover since most of the coaching staff was sacked at the end of last season. Or maybe they looked at the track record of what happened after a manager is fired and, despite what's happened in Colorado this year, that Acta is doing as well as anybody who might replace him.
The hot corner
-- The Pirates would apparently love to trade righthander Ian Snell. Part of the problem is that other teams view the Delaware native as a potential reliever, while the Bucs would want to get starter's value in return. Another is that Snell's act is wearing thin. Last Friday he was upset that manager John Russell had him walk Detroit's No. 8 hitter, Ramon Santiago, to get to pitcher Rick Porcello, who then delivered an RBI single.
-- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin admits that, like many GMs, he's looking for pitching. "But there's no indication anybody [dependable] is available right now."
-- Braves manager Bobby Cox was trying to send a message when he lifted shortstop Yunel Escobar in the bottom of the third Sunday after two mental mistakes. "We pride ourselves on doing things right and being in the game and don't do things lackadaisically," he said.
Around the bases
-- Even under suspension, Manny is still being Manny. Manny Ramirez can begin a minor league assignment next Tuesday to prepare for his July 3 return. The Dodgers would like him to face Triple A pitching at Albuquerque. But Manny prefers Class A Inland Empire so he can live at home and commute to San Bernardino. And Manny will apparently get his way, even though the California League begins its 3-day All-Star break on Monday.
-- When the All-Star coaches were announced this week, AL lieutenants Don Wakamatsu (Seattle) and Trey Hillman (Kansas City) had a combined 135 managerial wins. Charlie Manuel's NL assistants, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, had 4,690.
-- From the strange injuries file, Royals reliever Kyle Farnsworth has a bandage on his left hand after breaking up a fight between his pet bulldogs. Fortunately, he throws righthanded.
-- For the Boston Red Sox, who celebrated their 500th consecutive Fenway Park sellout Wednesday night. Yes, they have a rabid fan base and their stadium is a treasure. They've won two world championships in the last five seasons. But to draw that many fans, that consistently is also a tribute to the front office.
Only three professional sports teams have had longer sellout streaks: Portland Trail Blazers (744), Boston Celtics (567) and Chicago Bulls (515).
"We have a very special place. There's no getting around that," said manager Terry Francona. "I know I've never seen anyplace like this."
-- To the Tampa Bay Rays. The defending American League champions stepped in to halt a scheduled promotion by the Class A Clearwater Threshers last Friday. The Phillies' Florida State League farm team had planned to give away bobbleheads of Pat Burrell wearing a Phillies uniform.
Apparently that's a violation of a rule that prohibits "promotion of the Phillies brand" within the Rays' television territory.
Can a big-league team possibly be so worried about what a Class A team is doing? Does this have anything to do with the Phillies beating the Rays in the World Series last fall? Or jealousy over the fact that so many fans in the area are loyal to the Phillies because they've trained in Clearwater since 1947? Whatever. Apparently they may have the right. But that still doesn't make it right.
By the numbers
3: Teams with all-time winning records on the road in interleague play: Angels, Twins and Marlins.
14: Runs given up by Indians pitching in their series opener against the Brewers on Monday, more than Milwaukee scored in the entire six-game homestand that preceded it. How bad is Cleveland's pitching? The Tribe averaged more then eight runs per game against the Brew Crew . . . and still got swept.
1,289: Career plate appearances for Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds to hit his 62nd career homer. By comparison, Mike Schmidt hit his 62nd home run in his 1,360th plate appearance.
The pitching matchup for tomorrow afternoon in Anaheim is Jeff Weaver for the Dodgers against Jered Weaver for the Angels. It's the first time since 2002 (Cubs' Alan Benes vs. Cardinals' Andy Benes) that brothers have faced each other.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, brothers have started against each other just 20 times since 1871 . . . and nine of those were Phil and Joe Niekro.
Quote of the week
Cubs manager Lou Piniella, on criticism that he isn't showing enough emotion: "What do I need to show fire for? I'm not a dragon."
Delusional quote of the week
Padres closer Heath Bell, disagreeing with those who expect San Diego to lose 100 games this season: "We're not out of the wild-card race and the [first-place] Dodgers can't play this way forever. We're lying in the weeds."
Second-guess of the week
Kansas City manager Trey Hillman allowed righthander Gil Meche to throw 132 pitches in a complete-game win over the Diamondbacks on Tuesday. He did it even though Meche has been limited recently by a bad back, the Royals had a five-run lead and the bullpen was well-rested. It will be interesting to see how Meche does in his next few starts.
Jinx of the week
Going into the eighth inning at Cleveland's Progressive Field on Sunday night, Indians lefthander Cliff Lee was working on a no-hitter. As he took the mound, a trivia question from the team's in-house announcer appeared on the scoreboard: "Who was the last Indians pitcher to throw a perfect game?" The answer is Lenny Barker, on May 15, 1981. But that's besides the point. When Yadier Molina doubled on Lee's first pitch, some felt the Tribe's own scoreboard had broken the old baseball prohibition about mentioning a no-no in progress.
The question was prescripted, but manager Eric Wedge said whoever didn't change it has "no feel" for the game. Added pitching coach Carl Willis: "There are some things that are taboo and you don't do."
Apparently some of the Florida Marlins believe in ghosts.
When the team stayed at the Pfister in Milwaukee earlier this season, according to the Palm Beach Post, two pair of players decided to share rooms because of the hotel's reputation for being haunted. When he was with the Dodgers, Adrian Beltre once slept with his bat at the Pfister after hearing things go bump in the night.
That's not the end of the story, either. Next weekend the Fish will stay at the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg, Fla., another hotel with a history, when they play the Rays.
In 2002, Cincinnati's Scott Williamson claims he saw a male apparition there. In 2007, Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said the lights in his room turned on and off mysteriously and Billy Koch, Joey Hamilton and Jay Gibbons are also reported to have had supernatural experiences there.