Athletics toss out the first skipper of 2011

Now the season is well and truly under way: The first manager has been fired. Oakland gave skipper Bob Geren the heave-ho on Thursday, 63 games in, with the A's in the AL West cellar, mired in a nine-game losing streak.

Former Arizona manager Bob Melvin will take over for the rest of the season as interim, in the first midseason managerial change for the organization since 1986. Melvin led the Diamondbacks to the NL West title in 1997 and won 93 games in his first season at the Seattle Mariners helm in 2003.

"It felt like at this point a change was necessary," said general manager Billy Beane, a longtime friend of Geren. "It got to the point where the emphasis was on the status of the manager on a daily basis." (Given way the A's are playing, maybe not such a bad thing.)

Geren, who posted a 334-376 record and was in the final year of his contract, had come under criticism from reliever Brian Fuentes for a lack of communication and former Oakland closer Huston Street, now with Colorado, who said his former manager was "his least favorite person." (Broken friendships, brokenhearted pitchers - sounds like a job for Oprah!)

In 1986, it didn't work out too bad for the A's when they got rid of Jackie Moore after 73 games. Jeff Newman took over for 10 games on an interim basis before they brought in Tony La Russa to start a run that included four division titles and the 1989 World Series championship.

Angels sing a familiar tune

Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia is experimenting to get some hits out of his Angels, who have failed to score more than three runs in eight games. He moved Torii Hunter to the second spot in the batting order, a position the all-star outfielder hadn't been in 12 seasons.

It worked, a little: Hunter went 2 for 5 in a 10-inning, 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday, but had zero RBIs and hit into a double play with the bases loaded in the fifth.

Jered Weaver gave up three runs and six hits in 72/3 innings with five strikeouts and one walk but is now 1-4 in eight starts after winning his first six. He slammed his glove on the dugout bench after Ben Zobrist chased him with an RBI triple to give the Rays a 3-0 lead.

"It sounds like a broken record - Weave pitched well enough to win," Scioscia said. "We need to get our act together on the offensive side."

It's a song that Phillies fans know by heart, Mike.

Farewell to a grind-it-out guy

Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Jim Northrup, who hit a decisive two-run triple in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series to beat St. Louis, died at age 71 Wednesday in Grand Blanc, Mich.

For those of a certain age (like us) his seventh-inning hit off the Cardinals' Bob Gibson in the 1968 series is an enduring memory: It broke open a scoreless game, and Detroit went on to win, 4-1.

In 1,392 major-league games, Northrup hit 153 home runs, drove in 610 runs, and batted .267.

Tigers ace Denny McLain was warming up in the bullpen when Northrup got his memorable hit. "Jimmy didn't want to lose at anything," he told the Detroit Free Press. "He was even competitive at the postgame meal. He was the emotional backbone of our team that year. . . . Jimmy was a big reason why we were just a grind-it-out-type of team."

Contact staff writer Michael Harrington at mharrington@phillynews.com.
This article contains information from Inquirer wire services.