The Chicago White Sox spent part of last winter trying to replace manager Terry Bevington. It was nothing personal, but managerial superstar Jim Leyland had become available and owner Jerry Reinsdorf was becoming impatient with the club's so-so performance and poor attendance.
Leyland, of course, ended up with the Florida Marlins and the White Sox went back to Bevington, who could not have imagined how soon he again would be on the brink of being replaced.
Of course, he could not have imagined that Albert Belle would be hitting about .200 after a month of play or that Robin Ventura would suffer a career-threatening injury. He certainly could never have imagined that the White Sox would have the worst record in the American League after the first month of play.
The struggling White Sox, however, have left nothing to the imagination as they dug that big hole for themselves in the American League Central.
Now, somebody is going to have to pay.
It won't be Reinsdorf, of course. He already paid Belle $55 million and Jaime Navarro $20 million to help turn the White Sox into a stronger division contender.
It won't be the players, who get paid no matter what.
And, it won't be White Sox fans, who are barely paying attention.
It will be Bevington, whose $275,000 salary is equal to about 1/200 of the White Sox payroll and about one-third of Belle's two-week paycheck.
General manager Ron Schueler delivered a veiled ultimatum on Tuesday, telling reporters that the club must do better during its current 11-game homestand. The message was not specific, but it seemed obvious enough. You don't think Schueler is planning to fire himself, do you?
The White Sox split a two-game series with the Texas Rangers to open the homestand. They are in the midst of a three-game set with the Anaheim Angels. Then come the tough Seattle Mariners and the surprisingly dangerous Oakland Athletics.
Think about it. How would you like your job to depend on whether your struggling pitching staff can stop Ken Griffey and Mark McGwire?
Bevington knew he would be on the hot seat, but he isn't to blame for the meltdown. It may not be fair, but he apparently will be the first manager fired in 1997.
Intramural Cy Young race
Nothing has changed. Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were just taking a breather last year when each of them won "only" 15 games. Speculation outside Atlanta that either one of them might be ready to fall from the ranks of baseball's elite starting pitchers can only be described as wishful thinking.
Glavine is off to a great start (4-1, 1.56 ERA) and Maddux has a minuscule 1.38 ERA, leaving only room to speculate that this year's Cy Young race will again be an intramural affair.
The only non-Braves pitcher to win the NL version of the award since 1991 is Maddux, who brought it over with him from Chicago after the 1992 season and won it three more times before teammate John Smoltz won it last year. Glavine won it in 1991 and appears to be the early front-runner.
Yankees still want out
The New York Yankees put out a news release last weekend pointing out that the club's early-season attendance ranks sixth in the American League and last among the eight clubs that reached the playoffs last year.
It was just the latest public relations ploy in the club's continuing effort to persuade the city of New York to build the Yankees a stadium in Manhattan.
Yankees officials have long contended that fans are hesitant to come to the Bronx for fear of the area's high crime rate, but police officials say statistics show that the area around the stadium is the safest place in town on a day or night the Yankees are playing.
Mark leaves a mark
McGwire has become the king of the mammoth long ball. He recently cleared the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium, and his 485-foot home run the other night at Jacobs Field was hit so hard it left a dent in the scoreboard after traveling farther than any homer in the three-year history of the stadium.
"He hit the ball so hard that it knocked the frogs off the Budweiser sign," said Indians outfielder Brian Giles.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been playing pretty good baseball, considering the fact that there are three individual players -- Belle, Gary Sheffield and Barry Bonds -- who make more than their $9 million payroll.
The Bucs just split a two-game series with the first-place San Francisco Giants to even their record at a respectable 13-13, but they'll have to survive a real test of fire to remain near the top of the NL Central standings. The two-game set against San Francisco was the beginning of an 18-game run against the Giants, Braves, Marlins and Colorado.
If they're still at .500 when it's over, they'll have to be considered a legitimate contender in one of baseball's softest divisions.
"We're going to see the big boys now," said manager Gene Lamont. "It's going to be a tough stretch for a young team, but I'm interested to see how well we do."