The news that Buck Martinez had been fired last week as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays didn't exactly send shock waves throughout baseball. It couldn't even create a ripple.
Was anyone surprised that Martinez, the former major-league catcher and broadcaster, didn't make it to the All-Star break? His head was on the chopping block for so long, it became his pillow.
His team was off to its worst start in two decades at 20-33 and having plenty of trouble staying out of last place in the American League East, once the exclusive domain of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. And Martinez didn't have the backing of new general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who seemed ready to dispose of him in spring training but apparently was waiting to determine an appropriate replacement.
The timing was odd in that the Blue Jays had just swept a series in Detroit, though any wins over the Tigers should come with an asterisk.
"Let's face it," Ricciardi said in spring training, "Buck has never managed anywhere outside the big leagues, and it's a tough place to learn from."
Here's one sign that you're about to be fired as manager: When the Blue Jays traded veteran reliever Dan Plesac a few weeks ago, Martinez wasn't informed until Ricciardi called them in to announce the deal. Plesac happened to be a favorite of Martinez's.
Six managers have been dismissed this year, including Boston's Joe Kerrigan in spring training. Phil Garner (Detroit), Buddy Bell (Colorado), Tony Muser (Kansas City) and Davey Lopes (Milwaukee).
Third base coach Carlos Tosca was named as Martinez's successor, but he's probably just keeping the seat warm. Keep this name in mind: Oakland bench coach Ken Macha, a runner-up to Martinez in 2001.
"The goal is to be a better club in September than we are now," Ricciardi said, "and we feel like Carlos can help us to get there."
Tosca, whose record was 932-827 in 17 seasons in the minors, will need strong hands to hold his bunch together. Pitching coach Mark Connor and bench coach Cookie Rojas resigned last week out of loyalty to Martinez. First base coach Garth Iorg was fired the same day as Martinez.
"They both could have stayed for the rest of the year, but they said, `Let Tosca have his own guys,' " Ricciardi said.
"I'm a little unhappy," Tosca said, "because I have tremendous respect for both men."
Bullpen coach Gil Patterson took over for Connor, but Ricciardi said he wouldn't be hiring a bench coach. It stands to reason that Tosca, who has never managed at this level, could use the help.
The team most likely to benefit from the Blue Jays' many issues is the Orioles, who finally have moved ahead of them into third place.
The chill of the draft
Baseball's amateur draft that concluded Wednesday reminded us again why the dog that saw his reflection in the water shouldn't have dropped his bone for the bigger one.
Pitcher Matt Harrington apparently was suckered again by his reflection. Or maybe it was more bad advice.
Harrington turned down a $4 million bonus from the Colorado Rockies two years ago and reentered the draft after being a top 10 pick out of high school. The San Diego Padres chose him in the second round last year and offered $1.2 million, but also couldn't sign him.
With his stock plummeting, Harrington slipped to the 13th round last week, where Tampa Bay selected him.
"I really don't know what they were thinking," said one Padres executive. "You know the price is going to go down every year."
Maybe he should try one more time and see if he can reach the 40th round.
One long ball
Passing Frank Robinson for fourth place on the all-time home run list wasn't dramatic enough for San Francisco's Barry Bonds. He had to crash the ball off the scoreboard in right field at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, and with the bases loaded, no less.
The scoreboard is 29 seats beyond the right-field fence, but the estimated distance was "only" 482 feet, which brought disputes from both sides.
"That's wrong," said Giants hitting coach Gene Clines. "Come on, that was longer than 482 feet. It was over 500 feet."
Padres manager Bruce Bochy added: "That's the longest ball I've ever seen hit. I haven't seen a ball come close to where he hit that."
Giants right fielder Reggie Sanders, a former Padre, also was a nonbeliever. "That's more than 482 feet. It seemed like 501. It would have hit the glove in San Francisco. That was an incredible shot."
Baltimore consultant Janet Marie Smith told The Boston Globe last week that the Red Sox might add 500 seats on top of the famed Green Monster in left field to boost capacity at 34,000-seat Fenway Park.
"It would preserve one of the most visible - and loved and hated - features of Fenway Park," she said.
The ballclub's new owners are looking for ways to save one of the sport's most famous structures, which also happens to be the smallest in the majors. According to the Globe, they have contacted various architects to find places to put extra seats.