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Out of the Frying Pan
Skipper to My Lou

by Jessica Polko

While watching the post-Game 3 interviews on ESPNews, we noticed an announcement in a separate graphic above the electronic ticker tape at the bottom of the screen. Despite the non-Series news blackout, The New York Daily News was reporting that Art Howe had signed a 4-year, $9.4M contract with the New York Mets. Howe would have earned $1.5M in the year remaining on his contract with the A's.

With so many managerial hunts wrapping up, we expected someone to leak a hiring before the end of the Series. However, this announcement came as somewhat of a surprise as Billy Beane reportedly withdrew permission for the Mets to speak to Howe last week.

Although I think Beane handled the situation poorly by volunteering to give up his manager and then seemingly rescinding the offer, I believe Oakland is wise to move away from Art Howe at this juncture. If he'd remained until the end of his contract, the A's likely would have faced a Dusty Baker-like situation in next season's playoffs. Additionally, if they'd decided to retain him, the organization might have found themselves emulating the Atlanta Braves with annual playoff appearances but infrequent wins.

Howe appeared to have taken the A's as far as he could, and they were sensible to embrace this opportunity to move forward. Bay Area fans shouldn't be upset over Howe's departure, as although he was successful during the regular season, he wasn't able to perform in the post-season. Firing a manager for lack of playoff success is not a new concept; just ask Larry Dierker and Buck Showalter.

I'm quite interested to see what kind of team the Mets' compile for Howe to manage and how he'll react to the change of venue. He should lend a touch of respectability to the team that might help them move past the black cloud of the drug scandal at the end of the regular season. Then again, Beane's roster changes this season were supposedly to provide the clubhouse with an attitude adjustment. Had Howe been more effective in guiding the players, perhaps the situation would not have reached the level at which Beane felt the need to make such changes.

Ken Macha should assume Howe's duties in Oakland, but new information reduced to a trickle with the displeasure of the Commissioner's office over the leak. Selig will reportedly fine the Mets $50,000 for allowing the leak.

With Howe in New York, Piniella no longer had the distraction of wondering if the Mets would work out a compensation package with the Mariners, which left him free to accept an offer from Tampa Bay. He'll reportedly receive $13M over four years, along with numerous reported perks, possibly including an interest in the franchise. Unlike many people associated with professional sports who cite family reasons for leaving their posts, Piniella will actually follow through with moving closer to his family. We would have had to accuse him of Griffeyography if he'd taken the Mets' job.

Many thought Piniella might be uninterested in the Tampa franchise, which hasn't even managed to win 70 games in any season of its brief history. However Seattle wasn't at the top of the game when he joined them in 1993. He'll have to make some adjustments to manage on turf, but he should be familiar with many of its idiosyncrasies from the Mariners' road trips. I'm highly curious as to whether he'll revert to his former unfriendly pitcher handling without the influence of Seattle pitching coach Bryan Price. The Devil Rays haven't announced that there will be changes to the coaching staff, but Piniella will likely be given a say in the matter. Hopefully his new pitching coach will be a positive influence and aid him in maintaining his improvement in pitcher care.

Although the current Mariner team is a fairly veteran lot, Piniella has worked with young players in the past. He has a particularly strong history of dealing with young stars. Consequently, while if history holds true he won't be able to help the Devil Rays retain their superstars if the organization is unwilling to pay, Piniella shouldn't hinder the burgeoning careers of players like Toby Hall and Carl Crawford.

We're unlikely to learn the details of the compensation package until after the World Series. All parties involved have done an excellent job of maintaining secrecy in that department. While there are rumors, nothing specific is known about the compensation Seattle will receive for Piniella, which frankly amazes me given reporters have had around a week to discover the particulars.

The Commissioners' office suspects that Alan Nero, who represents Howe, Piniella, and Macha, was responsible for the leaks, but they are not in a position to fine agents. CSMG, Nero's agency, seems likely to gain greater prominence in the business after arranging positions for this trio of managers. Given their close relationship with the managers of the Mets, Devil Rays, and likely the Athletics, their clients may drift towards those teams. The CSMG client list can be found on their website and is a fairly interesting read.

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I can't please all the people all of the time, but I am more than willing to read the comments of the pleased, the irate, and everyone in between. You can send your opinions to
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