Brenly Might Be Snakebitten
Arizona's Manager Faces Many Obstacles
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page E07
One vote of confidence, you start to worry. Two votes of confidence, maybe you start to feel a little better. Three votes of confidence? Surely, you're a dead man.
We shall see if the coming weeks indeed bring the ax for Arizona Diamondbacks skipper Bob Brenly, who got his -- count 'em -- third endorsement of the season from owner Jerry Colangelo this week. It is one of the mysteries of the game, how a manager who was hailed as a genius when Arizona won the 2001 World Series is all of a sudden a dummy now that his team is full of holes.
"We're caught in a vortex of horse [manure] right now," Brenly said at the end of a 9-20 May, "and it's just sucking us right down." Doesn't that sound like a man who knows his fate?
The Diamondbacks, who will make their first visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards this week (beginning Tuesday night), are a mess of a team -- too one-dimensional and too devoid of pitching to compete even in the free-for-all National League West. Even if Brenly keeps his job (and come on, how can a man survive three votes of confidence?), changes could be coming, as ownership mulls a major payroll-slashing.
Don't be fooled by the Diamondbacks' three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants this week. No sooner had they wrapped up the third win than team officials confirmed that slugger Richie Sexson will miss the rest of the season because of a separated shoulder.
All the Diamondbacks gave up for Sexson this winter was six players -- one of whom, Lyle Overbay, is developing into a star with the Milwaukee Brewers. Although Sexson's injury actually allows the team to reopen contract negotiations with him (the sides had agreed to halt them during the season to avoid distractions), the chance remains he will walk away as a free agent this winter having given the Diamondbacks about a month of service for their troubles.
Colangelo and General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. have sworn the team will not trade ace Randy Johnson, who is scheduled to start Tuesday night's series opener in Baltimore, as part of their downsizing, but most likely that's only because they can't -- not with Johnson owed another $16 million in 2005, not with him holding full no-trade privileges, and not after he threw a perfect game in Atlanta last month.
If someone can come up with the money and the young talent to pry Johnson away (the New York Yankees, a logical destination, have the former but not the latter), that might change.
Another Bonds Watch The San Francisco Giants follow the Diamondbacks into Camden Yards, marking their first appearance in Baltimore as well. We'll be watching, of course, to see if Barry Bonds takes aim at the B&O Warehouse in right field -- which has never been reached in a game. (Ken Griffey Jr., then with the Seattle Mariners, hit it during the home run contest during the 1993 All-Star Game festivities.) Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson, who was Bonds's teammate in San Francisco for nearly three months last season, has this advice for fans: "Be there for batting practice. He's going to put on a show."
Ponson said Bonds has told him he wants to "put me in his book" -- which is to say, add Ponson to the list of pitchers he has violated through the years.
"I told him, 'I'm going to put you in my book,' " said Ponson, who is lined up to face Bonds and the Giants on Sunday.
However, Ponson's bravura is just an act. He also said he has no plans to throw anything near the plate to Bonds.
"Bases loaded -- that's the only [situation in which] I'll go at him," Ponson said. "I'm not going to intentionally walk him every time, but I'm not going to give him anything to hit."
There was been widespread grumbling around the game about the way Raul Mondesi seemingly manipulated the system to extricate himself from last-place Pittsburgh and land himself with first-place Anaheim last week, and Commissioner Bud Selig has ordered an investigation.
Mondesi took a leave of absence from the Pirates on May 7 -- bidding a particularly tearful farewell to Manager Lloyd McClendon -- to go back to his native Dominican Republic to attend to a sticky personal situation, then never came back. The Pirates eventually released him from his contract, allowing him to become a free agent and sign with the Angels.
Mondesi and the Pirates have denied suggestions the player hoodwinked the team.
St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols went 14 for 21 over a five-game span this week, raising his average from .279 to .321. The secret? A hitting tip from his wife, Deidre, an accomplished softball player who noticed while studying tapes of her husband that he was spreading his feet too wide.
"And she [was] right," Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "She knows me real well. She doesn't say things just to say them. . . . Of course, I'm going to listen to her. She's my wife." . . .
Chicago Cubs Manager Dusty Baker is vowing to be a little more conservative -- in terms of pitch counts -- with his young aces, particularly Mark Prior, after Prior and Kerry Wood broke down. Prior and Wood led the league in pitches per start last season.
"We're going to limit his pitches the first few starts," Baker said of Prior. "Then . . . we'll kind of go on an honor system. I'll ask him how he feels.'' . . .
The San Diego Padres have the top pick in Monday's amateur draft, and the choice could come down to a pair of collegians with familiar surnames -- Long Beach (Calif.) State right-hander Jered Weaver (brother of Jeff) and Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew (brother of J.D.). The Orioles, incidentally, pick eighth.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company