Slip Out the Back, Zack; Make a New Plan, Stan

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A columnist prays to the God of Headlines to drop a good one in his lap for every column. Those prayers are seldom answered.  but last night when it was announced Zack Greinke was leaving the Dodgers for the Diamondbacks, putting Dodger president and part-owner Stan Casten behind the 8-ball, the infallible headline deity threw me a fat pitch. While the Dodgers had as good a 1-2 punch in their rotation as any team in baseball, the rest of their  pitching was mediocre at best. Now, Clayton Kershaw is all there is, and if anybody thinks he can carry the team on his shoulders, they should ask Steve Carlton about carrying the 1972 Phillies. He won 27 of the 59 wins that ill-starred team collected that year.

But why, some say Phoenix? And they may well ask. The D-Backs were one good d-word in 2014, dreadful. After two years at 81-81 they plunged to 64-98 in 2014, then righted the ship somewhat,  to 79-83 in 2015. But it’s still a head scratcher.  Other than Paul Goldschmidt, manager Chip Hale doesn’t have one name player. Perhaps Greinke has had enough of the antics of such upstanding citizens as Chase Utley and Yasiel Puig. By the way, is it just me or does Puig sound like what you do January 1 after you had a long night the night before?

Or can you imagine your child saying “Daddy, the dog just puiged all over the floor.” I can. The shenanigans of Utley and Puig would cause cringing embarrassment to a man of Greinke’s age, 32 and experience. He’s been in the majors since 2004. Donald Zackary Greinke has been an All-star 3 times including the last 2 seasons. He took home the Cy Young award in 2009 and lead the league in ERA this past season. Calling the moving man is nothing new to him-he’s been with the Royals, Brewers, Angels and Dodgers in his time. This is his second free agent move. He left the Angels for the Dodgers as a free agent. The contract had an escape hatch-an “Opt Out” clause, and opt out he did after taking the loss in game 5 to the Mets in the most recent NLDS. He pitched in the postseason all 3 years he wore Dodger blue. This is the first time a baby will figure in the move. His wife Emily gave birth to their son Bode this past July. If he were a few years older, he might say what my niece Jennifer said when her family was moving in 1979.  She was 3 years old, and told me “I’m going to tell everybody in the world that we’re moving tomorrow.”  With Facebook, that is now possible.

Now, what does Stan Casten do in a world without Greinke? At least his highly successful manager Don Mattingly can …. what? They fired him? and replaced him with a nonentity called dave Roberts? Oh well, his consistently capable GM, Ned Coletti can … what? He’s gone too, replaced by Farhan Zaidi? Casten may have to puig right about now. The lineup itself isn’t terrible, though Jimmy Rollins and Carl Crawford aren’t getting any younger and Chase Utley would be wise to consider his options. He is a free agent who I doubt the Dodgers would sign at any price. If he signs with somebody else and doubts what a baseball could  do to his face, he should google the names Tony Conigliaro and Mickey Cochrane. If Stan Casten and the other Dodger execs can’t find some pitching before spring training their first time manager will have an even harder time filling Don Mattingly’s shoes than he would have if Greinke stayed around.

Normally this is a smoke-free column  but not today. Justin Smoak is 29 today. He and Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters hail from Goose Creek, South Carolina, a town I lived in for almost 9 years. He was picked in round 1, 11th overall in 2008 by the Rangers coming out of University of South Carolina. Now he plays first base for the Blue Jays. This past August 8, he hit his only career grand slam against the Yankees at the New Yankee Stadium. No Blue Jay since they began in 1977 had launched a grand slam in the Bronx.

Cliff Floyd is 43 today. Cornelius Clifford Floyd of Chicago was an insane talent in AA with the 1993 Harrisburg Senators, the Expos AA team. We were broadcasting for New Britain and he slaughtered our pitchers. He would make his debut that September. He won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins and played until 2009. He’s a studio analyst on Mets’ telecasts now. I might have left him out except for a very unusual mention he gets in Dave Barry’s book “Tricky Business.” It’s about a casino ship in trouble in a tropical storm. as a minor part of the subplot, the ship’s band put a Cliff Floyd baseball card in one of the food trays on the buffet and it was still there a week later-proof positive that the “chef” was recycling the food.

And for our archivist, Gus Mancuso was born on this day in 1905, and passed away in 1984. August Rodney Mancuso was on two World Series winners-the 1931 Cardinals and the 1933 Giants. Between 1933 and 1938 if King Carl Hubbell was on the hill, you could bet your last dime  that Gus Mancuso was calling his pitches. He dealt with Hubbell’s screwball and Freddie Fitzsimmons’ knuckleball. In 1935 he was a catcher in the third All-Star game to ever be played, this one held in Cleveland. Two years later he was an All-Star again for the game played in Washington, the infamous game where Dizzy Dean broke a toe which would lead to career-ending arm trouble. Mancuso would coach, scout and even broadcast a few games after his playing days. Happy Birthday.

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