Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm Starting To Believe That Manny's Just Not All That Bright

No matter what happens with Manny Ramirez over the next half-hour and whether he's traded wherever or stays in Boston, he's in for a rude awakening at the end of this season if he thinks his tantrums are going to help his cause in seeking a long-term contract. I've been
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on the side of "Manny being Manny" as more of a canned persona than an actual implication of a lack of intelligence on the part of Manny Ramirez, but now I've been swayed to believe that Manny just isn't that bright; that he truly doesn't understand that he's costing himself money with these petulant sit-in strikes by claiming to be injured.
If he were 28, then he'd likely still find a team willing to dole out the cash and years no matter how boorishly he behaved; but he's not 28; he's about to turn 37 and his numbers are going to decline in a different ballpark with a different team and different lineup. In case anyone hadn't noticed, the days of players maintaining or increasing their production as they reach their late-30s are over and Manny's no exception to that reality.
There have been times when I've said that Manny's just a space cadet who doesn't realize the ramifications of asking to be traded (those ramifications being that the Red Sox might actually take him seriously and send him somewhere else); there have also been times that I've asserted that Manny's a bit more savvy than people give him credit for and that these incidents are part of a master plan to take financial advantage of his image as a hitting savant and life simpleton; but I'm convinced now that Manny just isn't that bright and that he may or may not get his latest wish to be sent away from Boston, but doesn't realize that his objective of getting another $100 million contract has quite likely been damaged beyond all repair; that if he'd behaved himself and had an MVP-quality final three months with the Red Sox, some
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team would be sufficiently convinced that he's worth that $100 million; but now that's gone. Someone will sign him whether he plays his last three months with the Red Sox or someone else, but he's hurt his case for another big contract with his on-field self immolation of "sticking it" to the Red Sox by not hustling and begging out of games with questionable injuries. He stuck it to the Red Sox, but didn't realize that the weapon was dual edged and while sticking it to the Red Sox, he also inadvertently stuck it to Manny Ramirez as well.

Ken Griffey Jr. Traded To White Sox (*Patent Pending)

Ken Rosenthal is reporting on the White Sox have acquired
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Ken Griffey Jr. from the Cincinnati Reds pending Griffey's approval of the deal, which is by no means a sure thing given his history. Griffey is a ten and five player which means he can nix any deal; Rosenthal isn't saying what the White Sox are giving to the Reds, but it's presumably a mid-level prospect or two. The Reds will be happy just to get rid of Griffey's contract. Griffey has rejected deals before, so there's still a great chance that he'll reject this one; but the change to a contending team with a fiery manager and enthusiastic fan base might wake up Griffey's bat and legs so he briefly reverts to the player he was ten years ago, at least for the rest of the season.

Ivan Rodriguez For Kyle Farnsworth; The Manny Rumors

  • Brian Cashman pulls another deal out of nowhere in getting Ivan Rodriguez:
This reminds me of the David Justice trade that Yankees GM Brian Cashman pulled off with
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the Indians in 2000 in which it just struck like lightning from a clear blue sky. In acquiring Ivan Rodriguez from the Tigers for Kyle Farnsworth, Cashman fills the empty lineup spot that had been Jose Molina and dumps Kyle Farnsworth before he reverts back into what he really is. Getting Rodriguez is a far cry from the laughable offers that Cashman received for Farnsworth over the past year. Most teams wanted the Yankees to just give Farnsworth to them and pay his salary; but Cashman replenished the pitcher's value to a certain point and made an advantageous deal for both sides.
Even with the way he's pitched since replacing Joba Chamberlain as the eighth inning man, Farnsworth has always been a pitcher who is going to give up the big homer in a big game; it's not a matter of if, but of when; to get rid of him now when the Yankees have viable replacements for him----Damaso Marte pitches well enough to righties that he can be used as
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a set-up man; Jose Veras deserves a chance; and Chamberlain could conceivably be moved back into the role for the playoffs----and to get a veteran catcher was a smart move and they didn't even have to dip into the system to get it done.
Rodriguez's power has "mysteriously" deserted him in recent years (although I don't think, given all the factors of his vastly diminished size and power and the timing of the decline, that it's all that much of a mystery), but he's still hitting .295; has extensive post-season success and experience; is a well-liked leader in the clubhouse; plays good defense and calls a good game for his pitchers. He's a free agent at the end of the year and I wouldn't discount the possibility of the Yankees bringing him back to split time with Jorge Posada at catcher and first base; no one knows what Posada's situation is going to be when he gets back and having a backup who can provide both offense and defense isn't a bad idea.
The Tigers and Braves are two of Farnsworth's former employers who liked him enough to want to bring him back and I don't think that this is a short-term idea for the Tigers either; my
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guess is that they'll try and keep Farnsworth. Their bullpen is in tatters; Todd Jones is unreliable; Joel Zumaya is always one false step from another DL stint and is a prime candidate for a fast flameout. Farnsworth will at least add another body----biceps and all----out there to get a few outs. They've been using Brandon Inge behind the plate and must feel confident enough to put him back there regularly in order to get his, Gary Sheffield's and Marcus Thames's bats into the lineup every day. The Tigers are only one hot streak away from jumping into first place in the AL Central, so this made sense on all levels for both teams.
  • Manny Ramirez headed for Florida?
I don't believe that these deals are done until they're done, but the Red Sox seem determined to get Manny Ramirez out of town and it's no shock that the Marlins have jumped
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into the fray; given their history of going for it and winning when they think they have a shot, no playoff team should want to see the Marlins in October. If I were the Red Sox though, I would be very reticent to slot Jason Bay into Manny's spot in left field as would occur if the proposed three-team deal with the Pirates and Marlins comes through. Bay looks to me like the type of player who would be swallowed up by the Boston pressure; he does fine when he's with a team like the Pirates who have no chance of contending, but the spotlight in Boston combined with replacing Manny Ramirez? It's a big risk. The other names----Jeremy Hermida and Josh Willingham----would be better options in a straight-up deal and I'd take Willingham over the others. Other teams may jump in before the deadline hits, so these stories are very premature and Manny may end up just staying in Boston for the rest of the season.
  • And still another reason why J.P. Ricciardi should be fired:
No one who's been watching Scott Rolen over the past few years can possibly be surprised by this from the Associated Press:

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen plans to skip some games and cut
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back on his batting practice while undergoing an "extensive" rehab program for his surgically repaired left shoulder. "I've been having some shoulder trouble, some problems with it," Rolen said. "Not strength, not flexibility, not surgery. Nothing like that. Mechanically it's not functioning right. The therapist looked at it, the doctor looked at it. I talked to [manager Cito Gaston and general manager J.P. Ricciardi] and we're going to try to get some extra days off. I'll keep playing, keep going out there and doing what I can do, back off in the cage a little bit."

Rolen's an admirable guy; he's stubborn, proud and plays hard whenever he can get out on the field; but that's the problem----he's never able to get out on the field and his production is at a point where he shouldn't even be a starter anymore whether he's hurt or not. In looking at the numbers of the guy the Blue Jays traded to the Cardinals to get him, Troy Glaus, and there's no comparison on the field:

Rolen: Games-82; At Bats-295; Runs-36; Hits-75; Doubles-21; Triples-2; Home Runs: 6; RBI-31; Walks-35; Strikeouts-52; Average-.254; OBP-.349; Slugging-.400; OPS+-101.

Glaus: Games-107; At Bats-384; Runs-51; Hits-105; Doubles-27; Triples-1; Home Runs-18; RBI-71; Walks-60; Strikeouts-72; Batting Average-.273; OBP-.374; Slugging-.490; OPS+-127.

I understand that Rolen's been hurt, but that's part of the reason that the Blue Jays should've steered clear of him. The move was a huge mistake before even getting to the contract status of the players. Rolen has two more years on his deal at $11.8 million per year; Glaus has an $11.25 million player option for next year that was exercised as part of the trade
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from Toronto to St. Louis. This is yet a third example of the Blue Jays and J.P. Ricciardi putting an absurd contract option out of the hands of upper management and into the hands of the player. (The other two were Frank Thomas and A.J. Burnett.)
If Glaus had stayed in Toronto and had the year he's having for the Cardinals, he would've declined the option and gone into free agency, but given what they've gotten from Rolen, I'm sure the Blue Jays would take that deal right now. Worst case scenario, they could've kept Glaus and saved the money they'll be paying Rolen over the next two years; and Rolen's going to be 34; does anyone think that he's going to have a career renaissance at this point? That he's going to be healthy? And I think we're all beginning to realize that the "rest and rehab" program for injured players rarely, if ever, works. Jorge Posada is the latest example of a player who took that route and wound up wasting three months trying to play with an injury that needed surgery and delayed his return time because he tried to avoid what needed to be done. Rolen's career is on the decline due to injury, but the Blue Jays are going
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to be paying him for two more years at big money because they made a bad judgment call and took on another bad contract, which is turning into a hallmark of Ricciardi's tenure as GM.
Because of these contracts, they're going to lose Burnett after the season, but can't trade him because of the contract. They cut Frank Thomas because of the contract. And they're stuck with Rolen because of the contract. I'm still waiting for an answer as to how Ricciardi's still there, but no one's responding because they can't come up with one---even one that's total crud.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Braves Should've Taken The Diamondbacks Deal For Teixeira

  • Braves trade Mark Teixeira to Angels for Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek:
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It's hard to criticize an aging, fading, injury-riddled team for getting some good return on a player that they weren't going to have past this season anyway, but if the choice for the Braves was between the deals offered by the Diamondbacks and the Angels, then they picked the wrong one.
The rumored Diamondbacks deal----Chad Tracy and Micah Owings for Mark Teixeira----is superior to what they got from the Angels in Casey Kotchman and minor league RHP Stephen Marek. Tracy has had injuries over the past two seasons that have curtailed his production, but he's been healthy since being activated in late May and his production should return to what he showed in 2005 and 2006 in which he hit 20+ homers and had solid batting averages and on base
percentages; he can also play first and third base and the outfield. Owings has been terrible since his 4-0 start, but at the very least, he can be a middle-to-back of the rotation innings-eater assuming he's healthy. After his start on Monday in which he got pounded by the offensively-challenged Padres, Owings was sent to Triple A.

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I'm admittedly not a fan of Kotchman. He doesn't have enough power for a first baseman or a player of his size (6'3", 215) and he's moving from one pitcher's park in Angels Stadium to another one in Turner Field. Eventually he'll perhaps develop into a consistent 20 homer guy or thereabouts. Minor league pitcher Marek is going to be 25 next month and was moved to the bullpen in Double A; his control has been good enough and he racks up the strikeouts. Keith Law writes on ESPN that Marek has a "bad body" and a delivery that isn't smooth. Unless Owings is hurt, the assessment of Marek and that he's still in Double A at age 25 as he's making the transition to the bullpen makes the decision to choose the Angels deal all the worse for Braves GM Frank Wren.
Teixeira fills a massive void in the Angels lineup and makes them genuine championship contenders instead of a team that wins their division then runs into the Red Sox in the playoffs and loses because of their lack of power. As good a player as Torii Hunter is, he wasn't the sufficient lineup bodyguard for Vladimir Guerrero that Teixeira is. The ballparks are similar enough that Teixeira's production for the Angels should be close to or better than it was with the Braves; he's a Gold Glove first baseman which also fits into the pitching and defense philosophy that permeates the Angels organization. It's not going to hurt that he's entering a situation where the team has needed a basher for years and he's well-suited to be the missing piece to lead them to a championship; this should also appeal to Teixeira's desire to get paid after the season when he enters free agency.
Considering Teixeira's free agent status after the season is a major factor as well.
Teixeira's agent is Scott Boras and there's never been any pretense with the player regarding
where he wants to play and whether or not he'd be willing to take a "hometown discount" to go anywhere. He wants his money and in an era where the players who feel the same way are using a public relations spiel to justify where they end up (it's usually with the team that offers the most money), Teixeira has never implied any intention of signing with a team that doesn't offer him the best deal and that's refreshing.

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The problem he's going to have is that there are only a very limited number of teams that have the ability to pay him what he's going to want; and even fewer teams that are willing to pay him the money he's going to want. Jayson Stark is reporting on that Boras's initial demand is going to be for an ARod-like (of 2000 anyway) $230 million over ten years. The teams that could meet the asking price are as follows: the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Cubs and Dodgers. Going one-by-one, how many would be willing to meet that asking price?
The Yankees are a possibility considering the money that's coming off the books after this season, but it's hightly unlikely if Brian Cashman is still the team's GM. In looking at the way the team has functioned since Hank Steinbrenner took over, Cashman has had his judgment usurped several times in the off-season, specifically with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada and it looks like Cashman was right about not committing four years to Posada. Other than that, despite Hank's bluster, he hasn't really interfered with the running of the team; there was the move of Joba Chamberlain to the starting rotation, but they were going to do that with or without Hank demanding it. If Cashman is still the Yankees GM, he won't want to have another $200 million player especially as he's trying to pare down salary.

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The Red Sox aren't going to go that high either, but they're a workable option if they do finally move on from Manny Ramirez; Kevin Youkilis could play left field just as adequately as Manny does. Teixeira's from Maryland, but as said before, he's not giving the Orioles a discount and baseball boss Andy MacPhail seems to break out in hives at the mere suggestion of committing so much money to one player; plus the Orioles are about three years from contention, so what do they need Teixeira for?
The Tigers have some money coming off the books and a spot open at first base since they've moved Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen all over the chess board this season, they could move him to the outfield next year; they're a possibility. The White Sox aren't going to go as high as Boras wants, but if they can unload Paul Konerko and decline Jim Thome's option, they've got the holes and the money available if the price comes down. The Angels aren't going to meet Boras's asking price either and whether or not Teixeira likes playing in Anaheim won't enter into the equation (he liked Atlanta as well), but he might end up staying there. Forget the Rangers and if the Mariners are starting a rebuilding project, they don't need Teixeira. The Mets are starting to look likely to pick up Carlos Delgado's contract option and aren't paying an outsider $200 million to anger David Wright and Jose Reyes; they also just gave Johan Santana $137 million and the vault for those massive long-term deals is closing for the Mets. The Phillies and Cubs don't need him; and the Dodgers aren't going to pay another player that amount of money after the Andruw Jones disaster.
Teixeira's problem with seeking such a monster contract isn't only the limited number of teams that can pay it, but that some of those teams might pull themselves out of the bidding because they already have a first baseman or they might look at how the Braves didn't contend with Teixeira, so why would he be worth that kind of money to begin with? Winning a title will only help his cause though and for a team like the Angels, he's exactly what they needed to protect their big hitter and supplement that great pitching staff by adding a proven run producer and they didn't give up all that much to get him.

  • A quote from The Sopranos that fits the Jarrod Washburn situation:
Buster Olney linked a Seattle writer, Larry LaRue, who suggests that the Mariners shouldn't give away a pitcher like Washburn who's, "a potential No. 3 or No. 4 starter next year". This assertion reminded me of the next-to-last episode of The Sopranos as the Lupertazzi crew plots the assassination of the Sopranos family's upper managment team:

Butch DeConcici: Tony Soprano, obviously. Plus Silvio Dante, and we think, Bobby
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Ray Ray: That mortadell's number three? He used to be Junior Soprano's driver.

I couldn't help but think of this quote at the mere suggestion that Jarrod Washburn would be a number three starter considering his performance (the last two months notwithstanding) over his time with the Mariners. If they think he's going to be a number three starter for any team other than one that's going to win a max of 73 games, they're kidding themselves; if someone offers to take the contract, the Mariners should jump at the chance no matter what's coming back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Add The Mets To The List Of Teams That Need A Starting Pitcher

  • Marlins 7-Mets 3; John Maine leaves the game in the fifth inning with shoulder pain/stiffness:
A week ago, the Mets starting rotation was relatively solid in comparison to the rest of the
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league even with the ambiguity of Pedro Martinez; now the may have to go into the market for a stopgap to give them some innings. John Maine left last night's game against the Marlins with pain/stiffness in the back of his shoulder and returned to New York for an examination and if he's out for any significant amount of time, the Mets have a problem.
The initial belief from pitching coach Dan Warthen is that it's not something serious that will cause Maine to miss more than one start, but that's hardly any comfort to the Mets who don't have any idea when they're getting Martinez back and what they're going to get out of him when he does return. So they, like most other teams, are going to scrounge around the non-contenders and teams willing to deal to try and find a starter. The Blue Jays have pulled A.J. Burnett off the market (more on this later), as the Reds have with Bronson Arroyo; that leaves the likes of Jarrod
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Washburn; Paul Byrd; Vicente Padilla; Miguel Batista; and Tim Redding. There are teams like the Astros that should be making pitchers available to re-stock the franchise, but instead are acquiring spare parts that they don't need in Randy Wolf.
I wouldn't get too excited or give up much of anything for most of the pitchers mentioned; taking their salaries should be sufficient to
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acquire them in lieu of viable prospects, but guys like Padilla, who's signed through next year with a 2010 option, wouldn't come cheap; and Redding is the type of impending free agent pitcher that the Nationals Bizarro GM Jim Bowden would ask for six top prospects after prematurely unloading the cheap, productive and versatile reliever Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks for one. Byrd's been terrible this year, but he wouldn't cost
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much in terms of players and the change might wake him up for the rest of the season; worst case scenario, he'd eat some innings. Perhaps the Twins would want to get something for Livan Hernandez as they promote Francisco Liriano; Hernandez would be a perfect fit for the Mets.
The only hope the Mets have in this case is that Maine will only miss a start or two and they can patch something together with Triple A veterans Brian Stokes or Ruddy Lugo; they could also promote top prospect Jon Niese from Double A for a couple of starts to see if they catch lightning. Unless they're getting one of the veteran pitchers available for little or nothing, patching the problem with what they have is the best solution for now.
  • Another reason the Blue Jays should fire J.P. Ricciardi:
Now the Blue Jays are justifying keeping A.J. Burnett by implying that they're going to try to crawl back into contention and win right now after a brief hot streak has pushed them over .500. It's nonsense.
Take a look back at the Blue Jays track record under GM J.P. Ricciardi. Every year they've
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either been out of contention completely by this point, or were hovering around exactly where they are now; not in a genuine playoff race, but not bad enough to warrant a thorough housecleaning of veterans; and look where they end up. They wind up with a record of slightly above .500 or a bit better and everyone thinks that they're improving; that they're ready to take the next step and join the Yankees and Red Sox at the top of the AL East and possibly vault past one to make the playoffs; but they don't. They're a hamster on a treadmill and it's enough already. They've had this latest hot streak to push them over .500 and into
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"contention" against the fading Orioles and the Mariners. In August they play: the Rangers, Athletics, Indians, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Yankees. Does anyone really believe that they're going to be able to keep up this "hot" streak?
Regarding Burnett, the main reason that they're not trading him is that they're not going to get much of anything for him because of that stupid contract that Ricciardi doled out in which the pitcher can either opt out at the end of this year or can activate two more years at $12 million per. If a deal could be worked out where Burnett would agree to activate the contract immediately upon being traded, then maybe the Blue Jays would get something of value for him, but why should he given the state of pitching around the big leagues? He's got 12 wins now and could wind up with 17-19 by season's end if he pitches well; he'd get a long-term deal from someone after the season if he does opt out.
The Burnett contract is eerily similar to the one that Frank Thomas received which----despite the disingenuous claims by Ricciardi----truly precipitated his release earlier this year. Thomas's contract was going to activate for next year after he reached 376 plate
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appearances and the Blue Jays used Thomas's slow start (for which he's been notorious throughout his career) and chafing at being benched as the reasons he was released. The truth is that they dumped him because they didn't want to pay him for next year and having contracts dictate how a team is run and what player decisions are made in this way is inept management.
It's one thing to dump a player because of his contract and the team situation; it's another to dump him in April as the Blue Jays did with Thomas. It's the same situation with Burnett. They're not keeping him because they think they're going to leap into contention; they're keeping him because Ricciardi is hoping against hope that the Blue Jays will win their 87-88 games and again save his job as he hides behind the "improvement" that isn't really there. You really can't blame the guy for trying this strategy because it's worked in saving his neck before; you'd think that ownership would eventually catch on and make a change, but Ricciardi, with all of his controversies, embarrassing public dustups with players and bottom-line mediocrity, is still there, so he might again survive like the reptile he's proven himself to be.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Predictions (Guesses) As To Who Will And Won't Get Traded (And Where) By July 31st

Here are my guesses as to who gets traded where and who doesn't get traded at all:
Will Be Traded:
  • Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Cairo, Seattle Mariners to New York Yankees:
I have to believe that cooler heads will prevail, the Mariners will lower their demands just to get out from under Washburn's $9.375 million contract for 2009 and send him to the Yankees
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for whatever the Yankees want to give up. The question with Washburn is whether his performance since early June is to be believed or if the mediocre-to-bad pitcher he's been since joining the Mariners is the reality; my guess is that it's the former and the Yankees would be hoping to get some use out of him to win right now. They'd probably be better off just keeping what they have and seeing what comes available during August as more teams fall out of contention and look to shed salary.
There was talk that the Mariners would send both Washburn and Jose Vidro to the Yankees for Kei Igawa, but that was just to match up salaries. I think the Yankees would like to have Cairo back given his history with them and the success the Yankees have had with veteran utilitymen (Luis Sojo, Cairo) who provide surprisingly clutch hits in the post-season.
  • Arthur Rhodes, Seattle Mariners to New York Mets or Chicago Cubs:
I think the Mets are still thinking about how Rhodes came into the game against them as an emergency closer on June 23rd and blew away both Carlos Delgado and Damion Easley as the tying runs at the plate. I also think that the Mets are concerned about Pedro Feliciano's struggles this season and Rhodes is a playoff-tested veteran.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella relied heavily on Rhodes while managing the Mariners and would presumably love to have him again for similar reasons as the Mets would want him.
  • Raul Ibanez and Miguel Batista, Seattle Mariners to Arizona Diamondbacks:
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Ibanez is a lefty bat who hits for power and Batista has already had two stints with the Diamondbacks, and is known and well-liked in Arizona. The Diamondbacks have the organizational depth to make a bigger splash and have been spoken of as landing spots for the likes of Mark Teixeira, but Ibanez should become cheaper as the deadline gets closer. I would think that the Mariners would kick in some money just to get Batista out of town, especially if they unload Washburn first.
  • Kevin Millar, Baltimore Orioles to Florida Marlins:
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Millar is a gregarious veteran who's won before and was a popular member of the Marlins earlier in his career. He's a dangerous righty bat who can play first base and the outfield and wouldn't cost much in terms of players or money and is a free agent at season's end.
  • Chad Bradford, Baltimore Orioles to St. Louis Cardinals:
The Cardinals desperately need some bullpen help and Orioles president Andy MacPhail probably wouldn't mind hurting his former employers the Cubs by sending the Cardinals an unsung veteran reliever with post-season experience. Bradford's signed through next season at $3.5 million. The Cardinals also need to do something to placate an increasingly frustrated manager Tony La Russa; he's not going to stick around forever with a team that doesn't want to spend any money to improve at mid-season when he's doing what is perhaps the best managing job in his long and storied career.
  • David Eckstein, Toronto Blue Jays to Los Angeles Dodgers:
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The Dodgers have been scouring the big leagues for a shortstop to replace the injured Rafael Furcal. They've been focusing on Jack Wilson from the Pirates and checked in on the likes of Edgar Renteria, but they'd be better off with a fiery, post-season hero like David Eckstein who wouldn't cost that much, but would be a huge pickup for the stretch run.
  • Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds to Los Angeles Angels:
The Angels are saying that they're likely to stand pat, but they're going to need another bat to get past the likes of the Red Sox in the playoffs and Dunn wouldn't cost much in players, can play first base, the outfield or DH and would slide neatly into the Angels lineup while being comfortable with the laid back atmosphere of Los Angeles.

Won't Be Traded:
  • Brian Fuentes and Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies:
There will be many teams chasing Fuentes more than Holliday because he'd be a cheaper
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acquisition, but the Rockies fancy themselves as contenders even though they're eleven games under .500. Considering their comeback last season; that they're only six games out of first place and should be getting Jeff Francis back soon, they have an argument to hold their fire and see what happens and take the draft picks they'll get after the season when Fuentes leaves via free agency. The only way they trade Holliday is relating to the Red Sox/Manny Ramirez situation and it's a complicated deal to make on short notice.
  • Mark Teixeira, Atlanta Braves:
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There won't be any way to get equal value for Teixeira; the Braves won't even be able to make up for what they traded to the Rangers last year to get Teixeira. They're not that far out of contention to make it worthwhile to trade him even though the state of their pitching staff and rampant injuries doesn't bode well for a climb back into contention. They might as well just hang onto him and take the draft picks after the season.
  • Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox:
As I said a couple of days ago, the only way this would happen is if a complicated three-team trade between the Red Sox, Phillies or Mets and Rockies will send Holliday to Boston. Other than that, they'll sit tight with Manny, eat his crud and hope that he helps them win another title. It's not like these Manny-blowups weren't predictable before the season started and things moved along without him getting an extension or having his contract options exercised. If the unlikely happens and the suggested three-team trade comes to pass, I would expect Fuentes to end up in Boston as well.
  • George Sherrill, Baltimore Orioles:
Unless they're bowled over by a desperate team, the Orioles have no earthly reason to trade Sherrill now. He's not going to be a free agent until after 2012 and if they decide to trade him, they can probably get as much, if not more after the season than they will right now.
  • Vicente Padilla, Texas Rangers:
The big problem with Padilla is that two of the teams that could really use him already had
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him in the Diamondbacks and Phillies and probably aren't going to want to go down that road again. He's been very good this year and only has one more year on his contract with a 2010 option, so he's an attractive option for teams desperate for starting pitching. The Cardinals would be a good landing spot but I think he'll end up staying in Texas at least until the winter.

Other teams that should be clearing out the house like the Nationals, Astros and the Padres have either made some strange maneuvers (Jon Rauch from the Nats to the Diamondbacks for one minor league infielder; Randy Wolf to the Astros for unfathomable reasons) or are just content to hang onto what they have and go down their current dead-end road (the Padres).
The trading deadline in recent years has either been heavy on rumors and light on action or vice versa; there are many teams in playoff contention this year, but that doesn't mean any deals of consequence are going to happen even if they should for the benefit of all involved.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's The Great Pumpkin!!!!

  • Phillies 10-Braves 9:
Quote from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, courtesy of
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Linus: There he is! There he is! It's the Great Pumpkin! He's rising out of the pumpkin patch!
[Linus faints and the "Pumpkin" is really Snoopy, meanwhile Sally is seething]

Linus: What happened? Did I faint? What did he leave us? Did he leave us any toys?

The same reaction must have been exhibited by the fans who were stunned by the sight of Mike Hampton scheduled to pitch; making it out to the mound to pitch; actually pitching; pitching somewhat effectively. His line looks terrible with six earned runs and eight hits
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allowed, two walks and only one strikeout, but for a guy who hasn't pitched in a big league game in three years and has had injuries to just about every single part of his body preventing him from managing to drag himself out to the mound long enough to throw a pitch, it could've been much worse and his stuff looked good enough to be able to win some games eventually. If Hampton can keep from getting hurt, he's bound to get better. Of course, he could get hurt again doing, well, doing anything considering the shaky nature of his musculature, but four innings is better than the zero innings he's given the Braves since 2005.
  • Yankees 10-Red Sox 3:
Again we hear the speculation about Manny Ramirez and the possibility of him being sent out of Boston for his newest episode of pulling himself out of the lineup. Everyone conveniently forgets the negative side of "Manny being Manny" when he's hitting his clutch homers or making everyone chuckle with his bizarre behaviors, but a major part of "Manny being Manny"
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is pulling himself out of the lineup with questionable injuries and doing things that angers the fans, teammates, coaching staff, manager and front office. I said recently that the Red Sox have the prospects and money to acquire Matt Holliday and play him in right field; move J.D. Drew to center field and deal with Manny for the rest of the year and decline his option----Teams That Should Hold; Teams That Should Raise, July 19.
If the Red Sox do decide to trade Manny, the only thing I can see happening is if they can formulate a three way deal with the Mets or Phillies and the Rockies to get Holliday to Boston, Manny to New York or Philadelphia and a load of stuff from the other two organizations to Colorado. Other than that, the Red Sox aren't going to trade Manny, and I still think they might end up exercising his option at the end of the year if he behaves himself helps them to another title. And it's likely to go back-and-forth several times before a final decision is made if they don't trade him in the coming days.
  • Dodgers acquire Casey Blake:
Casey Blake was one of the unsung players for the Indians during their rebuilding process
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and return to contention. A late bloomer, it took the Indians to give him a chance to play regularly after he bounced from the Blue Jays to the Twins, to the Orioles, back to the Twins and finally to the Indians where he became an everyday player at the age of 29. Able to play first base, third base and right field, Blake is one of those players that many don't notice until he does something that helps his team win a big game, but those that were paying attention know how good and useful Blake is to a team with playoff aspirations. The days of musical third baseman for the Dodgers of 2008 are over.
Indians GM Mark Shapiro knows what he's doing and in acquiring John Meloan he gets a
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24-year-old righty with big strikeout numbers throughout his professional career. He's been terrible statistically this year, but the Indians are going to offer an opportunity to make it in the big leagues as they rebuild, so if he's going to make it, he's in the right place. 22-year-old Carlos Santana is a utility player who can catch and has come into his own at the plate in high A ball this year with a massive offensive year. His numbers----14 homers; 94 RBI; 83 runs scored; a .318 average; .424 OBP; and 52 of his 109 hits have been for extra bases----indicate that he's got a chance to be a solid big leaguer a few years down the road. Shapiro isn't stupid and knows how to mine other organizations for talent, so with a player like Blake who was in demand, it's safe to say Shapiro got what he wanted in the deal. This is a positive move for both sides.
The Indians also acquired Anthony Reyes from the Cardinals for minor league righty Luis Perdomo. Reyes was once considered one of the jewels of the Cardinals system, but it had
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become increasingly clear that he wasn't going to make it in St. Louis; needed a change of scenery to a venue where he'd be put into a role and left there; and he needed to get away from Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan. For all of the success stories the famed duo has formulated, there are always a few pitchers for whom their methods don't sink in. It happened most recently with Jason Marquis and now Reyes is going to get another chance somewhere else. Perdomo is 24, has spent this season with the Indians high A and double A affiliates and put up big strikeout numbers as a reliever. It wouldn't be surprising to see him in St. Louis before the season's over for the Cardinals to see if they can strike some rookie lightning out of the bullpen.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yankees Acquire Xavier Nady And Damaso Marte

  • Yankees acquire Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates for Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, Phil Coke and George Kontos:
Yankees GM Brian Cashman finally used some of that "organizational depth" he constantly
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refers to and filled two gaping holes. In acquiring Xavier Nady, it's hard to believe that the Yankees are under any illusions about what they're going to get out of him. He's not the .330 hitter he's been this year and he's had a history of being injury prone and/or unlucky; that being said, he's a good guy in the clubhouse; handled New York before and got some big clutch hits with the Mets; is a decent enough outfielder and can play first base; and he also hits well enough to the opposite field that the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium will be put to good use. With Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada both out or hindered for extended periods, the Yankees needed to beef up their offense and Nady is just good enough to do that. He's going to make a lot of money in arbitration this winter given the year he's having, but the Yankees have a load of money coming off the books and if Nady plays well, they're not going to blink about paying him.
Damaso Marte is a former Yankees farmhand who's bounced around and found a home with the Pirates as more than just a lefty specialist. His numbers against righties are good
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enough that he's no Mike Myers/Tony Fossas where leaving him in to pitch to a righty----any righty----is done so at their own risk. He was a workhorse with the White Sox before and during their championship season and pitched well for the Pirates as a set-up man and occasional closer. He has a $6 million team option for 2009, but the Yankees won't think twice about exercising that or extending it if Marte does well for them.
The Pirates had previously been asking for the moon for both Nady and Marte, but acquitted themselves well enough in this trade. They probably wouldn't have gotten more from any other interested team, so it was smart to take the Yankees deal when it was offered. Ross Ohlendorf struggled as a long-man/mop-up man for the Yankees this year
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and they projected him as a reliever, but he showed potential as a starter in the minors and may be better off in that role as a potential innings-eater at the middle-to-back-end of the rotation. He's big enough (6'4" 235) to handle a heavy workload. George Kontos is a right-handed pitcher who's also big (6'3" 215) and has put up big strikeout numbers in the minors as a starter. (Presumably both Ohlendorf and Kontos are smart as the former went to Princeton and the latter went to Northwestern.) Phil Coke sounds like more of a project than prospect since he's already 26, but he's lefty and has put up promising strikeout numbers. The big part of the trade for the Pirates, other than stockpiling some power arms, is Jose Tabata.
Tabata was one of the Yankees "untouchable" prospects that they were reluctant to
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include in any trades for veteran pitchers like Johan Santana (although I think Cashman was just trying to find excuses not to trade for Santana and then have to pay him as the Mets did). Tabata is still a baby as he's only going to be twenty next month; his walk totals imply plate discipline impressive in such a young player; he can run and will develop power as he matures; he's struggled a bit at Double A this year, but not enough to raise any questions about his future. If the Yankees make the playoffs and get what they need out of Nady and Marte and the Pirates get use from at least one of the pitchers and Tabata becomes a productive big leaguer, neither team is going to regret making this trade which had to be made from both ends. The Yankees couldn't afford not to improve both their bullpen and injury-ravaged outfield and the Pirates couldn't let their demands stand in the way of clearing salary for players they probably weren't going to keep past 2009 and who weren't going to be present when the Pirates become true contenders anyway.
  • Now that you mention it, the Padres should trade Jake Peavy as well:
Joe at Statistician Magician commented on my last posting that if my logic that the Padres should trade Adrian Gonzalez is accurate, then they should also deal Jake Peavy, and he's right; more so, in fact. Peavy is Tommy John-surgery waiting to happen with that motion and if
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the Padres are going to replenish their organization as quickly as possible, they should take advantage of Peavy's gaudy results to hypnotize another team into surrendering a big chunk of their farm system to get him and let them worry about when his arm is going to explode. The problem is that I have no faith in the Padres hierarchy to make a Marlins-like deal to extract slabs of another organization's best, blue chip prospects and develop them into stars; so as long as they still have the current management team, it's a big risk to do anything of consequence that would haunt the organization if it doesn't work.
  • Mets 7-Cardinals 2:
Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen is going to get the credit for the development of Mike Pelfrey, but the hot streak started well before Warthen arrived and while Rick Peterson was
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still there. Peterson's departure probably helped guys like Oliver Perez (who's a head case), but it doesn't diminish the good work he did with the Mets. I don't think anyone could've expected Pelfrey to mature and develop this fast and he has a chance to win 16 or 17 games if he keeps it up, and who would've predicted that?
I had to look back into my previous postings to make sure I never said anything too derogatory about Carlos Delgado and I didn't. While guys like Mike Francesa and the other "experts" at WFAN and in other places were saying that Delgado should be dumped or released----released!----my view was that as a veteran player who has lost bat speed, Delgado can't catch up to the fastballs of top-notch pitchers anymore, but since they had other holes and few alternatives, the Mets had little choice but to keep writing Delgado's name in the lineup and hope for a resurgence. Well, that hope has come true (for awhile at least) as Delgado has carried the Mets during this hot streak.
Looking at it objectively, Delgado's lack of production was considered age-related when it
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may have been just a slump. If he were ten years younger, no one would've said a word about releasing him; they would have come up with other suggestions, but releasing him and saying that he's "finished" wouldn't have entered the conversation (or PEDs might have been suggested); but with a struggling veteran at age 36, in the age of testing for PEDs and, possibly more importantly, amphetamines, it's harder for such a veteran to regain the public confidence without a sustained streak like Delgado has had. That he's had it has made people like Francesa look foolish. And this isn't an indictment for the statements that were made; Delgado did look finished for much of the first half; my problem with these critics is that they have to come up with a justification for their statements and still try to weasel away from making the credibility-accruing admission: I was wrong. And if Delgado continues this hot streak, they still won't admit they were wrong; and I don't think they realize how such an attitude damages credibility, but if they haven't figured it out yet...
  • Rockies 7-Reds 2; Dodgers 3-Nationals 2:
Don't look now, but the Rockies are only six games out of first place. Their position is so precarious that the next few days will determine whether they aggressively try to trade Matt Holliday, but after last year's comeback it's starting to look like they'll hang onto him at least
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into the winter to see if they can come up with another hot streak.
I'm going to maintain my belief in Joe Torre and the Dodgers. They've been lucky that the Diamondbacks haven't taken control of the division and, with all their injuries and horrendous performances (see Jones, Andruw), they're still right there at the top of the division. By late August, they're going to start getting their injured veterans back; the cooling weather will rejuvenate guys like Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra and they'll have a characteristic Torre-run to make the playoffs. The Wild Card, though unlikely, isn't completely out of the question for any of the three teams either.
  • Braves 8-Phillies 2:
It doesn't look like that comeback against the Mets on Tuesday spurred anything in the
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Phillies other than Jimmy Rollins's mouth and the benching of Rollins and his attitude could eventually become a problem within that clubhouse. Nor does it help that Brad Lidge got lit up for the first time this season last night against the Braves; it also came at a characteristically inopportune time for Lidge, who looked like he was returning to his Astros, "Lights Out" Lidge glory, but in important games, there has to be concern about his mental state and resulting performance.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Should The Padres Trade Adrian Gonzalez?

Ordinarily, the mere suggestion of a team trading a 26-year-old All Star, potential MVP and Gold Glove winner like Adrian Gonzalez would be considered absurd, but most organizations
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aren't as ancient and woebegone as the San Diego Padres. Considering the wretched roster the current management has formulated, I don't have much faith in them making such a move and getting adequate return, but with the way the major league roster is constructed with veterans nearing retirement (Greg Maddux, Trevor Hoffman); declining in production (Brian Giles); high draft choices who are feast or famine (Khalil Greene); high-end talents that can't stay healthy (Chris Young); and scrapheap pickups who can be found on the waiver wire (Michael "The Right Hook" Barrett, Cha Seung Baek, Josh Banks, Jody Gerut), there's little reason for them to keep Gonzalez if they can use him and his inexpensive contract to re-stock the organization in one shot.
How many teams have the prospects and the need for a player of Gonzalez's caliber? The Yankees would probably sacrifice a chunk of their minor league system for Gonzalez, as would the Mets, Red Sox, Orioles and Rays just to name a few. The Padres minor league system doesn't have much in the cabinet, but there are some prospects like Kyle Blanks and Peter Ciofrone whose minor league numbers (for what they're worth) indicate that they could play the position adequately enough to justify moving Gonzalez if enough of a haul (two blue chip pitchers and a minor league power bat would be a good start) were coming back.
Gonzalez is on an island in that Padres lineup and his numbers to this point (26 homers, 76 RBI, 57 runs----he's driven himself in with homers in slightly less than half of those runs
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scored----and 40 walks) are stunning considering that there's not earthly reason to pitch to him considering the chaff that surrounds him; he's also putting up such numbers while playing his home games in the baseball equivalent of the Grand Canyon. Imagine what he'd do at Yankee Stadium with the short right field porch to shoot at.
His contract is also ridiculously cheap. In 2007, Gonzalez signed a four-year, $9.5 million extension through 2010 with a club option for 2011. He's a player for whom any demands the Padres make wouldn't be out of line and he'd surely be more valuable than Matt Holliday since one question with Holliday is how far his
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numbers would decline when taken out of Colorado; such a question would be the opposite with Gonzalez. It's something to think about and might be better considered after the season, but given the state of the Padres organization, their cheapness and all their glaring needs, they can fill numerous holes and replenish their organization in one shot if they take their biggest asset and make him available because with everything Gonzalez adds and all of his positives, it would definitely be a feeding frenzy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Rollins's Mouth Bigger Than His Performance?

  • Mets 3-Phillies 1:
What a shock. I was right yesterday morning about two strong pitching performances by John Maine and Oliver Perez eliminating the bitter aftertaste of the Mets loss on Tuesday night.
As great a player as Jimmy Rollins is, he seems to talk a bit too much considering his
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average results this year and that the Phillies, even with their comeback last season, got blitzed in the NLDS in three straight games by the Rockies; and Rollins's peformance in the series wasn't Thurman Munson/1976 World Series heroic in a losing cause; he batted .182 with a triple and a homer in 11 at bats. Some guys need to flap their mouths constantly to motivate themselves, but Rollins hasn't been very good this year and it's quite likely that 2007 was his career year. After his gloating on Tuesday night, he went 1 for 4 last night and grounded into a fielder's choice to end today's game as the tying run at the plate.
It's one thing to back up one's talk with results as Rollins did last year, but it's getting to the point where the line from Top Gun may be apropos for Rollins: " ego is writing checks his body can't cash" and if he continues yapping without performance, there's going to be a backlash around the league; if a player's skills are diminishing, he doesn't want to give his opponents more of an incentive to beat him and as Rollins ages, he may find that out in an increasingly realistic fashion as his numbers fall and his flapping mouth comes back to haunt him.

The Momentum Theory Loses...Well, Loses Momentum

  • Mets 6-Phillies 3:
Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa, two men who combined probably know more in-the-trenches baseball than any duo currently breathing, have always believed that
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momentum stops and starts with the performance of the next day's starting pitcher. No matter how disheartening a loss, if the next day's starter delivers a stellar performance or just keeps their team in the game, the previous night's game is forgotten. Fans would be amazed at how quickly a professional athlete puts a poor performance behind him once the next game starts; this Mets game was a case of them facing a pitcher in Brett Myers who is at a crossroads in his career; having their entire bullpen ready for action in situations familiar to them (Billy Wagner won't get booed for awhile at least); and getting a required performance from starter John Maine of seven innings and three runs allowed under a reasonable pitch total of 104.
For every self-styled expert who thinks he's got his fingers on the pulse of an athlete like Mike Francesa from The Mike and the Mad Dog radio show, and who treated the loss on Tuesday like an epic catastrophe, one would think they'd learn by now that momentum comes from performance. If a player is slumping that's one thing, but the game on Tuesday could also be seen as one in which the Mets dominated the Phillies, but didn't execute when necessary for tack-on runs and their bullpen gacked up a lead because they weren't mentally ready to replace their All Star closer even for one game.
As for the Phillies, they're going to have to come to a solution with Myers and quick. There's something not right. The minor league assignment hasn't fixed much of anything that
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was wrong with him and either he's hurt or he was affected more by the sudden switch in roles to closer last season than anyone realizes. They traded for Joe Blanton ostensibly to replace Adam Eaton in the rotation, but Myers hasn't been any more reliable than Eaton; if Myers isn't hurt and Tom Gordon is out for a lengthy period, they may have to keep Eaton in the rotation and use Myers back in the bullpen. Myers was reluctant to move back into the rotation anyway and his problem may be nothing more than the drug-like adrenaline affects of pitching almost every day in games the team has to win. J.A. Happ acquitted himself well in his two starts replacing Myers and Kris Benson is still down in the minors (his numbers aren't good and I don't even know if he's healthy), so there are options if they have to move Myers to the bullpen and don't want Eaton in the rotation either. If Myers is physically healthy, then the Phillies have to find out what's going on with him because they're going to need him to perform in some capacity if they want to make the playoffs as a division winner or Wild Card.
  • Brewers 3- Cardinals 0:
In a blog on June 10th discussing the potential for C.C. Sabathia to get the Johan Santana/Barry Zito-type contract he's going to want as a free agent at the end of this season, I mentioned that the big lefty might have to go on an Orel Hershiser-style run of shutouts and
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lead his team (then the Cleveland Indians) to the playoffs and World Series to guarantee the paycheck----Pinning Their Financial Hopes On The One Desperate Lunatic; well he's starting to look like he is going on such a run only he's carrying the Brewers on his broad shoulders instead of the Indians.
Three straight complete games and last night's virtuoso performance bring back memories of Hershiser's unbelievable streak; the acquisition of Sabathia for the Brewers brings back memories of the Cubs acquisition of Rick Sutcliffe from the Indians in 1984 in which Sutcliffe went 16-1 to carry the Cubs to the playoffs. Sabathia is reveling in his situation as the "hired gun" as David Cone used to like to call himself, and at this rate, he's going to hypnotize an owner to give him the money he wants.
One note about the Cardinals: it's very interesting that manager Tony La Russa allowed struggling closer Jason Isringhausen to pitch two innings and throw 31 pitches. Is La Russa planning to possibly move Isringhausen into the starting rotation or make him part of a "pieced together" starter with Todd Wellemeyer and the (possibly) returning Chris Carpenter? He's been so bad in late innings, using him for three or four innings isn't a bad idea and La Russa's got the guts to make such a move in the latter portion of a season.
  • Red Sox 6-Mariners 3; Reds 9-Padres 5:
I'm still waiting for someone to explain why the Seattle Mariners have been considered a poorly-constructed, leaderless and embarrassing laughingstock and both GM Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren have been fired and team CEO Howard Lincoln is under fire while the
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Padres expectations were as high, if not higher, than that of the Mariners and there's not a similar righteous indignation at their humiliating performance this year. ESPN's Rob Neyer for example (with whom I agree and disagree on many things----I agreed most recently with the confusion regarding the Randy Wolf and Jon Rauch trades; and who, after my anger induced attack on him earlier this year, was a beyond-the-call nice and reasonable guy) is still referencing Paul DePodesta as a qualified baseball guy and I do not understand it. It's one thing to have a personal affinity for a guy as Neyer clearly does with DePodesta, but that shouldn't blind one to reality. I think Omar Minaya's a nice guy and a good baseball man, but I've criticized him when warranted. How is it that the Padres are not being raked over the coals as their performance, in many ways worse than that of the Mariners, is being glossed over and ignored for the travesty it's been?
  • Speaking of embarrassing travesties, is this some MTV-teen reality show, or is it two of the most revered and canonized NFL franchises and one of the most beloved (especially by the media) players in its history?
So now the Brett Fav...ruh saga has descended into accusations and denials as to whether or not he used a "Packers-issued" cell phone to talk to the Minnesota Vikings about joining
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them? These big, tough football guys are acting like members of the cast of The Real World instead of the cold, calculating military-style leaders and tough and oblivious to the elements performers they're portrayed as being by the NFL.
Those that are involved with the NFL in one capacity or another like gossiping as much as any teenage girl and this absurdity is to the point where it needs a resolution because all this is doing is bringing attention to a situation that is going to drag on until it's resolved and it's just going to get more and more silly.