- Every breath you take, every move you make...
...they'll be watching you.
Eyes are cast upon their targets; examining every movement closely.
Can he help us?
Is he worth the asking price?
What are the other options?
As the weather heats up and the pennant races begin to shake themselves out, teams will be scouring the bottom-feeders for upgrades to their roster. The familiar, big names that are known to be available are being mentioned like Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Then there are the star players who might be available like Prince Fielder and Dan Haren. More importantly, there are the lower-level names that might make as big a difference at a far lower cost than the more recognizable stars; players who fall into that category are Ted Lilly; Jake Westbrook; Edwin Jackson; Luke Scott; Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche.
Trades are going to start happening soon and contending teams are preparing.
A interesting side-story to the trade rumors is the mindset of the players on the block. Can they handle the playoff pressure? Have they a history in big games? Such a judgment normally wouldn't be evident by a meaningless game to a non-contending team in June, but if these players know they're being studied and could wind up on a contender down the stretch, that has to affect their mentality.
Akin to playoff pressure, it's an audition. Similar to the draft prospect under the watchful eye of a multitude of scouts, his every movement is scrutinized before the money necessary to sign and develop a top pick is committed. Lee has been watched from the beginning of the season; he has the cold, murderous persona he exhibited during last year's playoff and World Series run with the Phillies supporting his case as being worth the price he's sure to extract. To add to his aura, on Friday night he efficiently dispatched the highest scoring team in the National League----the Reds----like insignificant dust barely worth the effort. Teams know what they're getting with Lee in the regular season and the playoffs. It's all going to depend on who pays the price to get him.
With others, it's not so clear. Lilly got rocked by the Angels yesterday----and the Angels might be a team that's interested in acquiring Lilly. Was it the added incentive of impressing the Angels that led to Lilly having such a bad game after his near no-hit masterpiece on last Sunday vs the White Sox? Jake Westbrook pitched against the Mets last Thursday and allowed 11 hits in 7 innings. The Mets have tried to get Westbrook in prior years and he might be a fallback option to the Lees and Harens of the world.
On May 26th, Oswalt put on a show right after the news broke that he wanted out of Houston; he dominated the Brewers allowing no runs in 8 innings and striking out 9. Oswalt's playoff history is impressive for the most part.
The personalities of players plays into their value on the market. I truly believe that Luke Scott could help someone greatly down the stretch. He's streaky, but wouldn't cost a lot in terms of players and has that unflappable persona that won't be intimidated by big moments.
As the trades are completed, teams will wonder before the fact if they're getting Doyle Alexander; Alexander cost the Tigers John Smoltz in 1987 and led them to the playoffs with a 9-0 run. Or if they're getting Steve Trout, whom the Yankees acquired in July of 1987 and watched as he inexplicably lost the ability to throw strikes; they sent Bob Tewksbury to the Cubs to get Trout and Tewksbury carved out a nice little career for himself in later years.
So which is it? What are the teams getting and is it worth the cost considering what they're looking for? It's not simply a matter of getting the available star. Sometimes it's the Luke Scott-type of player who ends up making a bigger difference than the flashy names.
Watching their body language when they know they're being scouted is an indicator of whether or not they can handle it.
You don't see it on the stat sheet either.
- Just when the Phillies start hitting, the pitching falters:
The main issue the Phillies had prior to the season were questions on the pitching staff. From the starting rotation behind Roy Halladay to the entire bullpen, that was where their potential for failure was expected to be. Instead, during their extended slumps, the issue was hitting more than pitching. It was ridiculous to think the Phillies, with that lineup (even without Jimmy Rollins) weren't going to bust out with crooked numbers at some point. This week, they did just that winning 2 of 3 from the Yankees, scoring 9 runs on Friday vs the Twins, and 10 runs yesterday.
Yesterday though, another Phillies troublespot showed itself as the bullpen gacked up a 5 run lead in the ninth inning and the Twins rallied for a 13-10 extra-inning win.
The pitching hiccups were expected; but the lack of scoring wasn't. Could it be that the Phillies, even as they start hitting, are going to continue to fail because the pitching can't do the job?
It would be ironic if, as the season wears on, the Phillies right the ship offensively but wind up fading because of the lack of pitching and the greatest culprit is that month-long cold streak at the plate.
- With the talk about dumping one Guillen, how about adding another one instead?
The White Sox have crawled back to within 5 1/2 games of the AL Central lead and the talk of major changes within the organization (which may have been more of a threat than anything else) has quieted significantly. They have the pitching to compete and get back into realistic contention, but need a bat.
Since there was talk (that wasn't going to come to pass) of firing Ozzie Guillen, rather than dumping a Guillen, why wouldn't the White Sox add one----Jose Guillen.
The Royals are going nowhere; Guillen is a free agent at the end of the year; and he's quietly having a solid season. He's also behaved himself in recent years after earlier career temper tantrums that made him a journeyman who was productive but couldn't stay in any one place for too long. He's been DH'ing this year for the Royals, has 13 homers; a total of 26 extra base hits; his on base percentage is reasonable at .336; and he's feisty.
The White Sox have dealt with players who other teams have dispatched due to attitude----A.J. Pierzynski and Bobby Jenks among others----and Guillen would fit into the clubhouse. Plus he's a drastic upgrade from the cacophony of unproductive bats the White Sox are currently using as their DH (Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones specifically).
It would be a cheap, under-the-radar move to bolster the offense of a team that is righting itself. They should explore it and do it if it's possible.