Happy Labor Day! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume on Tuesday, September 2.
August 16, 2002
August 12-14, 2002
Craig Counsell is sort of the Snakes' de facto utility infielder, playing regularly but splitting his time between second, third and short. However, with the Paycheck Twins--Matt Williams and Jay Bell--both back off of the DL, and with Junior Spivey holding down second while Tony Womack keeps getting starts at short, the Snakes can afford to be without Counsell for a couple of weeks while his neck heals up. The way things are going, their lead in the NL West seems more likely to go to ten games before Labor Day than come down to five or less, especially with six of their next nine coming against the Cubs.
Meanwhile, in Counsell's absence, the Snakes will carry three catchers on the active roster. This actually makes some small amount of sense, especially with the lead they've built up in the division. Why risk wearing Damian Miller out, or reinjuring him? And why not take your time and review whether you'd rather carry Chad Moeller or Rod Barajas as your backup catcher in the postseason? Neither Moeller or Barajas hits well enough to make the decision easy, so the Snakes can almost leave it up to the pitchers by seeing who likes to work with whom. However, it makes plenty of sense to keep both of them on the active roster between now and September 1, keeping them both eligible for the postseason roster.
Juan Cruz has done some things adequately enough in the bullpen since losing his rotation slot to Mark Prior, giving up only 24 hits in 34 relief innings, while striking out 33. Unfortunately, he's also challenged hitters a bit too often, coughing up seven taters in that time. He's walked 19 batters, and he's allowed 20 runs, so he clearly could have done a lot better as far as helping his claim on a rotation slot next season. Francis Beltran is another one of the organization's Dominican flamethrowers, and he's an equally worthwhile investment of a roster spot at this point of the season. The Cubs need to be in the business of evaluating the people on the 40-man roster, to see where everyone fits into the 2003 picture.
Placed CF-B Milton Bradley on the 15-day DL (appendicitis), retroactive to 8/12; purchased the contract of OF-B Covelli Crisp from Akron (Double-A); designated RHP Jason Beverlin for assignment. [8/14]
The Tribe, bless them, have taken this latest setback with Milton Bradley as an opportunity to conduct an evil experiment. No, I'm not talking about the premature promotion of the just-acquired Covelli Crisp. With less than a full season above A-ball, and a minor league performance that only translates to a major league Equivalent Average in the .230s, he'll struggle. He's a decent prospect, but it seems strange to have him up instead of bringing Chris Magruder back.
No, I'm referring to the experimentation with the all-large-mammal outfield, with Lee Stevens in right, Karim Garcia in center, and Matt Lawton in left. This seems like a deliberately strange alignment; Lawton doesn't throw well and doesn't always take a great route to the ball, but he has been a very effective flychaser in years past, while Karim Garcia... well, he's been a corner outfielder from the start. I doubt the desire to make life even more difficult for the Indians' starting pitchers is a component of the decision as much as literal shorthandedness, but it's bold in an amusing sort of way. And if Garcia actually plays a decent center? Then the Indians will have that much more reason to keep him around for next season, either to compete with Bradley or to be a pretty nifty fourth outfielder.
Think on that. Rick White not only got released, he made it through waivers unclaimed by anybody, at a time when several contenders might want to give a righthanded reliever with a recent track record of success a look-see. Rick White has even been one of the most underrated relievers according to Michael Wolverton's Reliever Evaluation Tools, posting a positive Adjusted Runs Prevented. But a home ERA over eight (including his three-run appearance in his final game, which did at least create a save opportunity for Jose Jimenez) produces an overall ERA over six, and for most teams, those superficially ugly numbers are enough to frighten them into keeping Willie Banks or Mike Thurman or whoever. However, it is worth keeping in mind that claiming him would entail assuming the remainder of his contract, but at about $250K for the remainder of the season, that isn't a big chunk of change.
The good news is that Santana will not require surgery. The bad news is that on a pitching staff that's beginning to resemble a Wacky Pack collector's set (Steve Sparks "the Ignitor," "Lima Time"--official drink of the Rockem Sockem Robots; and Fernando!!!... Rodney), the Tigers just lost one of their only effective relievers.
At least Oscar Henriquez has gotten an opportunity and run with it. If it seems like we've been waiting for him to develop for six years, it's because we have. Since first getting noticed for his high 90s heat pitching in the Astros chain, he's been afflicted by a rare muscular disorder (he's recovered), traded to the Marlins as part of the package for Moises Alou, and then slowly fading from consideration. He failed to impress Jim Leyland in 1998, quickly going from prospect to project; he had to endure the indignity of being swapped to the Mets for Jorge Fabregas, only to injure his shoulder in spring training, which pushed him off of 40-man rosters and put him through a cycle of spring training invites on NRI deals with the Mets, Padres, Korea, and in and out of baseball. Seeing him make it back and finally show what he's capable of is one of the few happy notes in an otherwise ghastly season in the Motor City.
Signed 1B/OF-L Orlando Merced to a contract extension. [8/13]
Losing Julio Lugo for the year is bad news for Lugo, but I'm not ready to see this as a setback for the Astros. The team was always going to have problems on the deuce as long as they were relying on a keystone combo of a post-'sploded knee Craig Biggio and Lugo. Adam Everett is back after hitting .275/.331/.380 for the Zephyrs (first the Zephs and now the Hornets, doesn't anybody change their name anymore when they move, or does New Orleans have sort of exemption?), stealing a dozen bases in fifteen attempts, and playing his usual outstanding defense. Everett gives them an alternative to Jose Vizcaino that allows Jimy Williams to use vaunted pinch hitter Orlando Merced (or Daryle Ward, or Jason Lane, or Alan Zinter) for his shortstops. I'd prefer to see Everett get the majority of starts, while keeping Vizcaino in the utility role, since it would also sort of force Williams to use his quality pinch-hitters in any high-leverage situation after the sixth inning. It looks good on paper, but this is Jimy Williams, and barring the introduction of Halcyon, I no longer expect rational, predictable, or defensible decision-making.
Whew, that was close, I mean, if Orlando Merced hadn't had the good fortune to get this totally unexpected $1.7 million offer from this team that's supposedly losing money hand over fist, he might have had to be a Devil Ray or something. Thank goodness a fate so awful as that hasn't befallen yet another innocent. Among the god-fearing, that's what we call good works. Bless the Astros for their compassion and charity.
Activated 1B-R Mike Sweeney from the DL; purchased the contracts of 2B/SS-R Luis Ordaz and 1B/3B-R Kit Pellow from Omaha; outrighted 1B/OF-R Chan Perry to Wichita (Double-A) and INF-L Mike Caruso to Omaha. [8/13]
Sorry, nothing snarky about getting Mike Sweeney back. This is a godsend for the Royals' big push to... well, stay ahead of the Tigers. The third-place Indians are six games ahead of Kansas City, which makes them about as accessible to the Royals as Mars. But they've got their best player back, and maybe they'll dare to shoot past the moon. If a cow was willing to give it a try, why not the Royals?
The interesting choices are the more minor ones. Luis Ordaz has always been a slick fielder; bringing him up to share the second base job with Luis Alicea is a decent enough short-term patch. But just as clearly, the Royals should treat this as merely a two-week expediency, and bring back Carlos Febles when rosters expand to give him a month to make a case for next spring. The Alicea-Ordaz combo wouldn't be an asset for 2003, and if Febles can't stake a claim now, the Royals need to go into the winter thinking about where they're going to dig up a second baseman. I could point out that they could have claimed Marcos Scutaro on waivers this spring as easily as they could have claimed Ramon Castro on waivers last year to fix their catching problem, but that would be cruel.
The final component is the decision to bring up Kit Pellow. He can't really play third, so he's just the latest audition for the Dave McCarty role as Raul Ibanez's platoon partner in the DH job (with some added responsibility for backing up to Sweeney at first). Pellow is sort of a poor man's Phil Hiatt, a right-handed slugger without a lot of patience. At Omaha, he was hitting .289/.350/.562, which sounds great until you let out some air for the PCL, so overall he's hit well enough to post a .258 Equivalent Average in the majors. The OBP sounds decent, but keep in mind he's drawn only twenty walks in 446 plate appearances, ratcheting up his on-base by getting plunked 18 times. I have no idea if that's a skill that will carry over when he isn't facing Triple-A retreads pitching for their lives in a PCL bandbox. However, Pellow does come up after hitting .354 and slugging .833 against lefties (13 homeruns in 96 at-bats... tasty), so he could give them an outstanding complement to Ibanez to produce one of the best DHs in the league.
It took acquiring Kenny Lofton and losing Shawon Dunston to do it, but in a constellation of interdependent events that not even Sidney Omarr could defy, I am forced to conclude that this is the way to get Tsuyoshi Shinjo back and be able to say with a straight face that it is absolutely a Good Thing [tm]. Reduced to a role as a platoon mate and defensive replacement, Shinjo goes from being arguably the worst outfield regular in the game to a modestly worthwhile fifth outfielder. Of course, this is still the team that has Tom Goodwin on it, so in Marvin Benard's absence they still don't have a fourth outfielder, but the Giants need to accept whatever sort of progress they can get. Sort of like J.T. Snow's recent hot streak--don't ask why, just keep your fingers crossed, and keep thinking hateful things about the Dodgers.
Gabe Molina has been having an outstanding season as the Redbirds' co-closer, notching a 2.22 ERA while allowing only 58 hits and 23 unintentional walks in 69 IP. He's missed in the strikezone to righthanded hitters a little more often than you'd like (six homeruns allowed in ~180 PA), but he's always had decent velocity, and the Cardinals should give him a look for postseason roster consideration. Matt Duff's indy league experiences and minor league vagabondry makes him an interesting story, but eight walks in 5.2 IP was no way to make a favorable impression on Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan.