June 7, 2002
June 4-5, 2002
This is an exchange that's at least a month overdue. All Eddie Oropesa had going for him was a flight of Larry Bowa's fancy last spring, and his performance has been consistently execrable. Why the Snakes kept him around as a third lefty—even if you can accept the argument that they needed a third lefty—boggles almost any level of boggle sensitivity. Mike Koplove was a valuable bit part last year, and should continue to be useful. Like most side-armers, he has excellent command (a 31-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 2/3 innings as a Sideserpent). The Snakes have other sidearmers though, so it will be interesting to see over the course of a series whether the relative absence of novelty makes things any harder for Koplove, fellow lefty Mike Myers, or righties Byung-Hyun Kim and Bret Prinz.
The Snakes go out of their way to come up with side-armers, one of the few interesting or distinctive things they've done with their player development program. It's a worthwhile adaptation, although most teams don't seem to value side-armers because of their relative lack of velocity, so they're generally more valuable within the organization, instead of as chits to peddle.
This is plain old happy news, in that Kyle Farnsworth can be one of the best relievers in the game, and by happy coincidence, he isn't considered a "closer" yet, so he can still be employed in high-leverage situations in more than just one of nine innings, and in games that are still in doubt.
The other outcome, however, is less happy. There's no reason to keep Pat Mahomes over Courtney Duncan beyond the fact that Duncan has options and Mahomes does not. Mahomes has no value, and Duncan was a worthwhile contributor to last year's pen, and therefore has been a useful pitcher in the big leagues more recently than Mahomes has been. To make a poor decision worse, you've got to cut through Don Baylor's desire to blow more blarney. In giving the news to Duncan, he concocted some blather about why the young pitcher needed to be sent down, instead of having the confidence to just say "you've got an option, and we've got a roster to manage."
Optioned RHP Luis Pineda to Louisville. [6/5]
This is the front half of a move to activate Jose Silva. Luis Pineda hasn't pitched badly or earned his demotion, but the Reds have the happy problem that just about everybody on the roster is pitching well enough to stick. I'm guessing that Jim Brower doesn't have an option left, and one of the downsides of making Jose Rijo a sacred roster cow is that when he's been outpitched by everyone else on the team, and you need room for a different fifth starter as well as a project like Silva, somebody's going to get bumped. If there's somebody who doesn't deserve a break, it's probably the perennially luckless Silva.
Kudos to the Tribe for doing the right thing as far as their roster. Chris Magruder deserves to stick around as an alternative to Milton Bradley. Bill Selby is a useful lefty-hitting alternative to either Travis Fryman or Ricky Gutierrez in the infield, so he should be kept around, while Selby's inability to really play shortstop makes for a good reason for John McDonald to be kept. Finally, Jolbert Cabrera deserves to finish rehabbing from the gunshot wound that has derailed his season in the first place.
The Tribe's roster is at its best right now. Sure, they're still lugging what's left of Charles Nagy around, but they've cleared out Brady Anderson and Wil Cordero, and everyone is relatively healthy. They're going to need that, because they don't have an easy series on the schedule between now and the All-Star break.
Well, they're now within six games of first place, so there's no reason to consider the Rockies dead. The question they have to deal with is whether the safe, stolid platoon of Todd Hollandsworth and Benny Agbayani in left that they entered the season with is still their best short-term option. Jack Cust is hitting .266/.428/.564 in Colorado Springs, which translates to a .276 Equivalent Average in the majors, better but not decisively better than what they get from Hollandsworth right now.
But is that all of the story? Yes, Cust's defensive shortcomings are worth keeping in mind. But is Cust also capable of doing even better than this in a better lineup? He's drawing a walk every five plate appearances, more often than he had already demonstrated in previous years. I can't help but think that in a weak Sky Sox lineup, he's probably getting pitched around more than usual. Put him in a lineup with a more normal distribution of talent, and you might see even better overall production.
I realize that I tend to be damnably consistent on the subject of preferring the "unknown" to stable mediocrity, but the Rockies are only a mid-pack offensive club, and they're going to need to be even better than that to support a good pitching staff and become relevant.
Announced that Enron... er, Astros Field will now be known as Minute Maid Park. [6/5]
Does this mean we get dancing Astro Maids on top of the dugouts between innings? Or to maximize brand exposure, can parts of the park get renamed as well? Does this mean the left-field train gets renamed the Juice Goose or the Minute Express? Does the travesty in center field get named for a specific product? "The Pink Lemonade Hump" might open up a local market that the Houston Comets might have previously had cornered.
You can bet that Tropicana and Florida's Best are really angry about this new and exciting placement of Minute Maid's brand, in a location where neither of them have a hope of reaching thirsty citrus-deficient Texans hankering for a big ol' dose of vitamin C. I mean, I expect this naming thing might even translate into dozens of sales. "Hoo-wee! This har is a drink made outta squished-up fruits. We ain't had nothing like that since we ran off them sangria drinkers at San Jacinto!" Ahem.
The only way this hurts is if by losing Jason Grimsley, the Royals forfeit the chance to shop him to somebody like the Phillies, who can never seem to get enough veteran relief help. The Royals should be in the business of giving innings to Dan Reichert and Brad Voyles and Jeff Austin, because they might be the stars of a deep, talented, and cheap Royals pen in the near future. If they're small market in budget as well as mentality, then they should be learn from pitching and paying Cory Bailey nearly one-tenth of Grimsley's salary to be the exact same thing.
Announced that RHP Mike Buddie cleared waivers and opted for free agency. [6/4]
Well, of course he did, and then of course he did. Mike Buddie should always be available. I know that the freedom to roam annoys some old school types, but somebody like Mike Buddie is supposed to be knocking around, ready to fill out a Triple-A roster or take on an 11th man mop-up role anywhere. What's the point of shackling a guy like this in place? Would you want all the Mike Buddie you could stand, year after year, if it was your team?
In the end, this was the only choice once Luis Rivas was ready to come off of the DL. Yes, it shafts Jay Canizaro, but he was a replacement-level talent from the get-go, the kind of guy you get on the wire, and can keep getting. When things broke his way, as they did in 2000, he could be an adequate temp at second base. If you're the Twins, though, and you have a good prospect in Rivas, and you have to keep a utility spud like Denny Hocking because he can play seven positions, there were only two remaining alternatives.
First, they could dump one of the outfield trio, but Dustan Mohr, Bobby Kielty, and Brian Buchanan have all hit well enough to stick around. Second, they could have dumped their 12th pitcher, arguably Johan Santana. Balancing the choice between a fifth outfielder, a sixth infielder, and a 12th pitcher isn't easy, but with Hocking around, they had the flexibility to afford to stick with 12 pitchers, which they arguably had to do because of durability questions in their rotation. So Canizaro was screwed, and he should have been.
Kudos to the Yankees for once again having the courage to dare. This situation contrasts nicely with what the Rockies have to deal with as far as their choice between the Beddy Hollbayani platoon in left versus bringing up Jack Cust. Although the Yankees are one of the best, if not the best, offensive teams in the game today, that's not to say their lineup is perfect. The Yankees have a moderately effective platoon in right field, Nick Johnson has been alternately injured and adequate at DH, and Rondell White has also been mediocre. So even though they're running with the Mariners in terms of offensive success, are they satisfied with that? No. They dare to improve themselves.
Juan Rivera is the organization's best upper-level hitting prospect. Although he isn't as patient as you'd like, on a Yankees squad already featuring so many patient hitters, Rivera is a good finisher for the bottom of the lineup as far as offensive sequences go; he can drive bad pitches with authority, sort of a Jorge Bell Lite. While the ability to hit the ball hard in play with any kind of consistency tends to be underrated by big-picture statheads, it is a tactical advantage which the Yankees generally try to cultivate, and which other sensible offensive clubs like the A's have turned a relatively blind eye towards, to their loss.
Unlike Bell, Rivera can also play a good outfield, with good range and a great arm ideal for right field. Rivera's performance in Columbus (.328/.355/.532) only translates to a .270 Equivalent Average in the majors, so this isn't a huge upgrade for them right now this instant if he simply hits at that same level. It is, however, an opportunity to let Rivera come into an atmosphere of relatively low expectations, giving him a chance (along with Nick Johnson) to cut his teeth without having to carry a major offensive role, and eventually utilize that experience to become one of the future stars of the Yankees lineup.
There are bitter moments in any man's life, but how do you think Ice Williams feels? He was Assistant Butt-Patter and High Five specialist, ably helping Don Zimmer fulfill these always-important social tasks. Now he's been judged inadequate, even for that. The indignity of being cut loose by the Devil Fishies is bad enough, but this sort of thing, it really has to hurt.
When your most dangerous offensive outfielder is Timo Perez, you need to shake things up. Generally speaking, there were reasons to prefer Tony Tarasco to Mark Johnson. They're both similar offensive hitters—-patience and power--but Tarasco is the better outfielder. Once Johnson didn't hit, and with the Mets still scrambling to assemble a useful outfield now that it looks like they're going to take a bath on Jeromy Burnitz and Roger Cedeno, better to go with the guy who could actually play the outfield once in awhile.
Your new alignment for the Athletics lineup features Scott Hatteberg at first base (with Olmedo Saenz spotting for him now and again), David Justice at DH, and the outfield of Terrence Long, Jermaine Dye, and Adam Piatt. That works for me, insofar as Mario Valdez isn't hitting as well as you'd like down in Sacramento, while Hatteberg chose the right moment to get hot. The problem remains Long, because he's not an asset defensively, so if he doesn't start hitting, he's no better than the starvation ration edition of Garret Anderson.
Signed RHP Steve Woodard to a minor-league contract. [6/4]
Sometimes the freedom to choose is the freedom to choose poorly. In a decision almost as bizarre as a storyline claiming that people from outer space might be named Ramirez and MacLeod, Steve Woodard hitched his wagon to the franchise that seems to be spiraling deeper into the basement, and that already has a full rotation and Brett Myers on the way up.
I may be a bit overly generous in calling the Phillies rotation full. Even though they have Robert Person back, Terry Adams hasn't done much to hold his slot. Fortunately, they have Myers nearly ready, and once Carlos Silva comes off of the DL, they have another homegrown alternative. I don't begrudge the Phillies for signing Woodard; depth is always a good thing. What I'm wondering about is why Woodard (or his agent) would choose to sign here; as it is, they miscalculated last winter in choosing the Rangers.
The Cardinals are now suddenly concerned that Garrett Stephenson's strained hamstring is hurt much worse than a mere strain. Good thing they rushed him back, I guess.
Fortunately, in his stint at Memphis, Bud Smith did more than well, and his overall numbers at the time of his promotion are a reminder that he never should have been taken out of the rotation after last season's stretch drive: a 2.05 ERA, with 23 hits and 13 walks allowed in 30 2/3 innings, with 30 strikeouts. There's the ongoing danger that Jason Simontacchi could go pumpkin on them, but in the meantime, they've got the big two of Darryl Kile and Matt Morris, with Smith back and Woody Williams doing well. The Cardinals get the Royals twice and the Cubs and Brewers in the weeks to come, so even though they have a series against both the Mariners and Reds, it isn't shaping up as a tough month.
What is this world coming to? In my day, relief pitchers could suck all year, and they wouldn't get sent down because, dammit, they were big-league relievers.
I know everybody has that reliever that you remember who makes you cringe, the guy who comes into the game and you just know it means bad stuff. My guy was Dave Beard, and he was as bad as he wanted to be for as long as he was allowed to be, and you paid your admission to see that man pitch and you liked it, because that was the major leagues. Now these whippersnappers are demotin' and reshufflin' and reassignin' and optionin', and for what? To avoid something like Mark Clear's 1983? Or Beard's 1983? Or his 1984? I know plenty of Cubs fans who were happy that they didn't have to remember somebody else's name in the mid '80s; they could get up close and personal with George Frazier out of a contempt bred by familiarity. Isn't that a valuable part of the rooting experience? Being able to loathe and know a particular scrub is a good thing, as opposed to the hopeless anonymity that seems to be Jason Boyd's fate. I mean, he was just starting to gain a reputation, and now he's just another guy in Portland. Where's the fun in that? And what if Boyd finally turned things around, and won over the crowd that had previously cringed whenever it heard his name? Now that's not going to happen either.
Jason Pearson is another one of the Padres' indy league imports. He was originally signed by the Marlins in 1998, did reasonably well, and nevertheless wound up pitching for Sioux Falls in 1999 and 2000 before resurfacing in the Padres organization last year. Brian Tollberg was already a good way to advertise opportunity in the organization, but at this rate, you have to think that Pads scouts will have an advantage when it comes to signing indy leaguers. Unlike the usual broken promises to minor-league vets who end up marooned in Indianapolis or Louisville or Pawtucket, it seems like you can get a fair shake in the Pads system.
Ramon Martinez's concussion briefly tapped out the Giants in terms of their on-roster depth, but given a choice between playing Shawon Dunston in the infield or playing David Bell at shortstop and letting Pedro Feliz get some at-bats, Dusty Baker made the right call. The shame of it is that the injury short-circuited a nice run from Martinez, but he's not going to be out long, and the Giants can count on having one of the best utility infielders in the game back long before the end of the month.
With Rich Aurilia back, the Giants should that much more easily be able to endure Benito Santiago's summer fade. To Santiago's credit, he gave them a great couple of months while Jeff Kent and Aurilia were out of action as well as not themselves, but looking forward, the Giants should be able to count on what they'll get from Aurilia and Kent to help pick up the slack.
The questions, on a certain level, remain the same: can the Giants survive carrying Tsuyoshi Shinjo and J.T. Snow in the lineup? Especially with Santiago likely to burn out again, and with Reggie Sanders not heating up? A little bit of offensive improvement would improve the Giants' chances of winning the division, because right now, things are a little too dicey for them to feel comfortable.
Placed OF-L Chris Snelling on the 60-day DL (knee); purchased the contract of OF-B Eugene Kingsale from Tacoma. [6/5]
With every gamble comes risk. Pat Gillick decided to give Chris Snelling an early look-see before Edgar Martinez came back, a worthwhile idea. Now that Snelling's knee is busted and he's out for the year, that doesn't make it any less of a good idea, and all of us can feel some sense of loss as fans, because there's a reasonable expectation that Snelling is going to be something special.
Eugene Kingsale won't be around for long; he's a nice defensive replacement and pinch-runner for Ruben Sierra, and having him around frees us utility man Charles Gipson for some infield duties on the rare occasions that Gipson plays, and it's nice to have a spare outfielder around while Mark McLemore lets his hammy heal. Once Martinez comes off of the DL, Kingsale is gone.
There are some rituals you have to accept as a matter of course. Breathing. Doing laundry. Coffee. Avoiding anything with Chris Kattan in it. And, of course, putting Rudy Seanez on the DL. People like Jose Canseco or Paul Molitor might have been watchwords for fragility, but neither of them have a thing on Seanez. Seanez could have one healthy season in ten and call it a good decade. I suppose the good news is that it isn't his trick back, at least this time. This had to be something the Rangers knew was part of the process when they added Rudy Seanez to the fold. It's neither a good or a bad thing, it's just something you have to work with in planning your roster.
To compensate, you need other quality relievers, and the Rangers thought they had that in bringing in Todd Van Poppel and Jay Powell and John Rocker. Well, at least TVP is pitching well (almost alone in the entire pen), but it says a lot about the Rangers' state of affairs that in Seanez's absence, Anthony Telford is supposed to become the primary set-up man.