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April 12, 2003
April 7-10, 2003
Kennedy won't be back until the end of the month, as his initially mild strain turned out to be a near-tear. Since Benji Gil is nursing hurts of his own, this means that Figgins is going to get a start or two. You might wonder why Scioscia might not take advantage of Scott Spiezio's bat at second, now and again, but playing Figgins over Gil makes sense on a couple of levels. Figgins can run and will take a walk, and has made himself into a solid glove at second. If you bump Spiezio one position over to play the DH platoon at first, all you add to the lineup is Eric Owens, just to let Salmon DH for a few games. I guess the question is whether putting Fullmer's glove at first is enough of a deterrent to getting Owens' glove in right. All in all, letting Figgins get two or three starts per week now that Kennedy is gone makes sense, both in terms of talent and a future investment of time in case Kennedy is ever gone for months at a time.
Hammock kept going up and down because the Snakes weren't certain what to do with the roster spot. They initially wanted to keep Brandon Webb, but he was ineligible for 10 days because of the rules for transactions and the point at which they'd optioned him out. Eventually, however, Hammock was going to be up for his own virtues, and not merely because one of the Snakes' pair of weak-hitting backstops broke down. Unfortunately, although he can play other positions, he's not really a prospect. He only hit .290/.358/.447 in El Paso last year, and he'll be 26 next month. He won't be a long-term answer, but the organization is essentially answerless. Brad Cresse went into a ditch last season, and Craig Ansman's old to be a prospect. If there's a team that should be aggressive in looking for catching help, it's the Diamondbacks. That said, it was still worth dealing Damian Miller, who is the sort of player you can and should get and play on the cheap, and flip before salary inflation engines like arbitration make him overpriced.
Signed RHP Shane Reynolds to one-year contract, with a mutual option for 2004. [4/10]
It's turning into a hard, lonely world for the Braves, as they may have lost Paul Byrd for the season, and they have to give a broken-down Shane Reynolds a shot just to preserve the fiction that they're a contender. Several people who took a look consider Reynolds done, so while it's nice to wishcast what Leo Mazzone might do, it's worth giving Mazzone some slack if the raw material he's being handed is only so much used-up horseflesh. The least likely outcome is that Reynolds will still be in the rotation in three months. It's more likely that he'll be waived, either because the Braves have managed to stay close and traded for something better, or whether they're close or dead, because they decided to hand the rotation slot to one of the several young pitchers in the organization. As a right-here, right-now move, this just smacks of desperation. They would have been better off convincing Czar Bud to lay off the caprice and let Reynolds be a Met.
Exercised their 2004 option on RHP Pedro Martinez. [4/7]
Signed C-R Bill Haselman to a minor league contract. [4/8]
Stars and celebrities, by their nature, are exceptions as well as exceptional. Nevertheless, it's sort of amusing to see Pedro apologists rush to his defense on this expense, turning the Nelsonian blind eye to his numerous tantrums and occasional desertions, all because he happens to be talented enough to tolerate. The silliest exercise is the attempt to foment comparisons to Randy Johnson, because of how the Big Unit was supposedly giving less than his best to get himself out of Seattle and/or far away from Woody Woodward in 1998. That comparison doesn't really work, since Johnson was inconsistent, not tanking a la Denny McLain. A more appropriate comparisons might be to Tony Fernandez for his elaborate tanking in the first half of 1993 to get away from the Mets, with the extra karmic injustice being that he got a World Series ring for his troubles. Either that, or perhaps it's akin to Pavarotti's requirement that 'no distinct smells' be anywhere near the artist. It isn't about the precedent or the indignity or the catering or the expense, because you're in an entertainment business, and in the business of giving the people what they want. If that happens to be a talented prima donna who whines, wheedles, and can legitimately threaten to take your season--baseball, opera, or a much-desired Spice Girls reunion tour--hostage, I guess you just have to pay attention and pay up. It's just worth keeping in mind that there's a double standard in play.
On a baseball note, nabbing Bill Haselman was a nice touch, as well as another indicator that the Brewers are asleep at the wheel. Of course, Haselman had his choice of employers, and better to choose the possibility of being on a potential playoff team than to have to spend time trying to convince people that you really are better than Keith Osik.
Placed CF-L Ken Griffey Jr. on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder), retroactive to 4/6. [4/7]
Purchased the contract of OF-R Jose Guillen from Louisville. [4/8]
First, the lesser bad news, which is that the Reds are initially serious about letting Reggie Taylor get equal time with Ruben Mateo in center in Griffey's absence. Bob Boone might be the only man in baseball who takes Taylor seriously, and this is on a roster which is already wasting a spot on Wily Mo Pena. The Reds' shot at contention is effectively at stake here, and Taylor's ability to contribute to that as anything more than a defensive replacement would seem straightforward enough. Instead, they're playing a guy who will only add that much more pressure on the team's need to get good things out of people already under a lot of pressure to finally put up a good year, like Sean Casey or Barry Larkin. It's sort of jarring to consider their alternative, which is that they're considering playing Felipe Lopez, which is fine, by putting Larkin in center, which is about as wise as the Astros' attempt to make Craig Biggio useful in his golden years. Larkin's ability to do anything helpful in terms of his own on-field productivity is dubious enough, but asking to do something he's never done to cover for a debilitating loss to the lineup is just the crazy money talking. If Larkin can pick up Center Field 101 quickly enough, at least that would make a case for releasing Taylor or trading Mateo, but if Boone got to have his way and hold onto Taylor for all of last season and keep him on the 40-man throughout the winter, it seems unlikely that anything as annoying as cold, hard reality over the rest of this summer is going to encourage a change.
As for Griffey, there isn't much to say. While he's sort of superficially careening into a Larry Hisle-style "what in God's name happened" career path, unlike Hisle (or Albert Belle, for that matter), it's been all sorts of injuries and not one debilitating injury tearing him down. Hisle was effectively done shortly after turning 30, and Griffey hasn't created a lot of confidence that he's going to be healthy in his 30s. You can kid that Belle to date has held up the longest at the tail end of his career, but the laughter has to be tinged with a bit of concern, and none of them are aging or did age as well as Freddy Lynn. While the optimistic might wish to see Griffey back by June, there's a real chance that he's gone for longer than that.
Signed OF-R Greg Vaughn to a minor league contract. [4/9]
OK, it's goofy, considering the Rockies have outfielders coming out of their ears, but now that they're making Ben Petrick play first and letting him still catch, there are at-bats to go around on the SkySox. Why not take a low-cost flyer on Vaughn, just in case he has something left freed from the fetid organizational morass of Tampa Bay? If he shows something, and it makes it that much easier for Dan O'Dowd to deal Jay Payton or Gabe Kapler from a stronger negotiating position, why not? And if Vaughn flops, it's on somebody else's dime, give or take a few million dimes.
As expected, Burnett comes back to his slot in the Marlins rotation. It's a good thing, too, since Josh Beckett is getting hit around when he isn't wild, and Brad Penny has done nothing to dispel the fears that he's damaged goods. Now, Mike Tejera can head back to the pen, where he's got his work cut out for him with Beckett, Penny, and Carl Pavano all struggling in the early going.
Normally, when you come up with an excuse or two to make space for a second lefty, it's because you either have a crummy first lefty and you want an alternative, or because you've got a weak overall pen, or because the second guy's good at getting lefties out. Tom Martin's reliability certainly needs to be taken into consideration, given the number of times he's broken down and because he's 32, but the Dodgers already have six pretty good relievers on staff, and Brohawn's been awful against lefties over his career. Maybe consecutive weekend series against the Giants are a factor, but if they're going to let Brohawn pitch to Bonds, the Giants will be popping a thank you note into the mail after the second set. In short, they're better off with Romano around to play second or the outfield or even just to pinch-run, because a lineup counting on Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis at the same time is asking for trouble.
Any team that would first trade for Jason Conti, and then prefer Scott Podsednik to him, must play baseball in Milwaukee. Podsednik is a weak choice for a spot on the 40-man, and is almost totally devoid of upside in an organization getting by with Alex Sanchez until they can find a real center fielder. Conti's shown small measures of power and he cost something (Javier Valentin) to acquire, so why then outright him, and why acquire him at all? Why carry both on the Opening Day roster, when Conti and Podsednik are almost identically qualified to be second-rate fourth outfielders?
More happily, at least Geoff Jenkins is back in the lineup, giving the Brewers an outfielder who might be an offensive asset as opposed to a mere placeholder. The problem in that sentence is that word "might." It's been a couple of seasons since his last healthy year, and expecting him to be the next Paul Molitor, and get durable by the time he reaches 30, would be a bit much.
Released C-R Chris Widger outright. [4/7]
From the Yankees' point of view, if Widger wasn't going to be given the job behind Jorge Posada, a job he deserved, it didn't make that much sense to keep him. In Columbus, they've got a modest prospect in Michael Hernandez, backed up by Marcus Jensen, who's still a pretty slick-fielding backstop. Trenton has former top draft choice Dave Parrish, still clinging to prospect status. It might have been nice if they could have stashed Widger away so that Flaherty's debilitating inability never becomes a problem should anything happen to Posada, but consider this another risk the Yankees are willing to run.
The appropriate question about Widger now is: Will he be a Brewer? Will the Brewers identify that he might make a good Brewer? Is that an oxymoron? Or is somebody like Eddie Perez an ideal Brewer? May as well pop Miller Park's moon roof; without fresh air and fresh fannies, Miller Park will fill up with toadstools in no time.
Signed RHP Frank Castillo to a minor league contract. [4/9]
The doughty burghers of Sacramento are used to this, the journeyman starter who once was a semi-prospect, knows what he's doing, and might make an adequate emergency starter or spot fifth man. It's sort of interesting that he picked Oakland's organization and a minor league assignment, considering other teams are casting about for fifth starters. The Athletics' rotation, and their existing alternatives should any starter get injured, will almost certainly keep him stranded in Sacramento all summer.
Purchased the contract of LHP Kevin Ohme from Memphis; placed LHP Lance Painter on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [4/10]
It's nice to see Ohme get a brief stint in the bigs, but he'll almost certainly be down and out once Jason Isringhausen is ready to come off of the DL in another couple of weeks. He was an organizational soldier in the Twins organization for seven years, then spent two years as a Ham Fighter in the Japanese Leagues (or a Fighter for Nippon Ham, but it's easier to envision combative opponents of pork products for some of us) before coming back and pitching for the Cardinals' organization last season. But after a summer in Memphis and a re-up, he's finally here. Being a lefty helped, sure, but it's nice to see a guy just about to turn 32 make his debut.
Optioned Dennis Tankersley to Portland. [4/10]
Talk about overlapping snafus. First, they keep Mike Bynum for Opening Day, without wanting to really commit one way or another to what they want to do with him. They could have let him take the start that went to Dennis Tankersley, which looks particularly good in retrospect since Tankersley had another one of his spectacular meltdowns that make everyone wonder if he's ever going to make the leap to the majors. Apparently they were already convinced of the need to go to Matt Herges, so why not give the spot start to Bynum before shipping him out? If his arm wasn't stretched out enough to go more than three or four innings, why not make it a staff start, the way teams can and have to do at short notice once in awhile? Why jerk Tankersley around, since he wasn't going to be kept, when you already know he's got problems settling down and getting his big league career underway?
Sometimes you start hot, and even then, you get rewarded with even better fortune. Ryan Jensen makes an adequate fifth starter for any Bonds-loaded lineup, but he's just that. Without the benefit of Pac Bell, he'd have a hard time keeping his ERA under 5.00, which isn't that bad, but also isn't Kurt Ainsworth or Jesse Foppert or Jerome Williams. The question was never if Jensen was going to lose his job, but when, and he knew it, hiding his injury to try to hold on even this long. A Giants rotation armed with Ainsworth and Foppert and eventually Williams behind Jason Schmidt and Kirk Rueter could definitely give Barry several more Octobers to remember. This year can be a transitional season, where they work them in, but as a group, with health and time, the Giants' young guns will rival Oakland's or the mid-'80s Royals in pretty short order.
In an entirely unrelated point to the Giants other than on the most bizarre of coincidences and tangents, I was bemused to see an old acquaintance from the Oriental Institute, Pete Piccione, pop up over on ESPN.com, talking about ancient Egypt, stick games, and the provenance of baseball. All I can add is that I'm glad to see somebody with the background pipe up and take on all those silly stories the Russians make up about inventing baseball. I was never quite sure which was the greater historical atrocity, claims of that nature to prickle our Cold War embrace, Serbian delusions that they invented everything, starting with nouns, or the former Stokely Carmichael's lectures on how sun people receive manna from the heavens through hyper-developed pineal glands that ice peoples lack, which, if true, ends forever the notion that I'll ever get my groove back. I figure they're all wrong, and live more happily as a result.
Signed LHP John Rocker to a minor league contract. [4/10]
It's just as well that Jorge Sosa is moving into the rotation. Whether he's going on the DL because he hurts, or because he's just never going to get back to being the amusing blend of cocky bantamweight and effective mid-rotation starter that he used to be, Jim Parque is nobody's asset. Given his struggles, a trip to the Atlantic or Northern Leagues would probably be his best bet, so that he can get innings and show he's healthy or worth a big league team's time.
In the meantime, they can move on to seeing if Sosa's going to be that rare Rule 5 pitcher worth the investment of time and roster space. The Twins certainly are reaping the benefit of having picked Johan Santana, but Santana was more of a finished product, while Sosa is really rough around the edges and still learning his craft. But this is the D-Rays, and a little OJT goes with the franchise's territory. Parque wasn't a full-time solution or even much of a temp, so it's just as well. The real question is whether Lou Piniella has the patience to go through Sosa's inevitable beatings.
John Rocker, Devil Ray...it sort of rolls off the tongue right, doesn't it? Traitor state location, overdrawn redneck posterboy for America at its caricatured close-minded worst, the patented bulging Worrell neck, oozy with talent, and worth a look-see. Why not? If they wind up with a fireballing lefty reliever, they got something for nothing. If they get a closer, they got him without paying Roberto Hernandez prices. It makes for an interesting gaggle of lefty relief help, certainly, if they've got Rocker blazing away, Mike Venafro flipping those side-arm frisbees, and Bobby Seay's moving heat and nice curve. It's nice to think about, which isn't something that comes up a lot in conjunction with the Devil Rays.