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July 30, 2003
It didn't take the Angels long to realize that they were short-handed on the bench more than they needed a 12th pitcher. In part, that's because if you're carrying only four hitters in reserve, and two of them are Eric Owens and Benji Gil, then you've got a guy who can pinch-run and play the field and a guy who can play the field. The other two? Benji's backup brother at backstop, and Alfredo Amezaga, who's here to displace Gil for infield playing time. So a guy who can play some first or outfield and outhit Owens would admittedly come in handy. Quinlan even fits the bill. Although at 26 he hardly qualifies as a prospect, he's got some power, has consistently made decent contact, and could become as useful as someone like Dave McCarty or Brian Buchanan or Ron Coomer. That's his upside--the alternative would be that he might only be good enough to become intimately familiar with the PCL's sundry venues.
One of the things about why I'm really unenthusiastic about the Braves' chances come October this year is, of course, their pitching. Russ Ortiz is their best starter, as Maddux and Hampton and Reynolds have all struggled. Their bullpen is really just John Smoltz and a gaggle of guys not doing so well. Ray King and Roberto Hernandez have been disasters all year long, unless, as some Braves fans have suggested to me, their purpose is to create save situations for Smoltz, in which case, they've been outstanding. Meanwhile Darren Holmes, Jung Bong, and Kevin Gryboski have been just so-so.
Given that Jason Marquis can dial up decent heat and the Braves have a clear need, it would be worthwhile for them to take a look at what Marquis can do for them down the stretch in a more significant role than mopping up (although admittedly, in his first appearance back, he did a nifty job of generating a save opportunity for Smoltz, putting three men on with a 10-5 lead). While there's speculation that Marquis ought to replace Reynolds in the rotation, the division title is almost locked up, and Marquis almost certainly isn't going to be one of the four starters the Braves use in October. Why not put him in a role where he might stick for the post-season, and where the Braves just as obviously have a need?
Having acquired a second, more situational lefty for the pen in Scott Sauerbeck, it was worth asking what was best for Casey Fossum, and the Red Sox decided it made the most sense to deposit him in Pawtucket. He'll get to go back to starting as a PawSock, and there's a very real chance he might be back in the Red Sox rotation before rosters expand. The Red Sox rotation is still just Pedro and four other guys, since none of Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe, or John Burkett have really hit their strides, and the experiment with placing Ramiro Mendoza in the rotation did effectively end his reign of mayhem in the pen, if merely transplanting it to every fifth day. If Fossum has a good couple of starts, he could supplant Mendoza easily enough.
Having taken the opportunity to fire on Bob Boone early and often over the years, and although I fully subscribe to the idea that there really isn't a bad way to fire Bob Boone, to Boone's credit, he has never been one of the cookie-cutter managers who drift into and out of jobs these days. Unlike the Buddy Bells or the Terry Franconas or the Buck Williamses of the world, Boone was a man of ideas. True, he tended to cycle through more often than your average teenager thinks about sex, but he was always a man of animated mental capacity. The absence of discipline or application of those ideas has always been a significant problem, as well as a sort of conceptual omnivorousness that failed to distinguish between good or at least interesting ideas (batting Adam Dunn leadoff, for example) and really bad ones (Reggie Taylor or Wilton Guerrero). If anything, it's a tribute to Boone's unflappable self-confidence that he managed to be resurrected at all, given his deserved reputation as ranging pretty far off the reservation compared to the tin-eared, "Book"-ish mangers by rote. This year saw him devoting a little more time to pro forma emotiveness and less to confident declarations of his high self-regard, but he couldn't really pull off a Lasorda act any better than the Pastaman did. Although I'm more confident that Boone will get another job than Larry Bowa will someday (another surprising resurrection, all things considered), I don't think Boone's chances are really very good.
As for Jim Bowden, I can't help but feel that a change of scenery was overdue. He's being held accountable for things that, strictly speaking, aren't his doing. Bowden didn't handicap this team's financial freedom of action by shackling it to the tail end of Barry Larkin's career at Barry Larkin's price, and Bowden didn't stick this team with enough Sean Casey to choke a javelina a year ago, let alone for the next two (and possibly three). Bowden had his share of bad ideas as well as good, but given his strong record as an aggressive GM, you might take it for granted that some organization would give him another opportunity, because, at the very least, like Frank Lane before him, he'll do nothing if not attract attention. The problem is whether, like Dan Duquette before him, he's burned so many bridges that nobody will answer the phone, let alone look him up. Bowden's generated a considerable amount of bad blood, so I can't see him landing in one of the dream jobs in the game. Tampa Bay, on the other hand...
What's worth noting is that there are good baseball people still associated with this organization. While a co-dominion between Assistant GMs Leland Maddox and Brad Kullman isn't an ideal situation--indeed it reeks of a potentially dangerous involvement of Carl Lindner and John Allen--the organization is not without talent or hope, given what's in the farm system, and what can be done in the next two or three years with what's on hand. On that level, regardless of whether they choose to haul somebody in from the outside to GM next year or hand either Kullman or Maddox the top job, they may have the right manager on hand for what should be a near-term rebuild. Dave Miley's been in the organization for more than 20 years, and he's earned his shot after nearly 2,000 minor league games managed with a .570 winning percentage. Better still, because of the time spent in the organization, he has an intimate familiarity with the talent on hand, both in Cincinnati and at Louisville.
Announced that OF-L Mark Sweeney accepted an assignment to Colorado Springs. [7/27]
Optioned RHP Fernando Rodney to Toledo. [7/27]
The other shoe hasn't dropped. Tomorrow, we'll talk about Shane Loux, who's going to the pen, but after giving up over 2.5 baserunners per nine, Rodney had hardly earned his keep.
Insert 'Hallelujah' or some other appropriate sentiment here. Not that Colin Porter is the next Michael Tucker in semi-handy fourth outfielderdom, but Porter's up after hitting .310/.352/.508 (good for a .264 Equivalent Average in the majors), he's swiped 20 bases in 25 attempts, he can play all three positions, and he gives the Astros' bench a needed lefty for pinch-hitting duties. That's important, particularly with Orlando Merced struggling. In short, Porter does things that involve playing baseball, as opposed to Speedy Hunter, who does things sort of baseball-related, but really in a way that makes you wonder if Renaldo Nehemiah could do anything baseball-related. Or, he's ready to go back to Detroit, where he'd make a great right-handed half of Satan's Own Platoon in center with Alex Sanchez.
It's a been a season of engaging little achievements for the Missouri Miracle of '03, but this was another nifty low-end move to acquire something that the Royals need, both for now to win, and for October if they do. The absence of a situational lefty might not kill you over 162 games, but it can be a real nuisance in situations where every little margin matters. That they've acquired an experienced lefty reliever who's pitched in Octobers past and who's well-acquainted with situational responsibilities is nice enough, and to get one for a randomly-generated struggling hard-throwing minor league reliever is even better. Notionally, he cost more than Jesse Orosco to add, since Hill does throw hard, and we don't know what the Yankees will give up for Jesse the Body. He's also a better asset to have. Kudos to Allard Baird for snagging him.
Assuming you've already drunk your Minky-flavored Kool-Aid, I guess this makes some sort of sense, because you've got Todd Sears to back up Mientkiewicz, and Morneau's going to seed if you're not going to play him at first or every day at DH. So instead, having semi-recognized after acquiring him that Shannon Stewart isn't really a right fielder, and perhaps even quietly accepting that Jacque Jones doesn't hit lefties, the Twins came around to bringing up Restovich. This makes sense on a couple of levels. First, they do need the extra bat in the outfield, because Dustan Mohr isn't an everyday option, and with Lew Ford on the DL, they're short in the outfield. Second, although Restovich does come up after hitting only .267/.338/.460 (.248 big league Equivalent Average), he has a track record of murdering lefties, and that's handy. You might ask where Michael Cuddyer is, since he might help the Twins out of their jam in the outfield or at third with Corey Koskie out, but he's working through a hamstring injury, so he isn't available. It might be worth asking why Alex Prieto is here on a team already employing Denny Hocking and Chris Gomez for utility roles, but given how many decisions seem to be contributing the Twins' extended wallow in third place, picking one out of a cloud of ointment-tarred flies would be cheap.
This sort of deal seems to be part of Steve Phillips' continuing legacy: the mass acquisition of veteran arms that you can either use to win or port out for talent. It didn't really work out as well as it might have in theory, because the decision to sign both Lloyd and Mike Stanton with Cerda on staff and John Franco due back didn't really help in terms of talent for 2003. If it only brought them last place and a flyer on a hard-throwing minor league reliever, you might think the plan poorly-realized. But Hill's worth that flyer, since he does throw in the high 90s and is still mastering his craft after moving out from behind the plate, and Cerda's not a bad replacement for Lloyd, this season's struggles aside. If Hill turns into a solid big league reliever by 2005, it was more than worthwhile. If he doesn't, it didn't really cost them much beyond the waste of Cerda's sense of job security this year.
The shame of this is that for all intents and purposes the Pirates now can't deal Benson in time, not unless he clears waivers and can be peddled before the end of August, and who wants to risk their pennant shot on a sore-armed pitcher at that point? All of which means that Benson and Lloyd McClendon will probably have to be chums next spring, seeing as the Bucs have seen fit to keep Lloyd and cater to his case of the petty gripes vis-a-vis a recuperating Benson. Charming, no? It's sort of sad that Benson's being fired upon, considering he hasn't really done that badly (eight quality starts in 18, for instance) for a guy in his first full year back who's been handed a pretty heavy workload. Hopefully, he hasn't been ruined as well as having his name unfairly blackened.
At least on the happier side of things, it'll mean giving Salomon Torres another shot in the rotation, which, with alternatives like Brian Meadows, isn't the worst choice they've got.
Placed LHP Lance Painter on the 15-day DL (strained calf); optioned RHP Mike Crudale to Memphis; recalled RHP Josh Pearce from Memphis; purchased the contract of LHP Pedro Borbon Jr. from Memphis; activated INF-R Miguel Cairo from the 15-day DL; designated INF-B Wilson Delgado for assignment. [7/28]
With Bo Hart doing a convincing impression of Joe McEwing's 1999, or at least some portion of it, Cairo only gets to come back to his well-worn spot on the bench. This again returns us to the question of what he's really worth in that role, since he is not a particularly toothy threat as a pinch-hitter, the speed of his youth is long gone, and a utility infielder who can't play any position but second isn't really worthy of the term.
But this team has larger problems, like sorting out who's on the pitching staff on any given day. They've hauled up Pedro Borbon from the Atlantic League, where, as a Long Island Duck, he tossed some innings (61.2), posted a 2.13 ERA and a nifty 46-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and kept himself limber. With their rotation in a bad spot sans Matt Morris, Josh Pearce is here to give them long innings on those days when somebody (similar to but necessarily the same as Brett Tomko, for instance) gets shellacked early. No, these aren't solutions, but it's better than digging up Jim Corsi and Joe Klink. And besides, Borbon's a few days younger than I am, so as tired as my writing might seem at times, why shouldn't he still be full of vim, ready for new, exciting vistas, like another reacquaintance with Barry Bonds, and Brian Giles, and Ryan Klesko, and all the other guys he's seen time after time for the last 10-plus years? Admittedly, he's hopeless against right-handed hitters, but that's not what he's here for. He's here to face the lefty hitters who don't get pulled, and if there's a manager inclined to use him that way, it's LaRussa.
Received RHP R.D. Spiehs from the Giants to complete the Matt Herges deal. [7/27]
Contrary to popular expectation, Spiehs has neither dancing teeth or a tape recorder up his brother's nose. Spiehs was a 33rd round pick out of the University of Nebraska in 2001. Knowing full well that I risk the ire of my best friend, a die-hard Huskers fan, minor league relievers who give up a run every other inning (he'd allowed 31 runs in 60.1 IP for Norwich) are basically live bait. Make sure to bring your own cup.