September 25, 2003
August 25-September 21
Acquired INF-B Wilson Delgado from the Cardinals for Stacks O'Mullah. [8/31]
It turned into that kind of season for the Angels, where September's not merely irrelevant, it may not even provide that many useful evaluation opportunities. Not only have they lost the starters on the left side of the infield for significant chunks of the year, Anaheim didn't even get to make a full evaluation of Alfredo Amezaga because of a torn labrum, meaning that out of desperation, they had to deal for Wilson Delgado just to be able to field a lineup with somebody who can play shortstop in it. Then they lose Bengie Molina too, which leaves them with a whole lot of Jose Molina and Tom Gregorio, or what adds up to nothing that's going to help them in any significant way in the future. It's a loss made all the more bitter because Molina was having a nifty season. What's left on the field from the start of the year? Tim Salmon, sort of, DHing most of the time, and Adam Kennedy at second, and Garret Anderson in left, and Scott Spiezio moving roaming around the diamond. That adds up to five lineup regulars lost. The Angels are not an especially old team, so to have so much player value sucked out of them before the season's up is a lot less out of the ordinary than the Orioles losing their free agents or the Rangers losing a good chunk of their lineup in-season.
The trouble isn't restricted to just the lineup. Ramon Ortiz lost his father, so Chris Bootcheck has been called up to spot-start, this at the unfortunate moment when they'd already used Kevin Gregg to cover half of last weekend's double-header. Fortunately, Gregg has done good work in his two starts. Bootcheck might be considered a disappointment after being the team's top pick in the 2000 draft. Although a college pitcher, a toolsy athlete, and a hard thrower, he hasn't translated any of that scouting sheet sheen into diamond dominance. In his first full season at Triple-A, he allowed 5.4 runs per nine, and struck out only 82 in 171.1 IP. To his credit, he did walk only 42 guys, but that's the line of a minor league vet hoping for a break as a swing man, not what you invest the 20th pick in the amateur draft on. It's too early to write him off, but it might be a stretch to expect him to be able to step into a big league rotation any time soon.
Activated 1B-L Mark Grace from the 15-day DL; recalled 1B-L Lyle Overbay, RHPs Edgar Gonzalez and John Patterson, and LHP Chris Capuano, and purchased the contract of LHP Dennys Reyes from Tucson; recalled LHP Eddie Oropesa from El Paso (Double-A). [9/1]
Transferred RHP Mike Koplove from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/2]
The Snakes are basically hauling back all their oldies and indifferently goody, plus some of their in-season temps. In short, they're done, as evidenced by their initial decision to replace Elmer Dessens in the rotation with Chris Capuano. I guess one major question is whether they'll waste their time on "Farewell Gracie" starts, or if they might instead take a chance on seeing if Lyle Overbay is back feeling chastened or motivated or whatever it was his demotion was supposed to have achieved. Really, it doesn't look like they'll indulge much in either, satisfied as they appear to be with putting Shea Hillenbrand at first and rotating Craig Counsell, Matt Kata, and Robbie Hammock through third. That's sort of unfortunate, in that they know that Counsell isn't a great everyday option at third, and Kata doesn't look like one. I'd like to see a platoon of Overbay and Hammock, with Hillenbrand handling third against right-handed pitching and first against lefties, with Counsell and Kata in the mix, but more often getting their playing time in the middle infield. Yes, that adds up to seven guys who need playing time, with only Hillenbrand getting everyday playing time, but the other six can all play, and the Snakes enjoyed some modest success with mixing and matching. It would be fun to see that continue into 2004.
Another note of interest is the latest stop in Dennys Reyes' career, as he gets another crack at being somebody's situational lefty. Hopeless optimist that I am, I still think he can pitch and be an asset. Since he's left-handed, he'll keep getting opportunities to prove me wrong, hardly the worst fate, but you can bet I'll say something appropriately modest (like "boy, was I wrong for the longest time") before finally getting to say I knew he had it in him. I know, it's the same weak logic that inspires Cubs fans or people who "play" lotto, but it's the crutch that comes handy, and Reyes still has good velocity for a lefty. Call me stubborn.
Claimed RHP Jaret Wright off of waivers from the Padres. [8/29]
Recalled C-B Johnny Estrada from Richmond; optioned LHP Horacio Ramirez to Richmond; added OF-R Damon Hollins to the 40-man roster and placed him on the 15-day DL; recalled INF-R Jesse Garcia from Richmond. [8/31]
Now that we have Brian Kingman safely out of the way, how much longer until we have Bobby Thigpen in the news every time a reliever has a good first half? I know, for some, it's fashionable to bash these sorts of morbid quests to preserve some random happy stiff's 15 minutes, and Thigpen's possession of the saves record really ought to still stand as the descriptor for why the stat means nothing in terms of absolute quality, and everything in terms of some happy combination of managerial usage patterns, a merely adequate offense, and a healthy dash of luck. If anything, I guess if you're like me and consider the save stat to be a footnote every bit as meaningless in describing player quality as RBI, we can take some satisfaction that John Smoltz did not set the saves record this year, since then it might have been mistaken to possess some meaning above and beyond a general truth that Smoltz has had a great year. It would have been easy to freight the saves record with meaning if a historically very good to downright great pitcher held it, instead of Thigpen.
Now that Eric Gagne is the leading candidate, and everyone's forgetting about how workloads matter before you nominate all-time relief greats, we can venture back into the territory of acknowledging the result as potentially interesting trivia and about as cool as Dick Radatz was in his day. And sure, that means no Thigpen mystique or petitioning for save-blowing juju-and who else but a guy who was there when Mitch Williams blew it in 1993 might possess such magic?--but I think we'll survive. What would sort of suck would be the ease with which people might nominate Gagne's season as one for the ages, with the danger that Willie Hernandez's 1984 or some such might get glossed over in the frantic, NFL-style drive to nominate the new as the best, except where it concerns Barry Bonds and A-Rod. I mean, c'mon, those guys make lots of money.
Otherwise, you can note that Bobby Cox has his '03 Ayrault model hot off the Triple-A showroom floor, with Johnny Estrada available to give the Braves a legitimate alternative to Henry Blanco should anything bad happen to Javy Lopez before or during the playoffs. Estrada even hit well this year, putting up rates of .328/.393/.494, or almost the sort of thing that might make "Forget Millwood!" campaigners feel justified in their roster luddism. Cattiness aside, what's important here is that Estrada is no Ayrault or Steve Torrealba, so the Braves might have a reason to actually carry him as a spare bat and potential starter, while happily reserving Blanco for defensive substitution purposes. A little more odd was the decision to add Jesse Garcia, but again, that's the obsession with the tactical coming into play, as Garcia will provide some spot pinch-running should the Braves feel the need come October.
Traded 1B-R Jeff Conine to the Marlins for RHPs Denny Bautista and Don Levinski. [8/31]
Activated UT-R Melvin Mora from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
Activated LHP Omar Daal from the 15-day DL. [9/10]
Activated RHP Kurt Ainsworth from the 15-day DL. [9/19]
Stuff for Jeff Conine? Does it get any better than that? This was already shaping up to be an outstanding little season for the organization. Jay Gibbons solidified his credentials as a mid-order slugger. They found out that Luis Matos and Brian Roberts and now Larry Bigbie can play this game. They got good swag for Sidney Ponson, selling high to an organization that had goodies to deal. Comebacks like those of Eric DuBose and John Parrish seem promising. Capping all of that off with re-making Mr. Marlin into Mr. Marlin, and getting a nice pair of arms in return is definitely the cherry on top. Not only do the Orioles save themselves some lucre, and escape the odium of having to lug Conine around for the life of his contract, they get stuff? As I said, happy days.
Acquired INF-R Lou Merloni from the Padres for RHP Rene Miniel. [8/28]
Optioned RHP Todd Jones to Augusta (A-ball). [8/29]
Recalled RHP Todd Jones from Augusta (A-ball); designated RHP Andy Shibilo for assignment. [9/2]
Activated RHP Ramiro Mendoza from the 15-day DL. [9/3]
Baseball loves its prodigal son stories, so I suppose it shouldn't surprise anyone to see Lou Merloni returning to the scene of his original sidekickdom. And, given my advocacy of Damian Jackson's usefulness in days gone by, I suppose some might expect me to be chagrined. Anything but, frankly, since I see this as a happy combination of events where Merloni got playing time and a tan, and then gets to come back at a time when the Sox can stop fretting about what combination of pitchers and position players they wanted in those last four or five slots on the regular season roster. The Red Sox got to use Jackson as a backup at six positions for almost five months, which freed them to treat other roster spots as moving parts. Admittedly, he wasn't much of a right-handed alternative to Todd Walker at second, which is where Merloni theoretically would have come in handy (not that he hit lefties either, this year).
The problem is really one of roster space and roster design: carrying spare platoon partners or that extra infielder is considered less important than having a 12th pitcher, which is in itself a product of the obsession with the pursuit of slivers of fractions of matchup value amongst a newfound multitude of middle relief specialists. It's great for Jesse Orosco and his ilk, and not demonstrably good for baseball in-game tactics or seasonal operations. It means Bill Mueller gets asked to do things he's not good at (like play second) so that marginal relievers can get used in marginal roles with marginal results. It doesn't get happier when it seems like every reliever that Theo Epstein has acquired, worthies all, seem to come to Beantown and flop, making picking a postseason roster a particularly interesting exercise.
Signed RHP Jose Paniagua to a minor league contract and assigned him to Charlotte. [8/27]
Recalled RHP Jon Adkins and purchased the contracts of 2B-B Aaron Miles, RHP Jose Paniagua, and OF-L Armando Rios from Charlotte; designated LHP Mike Porzio for assignment; activated RHP Billy Koch from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
Released RHP Jose Paniagua. [9/10]
Again, while I almost reflexively and occasionally thoughtlessly complain about third catchers, if you had Sandy Alomar on your team, you'd want to have an option handy. Alomar can't catch much, and doesn't hit, but he's that bubbly source of ineffable veteran moxie in the front office's mind, so he's a must. That winds up meaning that if you're the Sox, for a while you had a potential postseason roster with a starting catcher who doesn't hit much, a second catcher who has trouble playing on consecutive days, let alone doing anything, and a third catcher whose major utility is that he's not one of the other two. I know in my own simple-minded approach, it might have made a lot more sense to pick up a real backup catcher, but that's my native killjoy instinct.
Acquired LHP John Koronka from the Reds for LHP Phil Norton. [8/25]
Placed RHP Dave Veres on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 8/22; recalled RHP Jon Leicester from West Tennessee (Double-A). [8/27]
Activated RHP Dave Veres from the 15-day DL. [9/6]
Presumably I'm jinxing the Cubs or something, but given that they've made their choices in running with Randall Simon, there isn't much to say about Hee Choi's return. Given that the postseason roster rules are about as loosely interpreted as J-Lo's concept of the institution of marriage, he might still get kept as a pinch-hitter or potential DH in the World Series, but that's well down the line, and there's the here, now, and banged-up rotation to deal with in the meantime. Beyond that tension, it's worth noting that the Cubs' return in trading the Reds Phil Norton isn't worthless. That's not to say that John Koronka's the next Willie McGee all-time throw-in snarf, but he's an effective control lefty who could turn into a decent lefty swingman, handling a job at the bottom of the pen or the rotation, sort of like where Norton was a few years ago. As exchanges go, it's pretty nice for the Cubs, although it will make for a decision in November when it comes time to set the 40-man rosters and worry about the Rule 5 draft.
Signed LHP Dan Serafini to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Louisville; recalled OF-R Stephen Smitherman from Chattanooga (Double-A); traded LHP John Koronka to the Cubs for LHP Phil Norton.[8/25]
Claimed INF-R Tim Hummel off of waivers from the White Sox as compensation for the trade for RHP Scott Sullivan and cash; placed CF-L Reggie Taylor on the 60-day DL (dislocated shoulder); placed LHP Mark Watson on the 15-day DL (kidney ailment); optioned RHP Joe Valentine to Louisville; designated UT-R Jim Chamblee for assignment; purchased the contracts of LHPs Dan Serafini and Phil Norton and RHP Scott Randall from Louisville. [8/26]
Traded C-R Kelly Stinnett to the Phillies for a PTBNL. [8/31]
Purchased the contract of C-R Dane Sardinha from Chattanooga (Double-A). [9/1]
Recalled RHP Josh Hall from Chattanooga (Double-A). [9/5]
Recalled RHP Matt Belisle from Louisville. [9/7]
There has been nothing quite as self-indulgent and pointless as the pityfest surrounding the implosion of the Reds. For all of the gnashing of teeth and self-induced hurling and whatever else, the Reds weren't adding up to anything, and the fungible bits needed scattering to the winds. Having scattered them, the survivors seem resentful, but they seem to have missed the point. This team was broken up as the final penalty of its obsessive loyalty to the undeserving, particularly Barry Larkin and Sean Casey, but you could extend that to Ken Griffey Jr. if you were feeling particularly spiteful, or Aaron Boone if you wanted to bang the nepotism gong, or Pokey Reese if you remember when he was untouchable in the good way (as opposed to his untouchable easy availability these days).
The Reds were finally broken up because they'd earned it, on the field, and because of some big mistakes on the roster's big-ticket items. If some of the players left standing fail to realize that, then they're failing to realize that the organization's commitment isn't to them, it's to trying to win. The tragedy of the early years of the reign of Carl Lindner isn't that the Reds failed to commit to winning, it's that they did such a signally bad job of it. Now, with the responsibility to re-build, you have to accept the consequences, and the Reds have done that, hauling in a pretty decent swag. As much as it looks like they're fielding an awful lot of players from what might make a good Triple-A team at the moment, they're getting to see if Wily Mo Pena learns by doing instead of watching. They've actually got an infield with promise, at least if it involves D'Angelo Jimenez anywhere, Russ Branyan (and eventually Brandon Larson) elsewhere, and now Tim Hummel somewhere in the mix as a potentially handy utility infielder. Ruben Mateo and Dernell Stenson get their chances, and Steve Smitherman gets a peek. The arms brought in through the deconstruction of Lindner's Big Red Paperweight won't all turn out, but some of them should, and that's the nature of the pitching futures market. The Reds aren't really as badly off as they look right now, but they have to roll with the unhappy combination of first trying to make the popular decisions, and then trying to repair the unpopularity that those decisions helped to generate.
Traded LHP Brian Anderson to the Royals for OF-L Trey Dyson, RHP Kieran Mattison, and cash. [8/25]
Activated SS-B Omar Vizquel from the 15-day DL. [8/26]
Placed INF-R John McDonald on the 15-day DL (strained back); designated RHP David Cortes for assignment; recalled INF-R Brandon Phillips from Buffalo; purchased the contract of RHP Jose Santiago from Buffalo. [8/27]
Activated C-B Victor Martinez from the 15-day DL; recalled UT-B Zach Sorensen from Buffalo. [9/2]
Recalled 2B/3B-R Greg LaRocca from Akron (Double-A). [9/13]
While the season resembles a debacle on several levels, some things happened as planned, like the eventual replacement of the temps with the talent in the rotation. Despite an injury and an early bit of over-fascination with the wrong guy, they also seem to have sorted out that Victor Martinez is their catcher now and into the future, while Josh Bard makes an admired backup. Casey Blake turned out to be an outstanding example of what can happen if you take a chance on a minor league vet with a solid if less than star-quality track record as a hitter. Travis Hafner appears to be here to stay. This is progress.
Unfortunately, what the Indians did not really get out of this year were any definite answers at a couple of other positions. They didn't get a complete read of their options in the outfield, so while Jody Gerut has had a great season, Coco Crisp hasn't made anybody forget Thomas Howard. Milton Bradley, Matt Lawton, and Ryan Ludwick have all gotten hurt, and Alex Escobar hasn't exactly broken through. So a year later, the good news is that Jody Gerut has won himself a job, and Milton Bradley is still as interesting a 'maybe?' as potential stars go. Gerut's success masks what has to be a bit of disappointment that no one else grabbed a job with similar authority. Then there's the ongoing disaster at second base, where Brandon Phillips seems to have gotten nothing out of his two-month vacation in Buffalo. The Indians' middle infield might be young and might be promising, but Jhonny Peralta only inspires confidence for the near-term future in contrast to Phillips.
Activated RHP Nelson Cruz from the 15-day DL; recalled PH-L Mark Sweeney, RHPs Scott Elarton and Jason Young and 3B-R Garrett Atkins, INF-R Clint Barmes and 1B/3B-R Kit Pellow from Colorado Springs. [9/2]
Waived RHP Nelson Cruz outright. [9/3]
Activated RHP Chin-hui Tsao from the 15-day DL. [9/16]
Recalled OF-B Andres Torres from Toledo. [9/3]
Acquired 1B-R Jeff Conine from the Orioles for RHPs Denny Bautista and Donald Levinski. [8/31]
Outrighted Vladimir Nunez to Albuquerque. [9/10]
Recalled RHP Blaine Neal from Albuquerque. [9/12]
I guess I'm fascinated by the thinking that Jeff Conine's acquisition might inspire ticket sales as well as provide them with a bat to put in left that then let them put Miguel Cabrera over at third to cover for Mike Lowell's injury. Because when you get down to it, that probably represented the only serious potential payoff. As hitting temps at a hitter's position go, Conine is no more than adequate, and it seems hard to believe that he's really much of a left fielder these days, if he ever was. To make the deal happen, Conine needed to be bribed with a two-year extension, even if he was ditching Baltimore for contention. Unfortunately, home attendance remains downright moribund for a team in the most interesting stretch of its existence, fighting desperately for the wild-card.
That said, there was some logic to the move, given the internal options. Down on the farm, the Fish could have called up up somebody like Rob "Mighty Wind" Stratton or Chad Allen or even Ice Williams if they were simply looking for outfielders, but none of that would have helped score many runs. It might have been pretty cool to call up Matt Erickson (.342/.442/.463 at Albuquerque, good for a .260 Equivalent Average in the majors) or give Andy Fox a shot at third, and leave Cabrera in left, but that wouldn't have sent a message to the very few season ticket-holders, would it? Admittedly, Erickson's an unknown quantity and Albuquerque was gunning for the playoffs, while Fox's days as anything more than a seven-position utility man are probably over. It'll be a happier situation in October if Lowell can play and Conine can sit, but that doesn't change the expense beyond the package sent to the Orioles.
Optioned RHP Wade Miller to Round Rock (Double-A); purchased the contract of C-B Mitch Meluskey from Round Rock; outrighted INF-R David Matranga to New Orleans and LHP Greg Miller to Round Rock. [8/29]
Besides some particularly gamey roster re-shuffling to make as many people eligible for postseason consideration as possible, the Astros didn't really do that much down the stretch. Now that the Astros seem to be in a bad spot coming into the season's final weekend, we may never know if Eric Bruntlett could be America's next Tom Lawless.
Acquired LHP Brian Anderson from the Indians for OF-L Trey Dyson, RHP Kieran Mattison, and cash. [8/25]
Acquired OF-R Rondell White and cash from the Padres for LHP Chris Tierney and RHP Brian Sanches; voided the option of RHP Runelvys Hernandez to Wichita (Double-A) and placed him on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 8/17; placed RHP Kevin Appier on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 8/25. [8/26]
Returned RHP Jose Lima to the 15-day DL (still-strained groin), retroactive to 8/24; transferred RHP Runelvys Hernandez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/27]
Recalled RHP Brad Voyles from Omaha; optioned LHP Jimmy Gobble to Omaha. [8/30]
Recalled 1B/3B-L Jarrod Patterson, RHP Brad Voyles, and LHP Jimmy Gobble and purchased the contracts of OF-L David DeJesus and C-R Tom Prince from Omaha; transferred RHPs Kevin Appier and Kyle Snyder from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/2]
I have to admit, I never thought I'd see the day when I was rooting for the Royals. Growing up in Northern California, the most hated rival this A's fan had was the powder blue menace from the Plains. Watching George Brett beat the bejeezuz out of the latest hapless Oakland hurler was my summer ritual, along with wondering if Mike Warren was all that, or if Dave Beard served any constructive purpose, and who is Rich Bordi, anyway? When the Royals were thinking they could run with Oakland in the late '80s, my malice and scorn knew few bounds, and there was nothing more satisfying in-season than watching the team that had banked on the likes of Floyd Bannister go down in shame.
Which is why today is that much more surprising. Perhaps it's a sense of sympathy with extended suffering, which Royals fans have had more than their fair dose of. Perhaps it was the completely unanticipated challenge that this organization made for contention, and the happy sense of wonder that creates. As analysts or nattering nabobs or whatever, we can think we can anticipate almost any outcome, but there is no greater delight in the game than the unexpected, or the readiness with which the unexpected crops up. So when the Royals contended, not just into June, but into September, it was hard not to get excited, and it was hard not to feel sympathy. Perhaps it was easy to feel the sense of youth gone by, and remember when the Royals were always pretty good, and overlook the loathing of long ago.
Regardless, it was fun, and more fun still because Allard Baird gave it a pretty good shot. Bringing in Rondell White was probably too late, but he did it. Continually patching and re-patching the rotation might not have produced a rotation that could really contend with the Sox or the Twins, but it was an inspired bit of in-season reshuffling. Brian Anderson? Jamey Wright? Paul Abbott? All contributing in a pennant race? Who'dathunkit? It would have been easy to have slogged along with the likes of Chris George, and beat the small-market drum as they slowly sank. Baird didn't do that, and if he didn't win, he certainly gave it a good shot, and hopefully learned something he can use in the years to come. These may not be the Royals of the '70s, but at least they're not the Royals of the '90s any more. For me, it's a pleasure to see one old foe get back into baseball, although a cynic might be right if he or she suggested that it's because I look forward to getting around to hating them again.
Optioned LHP Victor Alvarez to Las Vegas; activated LHP Kazuhiro Ishii from the 15-day DL. [8/30]
Recalled RHP Masao Kida, C-B Koyie Hill, and 2B-L Joe Thurston and purchased the contract of OF-R Chad Hermansen from Las Vegas; designated LHP Scott Mullen and 1B-L Larry Barnes for assignment. [9/2]
Traded RHP David Lee to the Indians for OF-B Alex Requena. [9/6]
Recalled RHP Alfredo Gonzalez from Las Vegas, and placed him on the 60-day DL (shoulder); purchased the contract of RHP Edwin Jackson from Jacksonville (Double-A). [9/8]
Acquired RHP Mike Crudale from the Cardinals as one of the two PTBNLs in the DeJean trade. [8/27]
Recalled OF-L Pete Zoccolillo from Indianapolis. [9/5]
Acquired RHP John Novinsky from the Cardinals as one of the PsTBNL in the DeJean trade. [9/10]
Recalled 2B-R Rickie Weeks from Beloit (A-ball). [9/12]
Activated RHP Ruben Quevedo from the 15-day DL. [9/19]
The big news in what has been a season of less than big news is the arrival of Baseball America's College Player of the Year, Rickie Weeks. His receipt of a five-year big league contract in August was big enough news at the time, so his clock was already ticking. I don't want to make it sound like a bad thing: the terms the Brewers reached with Weeks were actually a pretty creative financing solution, with the challenge really being to see if Weeks will be ready to stick by 2007. After setting a few hitting records in college, Weeks continued to hit well in the Midwest League, so it isn't like he seems to have had trouble adjusting to wood. While he hit for power in college, and everyone can hit for some power in Miller Park, power isn't the core element of his game, so his ready adjustment in low A-ball can nevertheless be taken as a positive sign. While I don't really see any reason to believe he'll be ready right now, seeing him get to the majors before the end of next season is pretty believable. While Bill Hall is the near-term future at shortstop, the Brewers can look forward to some sort of combination involving J.J. Hardy and Weeks as well, giving the organization a surprising and happy bit of depth for a team that had to resort to signing Royce Clayton not so very long ago.
Activated OF-L Lew Ford from the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Brad Thomas, OF-R Michael Restovich, INF-R Alex Prieto and 1B-L Justin Morneau from Rochester. [9/2]
Activated RHP Rick Reed from the 15-day DL. [9/7]
Activated LHP Eric Milton from the 60-day DL. [9/14]
Traded 1B-L Todd Sears to the Padres for SS-B Alex Garcia. [9/9]
Foully done, if you ask me. I know some people still remember Jesse Orosco when he had value, but that time is not now. Placing him on the Twins, a probable first-round playoff opponent, really strikes me as a Trojan horse move. Orosco's done, and now you get to make sure you'll face him? J.C. Romero has been dramatically more successful in the situational lefty role, so it isn't even like the Twins needed a second lefty behind closer Eddie Guardado. You might consider it defensible if you were worried about Guardado or Romero breaking down, but coughing up Todd Sears for a notional bit of insurance, while defensible, isn't inexpensive.
Other interesting news? Well, Rick Reed might be back, but not in the rotation, so the Twins might turn out to be a bit more difficult a postseason opponent than you might have expected two months ago. Reed and Mays have been moved out of the way, Eric Milton has looked good in a couple of starts, Brad Radke's been outstanding in September, Kyle Lohse seems to have gotten over his midseason blahs, and Johan Santana has turned into the staff ace people have been hoping for since last summer. As a result, the Twins' rotation isn't nearly the weak spot it once was. They're still not going to catch any breaks if they have to open the postseason against the Yankees, but at least now it looks like a fun series.
Purchased the contract of RHP Chad Cordero from Brevard County (A-ball); optioned RHP Roy Corcoran to Edmonton; transferred 3B-R Fernando Tatis from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/30]
Activated LHP Scott Stewart from the 15-day DL. [9/1]
Signed RHP Jose Mercedes; designated LHP Scott Downs for assignment. [9/2]
Activated RHP Claudio Vargas from the 15-day DL. [9/15]
Claimed LHP Felix Heredia off of waivers from the Reds. [8/25]
Placed OF-L David Dellucci on the 15-day DL; recalled Weaver from Tampa. [8/28]
Recalled 1B-B Fernando Seguignol and RHP Jorge DePaula from Columbus. [9/3]
Recalled 3B-R Drew Henson from Columbus. [9/5]
There's good news here, but perhaps not exactly where you expect. No, it isn't the arrival of the Drew "I am not a Booty" Henson, or the return of Luis Sojo, since these are the excesses of a team devoted to its idiosyncrasies almost as much as it is to its own success. No, the happy choices here are things like getting Jesse Orosco out of their system, nabbing Felix Heredia on waivers, and getting to activate Gabe White. It bears repeating that the Yankees bullpen is pretty vincible these days, and stocking it with fading situational artists like Orosco (or even Jeff Nelson) really won't turn out to be all that helpful, no matter how comfortable Joe Torre may or may not be with rusty precision tools. Instead, in getting Heredia and White, the Yankees have a couple of somebodies with plain old talent and the ability to complete innings. Given the relative shallowness of the team's pen, they're going to need that.
The other semi-cool move is bringing up Fernando Seguignol, who in a happier world would get taken a little more seriously. No Sean Casey he, Seguignol had another thumping season in Columbus, pasting pitches to the tune of .341/.401/.624, the best offensive season of anybody in the International League. My enthusiasm for him aside, Seguignol's already 28, so I wouldn't call him a hidden gem as much as somebody who, for want of an alternative, you could stick into the slot.
Optioned OF-L Prentice Redman to Norfolk; recalled RHP Jason Anderson from Norfolk. [8/28]
Placed SS-B Jose Reyes on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 9/1. [9/5]
Purchased the contracts of OF-L Matt Watson and Roster Tchotchke Mike Glavine from Norfolk; transferred SS-B Jose Reyes to the 60-day DL; designated RHP Jason Roach for assignment. [9/12]
I guess sorrow is the only note to strike in these circumstances. With the injury to Jose Reyes, the Metsies lose one of the core reasons, not merely for watching or providing a legitimate bit of entertainment, but very nearly the only reason for them to be interested in playing the games. And in calling up Mike Glavine, they're only highlighting the extent to which they decided to treat the remainder of their season not as something meaningful, but as a mockery, played out for the amusement of a few of the particulars. Is it supposed to warm anyone's heart that Tom Glavine gets to play with his brother, when his brother may not have really earned the right to play in the majors? I guess if there are happy notes to strike, it's that minor league veteran Orber Moreno earned his call-up after a nifty year in the Tides' pen. There's some hope that Danny Garcia might turn into something, but after a partial season at Norfolk where he hit .263/.313/.369, drawing only 21 unintentional walks in 427 PA, it doesn't look like he's really ready to make a claim to be Reyes' keystone partner in 2004.
Signed RHP Steve Sparks and assigned him to Midland (Double-A). [8/30]
Purchased the contract of SS-R Bobby Crosby from Sacramento; optioned RHP Mike Wood to Midland (Double-A). [8/31]
Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Sparks from Midland (Double-A); activated RF-R Jermaine Dye from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
Recalled 2B-L Esteban German, UT-L Jason Grabowski, C-L Mark Johnson and RHP Jeremy Fikac from Sacramento; purchased the contracts of OF-R Mike Edwards and 1B-L Graham Koonce from Sacramento; transferred LHP Micah Bowie to the 60-day DL; designated RHP Roy Smith for assignment. [9/14]
The big news isn't the arrival of the PCL champs as much as it's getting Jermaine Dye back, only to see Jose Guillen disappear, and to bring up Bobby Crosby, the organization's shortstop of the near future. Dye has hit well enough to call September his best month, but not well enough to give the team one fixed quality in their burgeoning college of outfielders. Crosby, by way of contrast, hit well enough in Sacramento (.308/.395/.544) to make you think he could step in next year, either to play second if somehow Miguel Tejada sticks around, or short if Tejada wanders off to become an Angel or whatever. Given the team's outfield options, frankly, he hit well enough to tempt a La Russa to make him an outfield answer in the here and now, sort of like he did with Kurt Abbott to Mike Bordick's benefit back in the day.
A move that's easy to overlook among all of this was nabbing Steve Sparks after his release from the Tigers. This isn't to claim that Sparks is about to go Charlie Hough on us. Instead, it's something much more simple: innings. As a knuckleballer and as an experienced mop-up man, the one thing you can count on Sparks to do handily is absorb innings when asked. Given this team's relatively shallow pen and limited set of options on the active roster, it's pretty handy to have a guy like Sparks to do the old-fashioned duty of finishing blow-out wins or blow-out losses, and basically save the pen's more important assets for more important situations.
Meanwhile, here they are, folks, your PCL champion River Cats. Or at least some of them. As a former Sacramentan, I guess I should feel boundless pride, similar to those heady days when David Archer was quarterbacking the Sacramento Surge, or when somebody or another won the Pig Bowl. Indeed, these were heady things, achievements great and bold, the stuff of which my old hometown could be proud, a pride I ended up sharing, even if I remained unwilling to ever move back. I guess from my point of view, you may not be able to go home again, but you can always read about it. So in the meantime, the heroes of what was once referred to as America's political pigsty (back in the exciting early days of Reagan's stint as governor, no less) can roll into Oakland, the there-less there, with a year's goodness under their belts. It was an interesting team offensively, arguably a much better illustration of the organization's philosophy than the parent club. There were plenty of walking men for sluggers like Koonce or Crosby to drive in, German and Johnson among them. Yes, sucker I may be for still thinking there's reason to think Mark Johnson and Esteban German have value, long after many statheads have given up, but people who get on base still deserve a break today, long after it's gotten to be retro-cool to go ga-ga over Bo Hart or somebody.
Placed RHP Mike Williams on the bereavement list; purchased the contract of RHPs Geoff Geary and Brandon Duckworth from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; placed RHP Terry Adams on the 15-day DL (strained oblique). [8/27]
Activated RHP Mike Williams from the bereavement list; designated PH-L Tyler Houston for assignment; recalled INF-B Nick Punto from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; optioned RHP Geoff Geary to Clearwater (A-ball). [8/30]
Recalled RHP Geoff Geary from Clearwater (A-ball). [9/1]
Acquired LHP Valerio De Los Santos from the Brewers for a PTBNL or cash; recalled RHPs Josh Hancock and Ryan Madson and purchased the contract of 3B-R Travis Chapman from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; transferred RHP David Coggin from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/2]
Recalled SS-B Anderson Machado from Reading (Double-A). [9/9]
Activated RHP Terry Adams from the 15-day DL. [9/11]
Most of this is relatively minor stuff, with two notable exceptions. First, there's the hullabaloo about Tyler Houston turning out to be a clubhouse Bolshevik, bitching and moaning to the point that he bitched and moaned his way off of the roster for his troubles. Some people treated this as a classic confrontation between wacky Larry Bowa spouting his usual torrents of flame on the one hand, and the sensible clubhouse grognards finally saying they've had enough. As morality plays, it makes for nicely scripted drama, especially with Bowa making for an easy heavy. Unfortunately, life isn't as simple as the sports pages might have you believe. I'm not here to praise Larry Bowa, or bury him. I'm here to say we can probably set this aside, because Houston is one of the game's more notorious self-impressed kvetch artists. Not that there's wrong with that, since self-confidence is something you'd expect to find among a certain segment of professional athletes, but it's definitely a strange day when Houston gets to play victim in a clubhouse conflict it seems he may well have exacerbated. Again, I'm not really a fan of either protagonist in this situation, but I'm glad to see Wade do what he had to do, rather than undermine his manager coming down the stretch. The question isn't whether Bowa is a good, great, bad, or indifferent manager. For the time being, he's the manager, and Wade getting all noodly in this situation would have been unacceptable. The right thing has been done.
The other moves were minor pick-ups, one sensible, and one a little less explicable. On the good side of things, there was the decision to bring in Kelly Stinnett as a potential third catcher. This isn't an indictment of anything Mike Lieberthal or Todd Pratt have done, although questions about Lieberthal's defense since his hip problems deserve to be asked. No, the key is that the Phillies won't have to rely on some catch-and-throw type if anything happens to either of the first two choices, and considering that both Lieberthal and Pratt have endured major injuries during the course of their careers, it boils down to a sensible precaution. It won't win the Phillies the pennant or even necessarily get them to the playoffs, but it's a far sight better than dredging up the likes of Alberto Castillo or Joe Girardi to fulfill the standard third catcher tokenism that gets swapped like a playground cold these days. A little more questionable was the need to bring in Valerio De Los Santos. While I've thought that De Los Santos could someday be something, is he really who you go out and get right now, when every inning and every game is critical? That's either a brilliant bit of confidence in your organization's scouting acumen, or a desperate bit of roster stuffing, to haul in a third lefty behind Dan Plesac and Rheal Cormier. Either way, it's not a particularly good move as much as it's one that does just what it looks like, which is add a veteran lefty arm.
Acquired LHP Oliver Perez, OF-L Jason Bay and a PTBNL from the Padres for OF-L Brian Giles. [8/26]
Designated RHP Pat Mahomes for assignment. [8/27]
The question isn't whether or not Dave Littlefield didn't do what Dave Dombrowski did a better job of in a similarly impossible situation. He didn't. He might have done better than a couple of different Randy Smith spins o' the wheel, but so could Stunt Chimp. The real question is whether or not we can forgive Littlefield this early failure. Handed a tough situation, Littlefield is like Philip Kerr's private investigator, Bernie Gunther, trying to do right in the face of crime within a criminal state. Littlefield can't make the Pirates sound on his own. He's inherited a shabby situation from his predecessor, and he's hobbled by a suddenly disinterested potentate. It's a lousy deck from which to deal.
That said, clearly, on the surface, Dave Littlefield blew it, not getting an awful lot for his best chit. What's a little more mystifying are the howls of outrage, as if the Giles deal could have been prevented by the overwhelming projection of a communal sense of anguish. But given that he's effectively dealing with the business end of a Huizinganator pointed at the back of his head, what he produced was a pretty sorry compromise. He didn't flip Jason Kendall's contract, so he didn't really fulfill his charge to help the bottom line, and he didn't get much back in return for Giles, so he didn't significantly help the Pirates into the future. While there shouldn't be any tears over the breaking up of a Pirates team that sees getting into the 70-win range as a victory, looking forward, this was a pretty bitter disappointment.
Sold INF-B Wilson Delgado to the Angels. [8/31]
Recalled RHP Josh Pearce from Memphis. [9/2]
Activated LHP Lance Painter from the 15-day DL. [9/9]
Given Tony La Russa's latest conspiracy theories and highly publicized sense of self-pity, and for all of the roster micro-management to tweak their postseason roster (Russ Springer?), I can't say I'm particularly sympathetic. After all, some of this is just plain old good news. Getting J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero back puts the Cardinals back at full strength in terms of having all of their offensive linchpins available at once, although Marrero seems rusty. It does give the Cards the added in-game benefit of having Orlando Palmeiro on the bench for double-switches and pinch-hitting, a situation that LaRussa generally likes to exploit. Plus, while Fernando Vina may not the useful mite he used to be, the wind went out of Bo Hart's sails weeks ago (Hart's hit .225/.268/.335 since the All-Star break). This is about as good as the Cardinals can get, so in the high-stakes midget wrestling championship that is the NL Central, they're as solid as they're ever going to be.
Traded OF-R Rondell White to the Royals for LHP Chris Tierney and RHP Brian Sanches; acquired OF-L Brian Giles from the Pirates for LHP Oliver Perez, OF-L Jason Bay, and a PTBNL; recalled RHP Ben Howard from Portland. [8/26]
Traded INF-R Lou Merloni to the Red Sox for RHP Rene Miniel. [8/28]
Activated RHP Trevor Hoffman from the 60-day DL; recalled LHP Mike Bynum and OF-R Xavier Nady and purchased the contract of SS-R Khalil Greene from Portland; purchased the contract of C-R Humberto Quintero from Mobile (Double-A). [9/2]
Purchased the contract of RHP Brandon Villafuerte from Portland. [9/3]
Acquired 1B-L Todd Sears from the Twins for SS-R Alex Garcia. [9/9]
When you're the Pads and your major objective is to keep an eye on 2004, this might have been their best stretch of the season, not because of what happened on the field as much as what they spent their time doing off of it. And no, as much as I tend to favor prospects, I'm not talking about what they got for Rondell, or Lou Merloni, or the return of Brandon Villafuerte. No, that Kevin Towers managed to exploit the Pirates' financial situation to get Brian Giles without having to add Jason Kendall, and did it so cheaply in terms of talent, is one of the season's best heists. I'm sure that, like John Schuerholz's decision to dump Kevin Millwood, someone will try to make excuses for what Dave Littlefield was doing and why, but if this was the best the Padres could do, he needed to spend less time on the phone calling numbers with 858 or 619 prefixes, and broaden his horizons a bit. It's a great pickup for the price, but there's an important cautionary note or two to take note of. What they got isn't necessarily what they'll get. Giles has been an outstanding hitter, but his power numbers have dipped, and he will be 33 years old next year, a risky age for a veteran player. But as the offensive centerpiece of a lineup that will have Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin in power roles, that's a good group. Indeed, with power like that handy, Xavier Nady will have to scramble after playing time. The infield is equally well-stocked infield with Sean Burroughs, Ramon Vazquez, and Mark Loretta already in place, and Khalil Greene apparently ready to step in at short, or nearly so. If Towers goes to the winter meetings in a dealing frame of mind, he has the lineup depth to do so. However, if he decides to stand pat, and go with their top nine hitters to cover the seven non-catching slots in the lineup, that's the sort of depth that will allow them to survive something like this year's injury to Phil Nevin, for instance.
Elsewhere, they did get live arms for Rondell and even Lou Merloni. Rene Miniel and Brian Sanches were a bit overvalued a couple of years ago--even for "short" righthanders--but they weren't epically ineffective this year, and both have decent velocity. Tierney's been pretty highly rated, as a hard-throwing lefty always tends to be, but he struggled in Wilmington this year. Given the Pads' organizational need for arms of every stripe, it makes some sense to Towers and company to hit the bushes with a sack in exchange for cashing in bit veterans on the short end of their rentals. And I like getting Todd Sears, not that I expect him to be a star, but if the Pads play him as one of their top pinch-hitters and also as a defensive sub for Klesko at first, he might make people forget Dave Bergman. Well, somewhere.
Placed C-R Yorvit Torrealba on the bereavement list; activated C-R Alberto Castillo from the 15-day DL. [8/27]
Activated C-R Yorvit Torrealba from the bereavement list; optioned RHP Kevin Correia to Phoenix. [8/31]
Activated 1B-L J.T. Snow, 2B-B Ray Durham, and OF-L Marvin Benard from the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Chad Zerbe and purchased the contract of LHP Noah Lowry from Fresno; designated 1B/OF-L Francisco Santos for assignment. [9/1]
Activated RHP Dustin Hermanson from the 15-day DL. [9/9]
Some pretty standard stuff for the stretch, like making it clear they've got three catchers for October, although heaven help them if they have to use Alberto Castillo for anything in-game. Among this group, if there's a strange promotion, it's Noah Lowry, a top pick out of Pepperdine in 2000 who flopped in his first season above A-ball this year, giving up over five runs per nine in the Eastern League. But he's supposed to have a great assortment, and the Giants aren't the most performance metric-sensitive club out there, so if they feel they have to see something, it's their business to look. It isn't like they won't carry him on the 40-man this winter. Like a lot of the organization's best-regarded prospects--Lance Niekro or Tony Torcato being no exceptions--Lowry's toolsy, and he hasn't delivered a lot of results. You'll notice the Giants don't end up relying too heavily on their homegrown position players, not when their best homegrown hitters are Yorvit Torrealba and Pedro Feliz.
Recalled PR-B Luis Ugueto from San Antonio (Double-A). [9/15]
You can blame it on Pat Gillick, Sony executives, a general sense of organizational indifference or whatever, but I guess the Pacific Northwest could take it for granted that these were your Seattle Mariners. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of good stuff here, but certainly, relative to the smoldering memories of a 116-win season, it falls short of happiness. Nevertheless, guys like Putz and Looper will be challenging for jobs on the bottom halves of staffs for the next few years. Jamal Strong's fought off a year marred by a dislocated shoulder to post another nice season in his development as a leadoff option, hitting .305/.390/.371. He can run and reach base, but with his weak arm and questionable glovework in center, you can wonder if he's in Rudy Law territory, useful in the right circumstances on a team that needs OBP and doesn't need a center fielder to cover everything from gap to gap, but a problem on a team that might need something more than that. Given the enormous difference between their stars and everyone else in terms of productivity in this lineup, I can imagine Strong being useful, but the problem is that if he's seen as a significant part of what might absorb Mike Cameron's playing time if Cameron leaves this winter, without an upgrade somewhere else in the lineup, well, that's a problem.
Recalled RHP Doug Waechter from Durham; optioned OF-L Jason Tyner to Durham. [8/25]
Recalled C-L Pete LaForest from Durham; activated UT-R Terry Shumpert from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
Recalled LHP Jon Switzer and purchased the contract of OF-R Jonny Gomes from Durham; released LHP Jim Parque. [9/12]
The Rays are finally getting around to the business of turning to people who might be 2004 Devil Fishies, starting with Doug Waechter, Jon Switzer, and Pete LaForest. LaForest was hoped to be an earlier arrival in 2003, but visa problems (with Canada? Didn't the Maritime Provinces ask to be annexed a few years ago? You'd think the economic benefits of North American Anschluss would be clear enough, but if you've ever dealt with Canadian Customs, officiousness seems to be a national pastime) held him back, so he's here, ready, lefty, and having done some good mashing. Toby Hall didn't exactly rise up to those Brian Harper comparisons this year (again), so there's clearly an opportunity for LaForest to claim part of the job.
Over on the rotational side of things, Switzer and Waechter might both get looks with an eye towards next year's rotation. As further proof pitchers can come from all points within the woodwork, Switzer's the polished top college pick out of Arizona State, with the command and stuff to succeed now, while Switzer's a high school workhorse and local product. Given his youth and how quickly he's been pushed up through the chain (this was his first full year above A-ball), it's easy to worry and wonder about Switzer's future, but keep in mind, it isn't like he's pitched 30 starts or 200 innings, and it looks like he'll stick from here on out, so I wouldn't really gripe at the Rays. His pitch counts in September haven't been obnoxiously high, so it isn't quite like Dusty going to the whip in Wrigley.
Another interesting call-up is Jonny Gomes, the younger yet more advanced of the Gomes brothers in the organization. This year was going to be his chance to prove that he wasn't just another California League slugger bound to struggle in the larger ballparks and better competition in Double-A, and he rose to the challenge, hitting .249/.348/.441 in Orlando at 22. He's patient and has a bit of pop, yet the organization seems to like him despite his un-Tyneresque qualities at the plate. He's not ready or particularly close, but it's nice to see that the Rays are taking him seriously.
Speaking of the man, to return to the permanently interesting subject of the Jason Tyner bobblehead dolls from 2002 that never were distributed, do those get pulped or melted down or what? Dumped on the Dominican Republic for winter league giveaways? Recycled as part of an artificial coral reef? I'm sure the collector's market is desperate to find out their fate, or if those artifacts are simply collecting dust in the same vaults as Susan B. Anthony dollars or John Dillinger's dingus or whatever. I mean, from the franchise that gave us the Jim Morris farce, it's only appropriate that we continue to follow this desperately unimportant human interest story.
Purchased the contract of RHP Mickey Callaway from Oklahoma; optioned RHP Rosman Garcia to Oklahoma. [8/30]
Purchased the contract of OF-R Ryan Christenson from Oklahoma; optioned OF-B Ramon Nivar to Frisco (Double-A). [8/31]
Recalled RHPs Ryan Drese and Reynaldo Garcia from Oklahoma. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Rosman Garcia and C-R Gerald Laird from Oklahoma; transferred RHP Chan Ho Park from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/2]
Transferred OF-R Juan Gonzalez from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of LHP Tony Mounce from Oklahoma. [9/8]
Recalled RHP Juan Dominguez from Frisco (Double-A). [9/10]
It's a strange thing to see the Rangers decide that a bad introduction to the majors isn't going to do Ramon Nivar any more good, while they remain convinced of the need to allow Juan Dominguez further opportunities to see his developmental off-speed stuff get pasted. I'm sure that, should they think of it, they could mention something about hobgoblins and consistency and whatever else it was that was supposed to annoy Nikola Tesla. However, it's not entirely without method, since, having called him up prematurely already, they're simply trying to avoid burning an option by recalling him. Theoretically, he's supposed to get a benefit from working with Orel Hershiser on his breaking pitches, and he's been used sporadically to let him see how well he can apply his lessons, but it's an odd roster management choice forced by the even more odd decision to prematurely promote him, which was introduced with the claim, even then, that he needed to work on his breaking stuff, and needed to do that work in the majors.
Otherwise, the Rangers got to people their roster with the dregs and the near-ready, hauling up Ryan Drese and the drubbable Garcias and Tony Mounce and Jermaine Clark and Ryan Christenson, almost all due to become free agents, and almost all guaranteed to be scattered to the winds.
Activated RHP Cory Lidle from the 15-day DL. [8/25]
It remains a shame of sorts to have seen Howie Clark spend another season getting yo-yo'd between the majors and the International League. He's been ready for years, and how many utility men hit well, hit lefty, and can play five positions? Still, getting yo-yo'd means at least you got to the party, and for far too long, Clark wasn't even getting that much benefit of the doubt. We can't really call him a poor man's Andy Fox; their skill sets are different offensively, and Clark's better at the ones that score runs.
Elsewhere, the call-ups were something new, something old, and something borrowed. Vinny Chulk is one of the organization's more highly regarded upper-level arms, but he hasn't been a huge success in his first full season at Triple-A, allowing 5.3 runs per nine as a rotation regular, so it's not like he's on the cusp of a rotation spot next spring. Brian Bowles isn't having the same sort of control issues that have blighted his previous attempts to crack the team's pen and push past the various retreads the Jays have had to review this summer, but for him, this might represent a last chance in the organization. Lastly, Dan Reichert is a recycling project brought in after he was cut loose by the Devil Rays. Converted to a full-time relief role, he still hasn't shown the sort of control that might make him an effective bullpen option, so the last few weeks really represent his last chance to stick on a 40-man roster this winter.