June 4, 2004
May 27-June 2, 2004
Signed OF-L Curtis Pride to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Salt Lake. [5/30]
Something's fishy in Denmark, and it isn't the haddocks. This is probably the most dubious case of whinery aimed at getting off of a bad team and onto a good one since Tony Fernandez funked his way into being dealt from the Mets to the Blue Jays in 1993. Or is the all-consuming lawsuit that had made the Buffalo roam home in the first place suddenly not such a big deal anymore? To call this bogus would be an insult to the word itself.
I guess the happy news for those interested in justice is that the Angels get to play Mondesi, in center field no less. Since he's not the power source he once was, handicaps his team with his basepath exploits, and wasn't exactly a great outfielder any more in the first place, plopping him into center should yield some ugly moments. His modest offensive contributions aren't really bad news, since Jeff DaVanon and Chone Figgins won't have to sit to let him play. For now, which is where Mondesi can become a problem before the end of the month. Tim Salmon's expected back sometime, and when he's here, who sits? DaVanon? Mondesi won't be outhitting him. Salmon? Jose Guillen? Vlad? Will somebody volunteer to play some first base, chasing Casey Kotchman to the minors, but Darin Erstad isn't supposed to be too far behind Salmon on the rehab circuit. So Mondesi, as fickle a veteran as any of Homer's heroes, ought to be headed for the bench a few short weeks after his return, at which point he might start talking about how termites or Jehovah's Witnesses or black helicopters won't leave his family alone, and who needs this gig, anyway? Unless of course the Angels want to field a worse lineup, and bench some non-Erstad to keep Mondesi happy.
Placed OF-L Jay Gibbons on the 15-day DL (back spasms). [6/2]
Optioned Rauch back to Charlotte; purchased the contract of INF-R Kelly Dransfeldt from Charlotte. [5/31]
In any relationship, we experience bumps. Or spats. Sometimes, we even reach out-and-out ruptures. But if we're really unlucky, or living a little larger than we should, any one of us can achieve the ultimate climactic moment of theatrical kiss-offery: clothes raining down out of the window, the front door locked and the locks changed, and the car calling to take you places unknown. Sure, it's probably just going to schlep you over to a seedy motel, but maybe it's the path to new opportunity.
Having driven off after an ugly start, drawing Kenny Williams's ire, Rauch can hopefully be appropriately philosophical, because Williams is about one fit short of calling the cops and asking for a restraining order to prevent from having to ever see Rauch ever again. And why not? The courts will let Kenny keep everything, the uniform, the roster spot, Rauch's dignity. And Williams doesn't much care where Rauch winds up, which is usually a sign that you may have to expect the damnation implicit in a deal with the Devil (Rays), or perhaps the Expos.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the tantrums that have been thrown, the Sox still need to sort out what to do about their fifth starter's slot. It would probably help if they didn't change their minds every other week.
Until the Indians sort out some questions about instruction in their minor leagues, and hopefully get someone like Jeremy Guthrie back on track, they're going to have to settle for cycling through middle-aged journeyman hopefuls. There isn't really a mouse snout's worth of difference between what Dawley or Durbin have to offer, beyond the hope that one of them has a good run and goes all Tanyon Sturtze on you or something.
Although Joe Sheehan has it right, in that the Brewers are this year's surprise fun--a silly sort of team, an entertaining collection of talent--I'm starting to feel that way about the Tigers. No, they're not good, but happily, they're not awful, and if they're not exactly the building blocks of a good team…well, again, it's not like they're awful. Sure, it would be nice if Carlos Pena started hitting, but Omar Infante and even Brad "The Angry" Inge have been godsends off of the bench, and Carlos Guillen has been as tremendous an addition as Pudge. Heck, Bobby Higginson and Alex Sanchez have even been impersonating useful ballplayers of late. Getting Dmitri Young will help add to the fun, pushing Craig Monroe back into a bench role he's better off in.
The capacity to spite oneself, to act in a way that is inimical to your interests, is that a solely human quality? And if it is, is there an art to it? Is it an area for competition? Can it become a competitive sport, or is it one of those things like figure skating, where there aren't standards, just broadly defined aesthetics and crooked judges? You have to ask yourself these sorts of questions because the Twins force you to. They aren't winning the division, and they've done nothing to leverage their considerable collection of talent into the team that should do more than merely win this division. Morneau has nothing left to prove in the minors, and after a nice couple of weeks with the Twins, there's very little reason to think he wouldn't be an upgrade on Doug Mientkiewicz in the lineup.
Rather than address Morneau's arrival as something more than a distraction, they're ignoring their problems. They're a team that needs a better fourth starter than Kyle Lohse or Seth Greisinger, and a team that should know better than to pretend Joe Mays will fix the rotation. They need a shortstop or a second baseman who can contribute offensively, more than the slappery they've gotten used to from the Rivas-Guzman tag-team of the At-Bats of Doom, where big innings go to die. But they're not going to do any of those things, not until the last possible moment, because they haven't even identified the existence of a problem. They're valuing Minky on his best season, not what they should reasonably expect from him, and they've talked themselves into a relative ranking within the organization where you can't have Morneau and Matt LeCroy and Joe Mauer in the same lineup. If Mauer's healthy, LeCroy DHs, and Morneau gets enough seasoning to develop a paprika rash.
And the White Sox get first place. At least for now.
Can you be moribund and evil at once? OK, yes, obviously, the Iron Curtain did come down in our lifetimes after all. I just didn't remember seeing Comrade General Manager Bavasi watching the procession of wasted resources go goose-stepping by in Red Square, but silly me, where else would he have been? Signing Christensen almost eliminates any sort of happiness that might be derived from the organization finally recognizing the obvious and accepting that QMcC isn't a worthwhile fourth outfielder anywhere, but especially on a team that needs a good fourth outfielder. I guess there's always some hope that Christensen will join the serried ranks of burned-out arms the organization busted all on their own, but guys like Ryan Anderson were without sin, while Christensen is far less sympathetically without a sense of guilt.
This went pretty much as expected, including the part of the program where Dominguez gave up scads of baserunners and got beat. After he gets shellacked by the Yankees, you can probably expect the Rangers to start checking up on Ricardo Rodriguez's rehab work in the minors. As is, the rotation is in a world of hurt. R.A. Dickey has gone from human-interest story to a flavor of the month as forgettable as Ken Schrom or Mike Smithson, and Ryan Drese is still poking along. Joaquin Benoit still hasn't gotten his career pointed in a direction you'd like it to head. So the Rangers are asking themselves the question they always have to ask: it's June, and they don't know where their rotation is. I mean, they knew it was here somewhere, but it gets into the darnedest places.
Apparently you can go home again. And again. And help promote Devil Rays Speedo Giveaway Day at the ballpark while you're at it. Is there anything gained by a return to playing recordball? I guess if the D-Rays had dignity in the first place, they wouldn't have to ask themselves the question, but contributing to McGriff's drunken-sailor stumble towards 500 home runs is about as odious as the lack of opprobrium surrounding Bob Novak's collaboration in an act of treason. OK, it isn't quite that odious, but these Devil Rays, they do upset me so.
The next few months seem to only hold some smattering of promise in terms of enhancing that general sense of disappointment in this year's team. A lot of us howled at the moon, thinking this was the year the Jays would break up the Big Apple-Boston stranglehold on the top two spots in the AL East, and that isn't going to happen. So we're left with little amusements and petty disappointments. Alex Rios will hopefully learn something, Howie Clark might finally get to be some sort of strange outfieldy knockoff on Keith Lockhart when he isn't playing some second base, and they don't get to see if Orlando Hudson was on the cusp of stardom, not yet, at any rate. We can take some modest wishcasting to the table in hoping that Clark or Towers earn their keep, but these are little victories, and set against the disappointment generated by premature or exaggerated expectations, they're not all that fulfilling.
Rescinded the option of RHP Brian Bruney and placed him on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation). [5/29]
Placed INF-B Matt Kata on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder); purchased the contract of UT-R Tim Olson from Tucson. [5/30]
Recalled LHP Shane Nance from Tucson; optioned RHP Casey Daigle to Tucson. [6/1]
Consider this the organization's further rewards for their lack of vision, as they endure fate's caprices with the older ballplayer, as well as the unsteady moltings of NextGen Snakelings. It's always interesting to see where Scott Service turns up next, but his resurfacing in Phoenix again resembles one of those unhappy stories about the once-beached porpoise that gets saved, only to beach itself again. Sometimes, you just need to take it as a matter of special talent, where I mean special as in a quality of a species. I mean, even tapirs know which one has been in the zoo too long, right?
This isn't all bad news, though. Nance is supposed to be fully healthy, which means that he should give Arizona a lefty capable of doing good work in either a situational or a plain old relief role. And if he turns out to be worth something, that's very good news, since it'll mean they won't need to crack a crypt and haul out Mike Myers again.
What's troubling is that they aren't really in a position to make calls on some of the little Snakes, and now that they're breaking down, they may not know what to do once they're healthy again. They should not get overly frustrated with Bruney already, for example. Heck, a few good things happen, and maybe they can pay back the universe at large for ever having to take on Matt Mantei, and either get just a good homegrown reliever for their troubles, or perhaps goodies from a less-worldly Mantei-obsessed front office doofus. The more basic problem is if they continue to overrate Kata. As was, he was merely the temp filling in for an injured Robby Alomar, but if they go back to Kata as a regular at some point, it would be a mistake or the result of other people's setbacks. Scott Hairston will get plenty of at-bats, but there's still the question of whether or not he's really a second baseman, or a second baseman the way Ron Gant or Danny Tartabull were briefly second basemen. If Hairston needs moving, they might end up making the move because, "hey, long-term, we've got Matt Kata," which actually means, "hey, long-term, we're still looking for help at second."
Placed LHP Horacio Ramirez on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis); purchased the contract of RHP Travis Smith from Richmond. [5/30]
LaRoche will probably be well-served by time away; if he can get back to hitting during a rehab assignment, and put his ugly two-month start behind him. In the meantime, the Braves are talking about moving Chipper Jones to first, which wouldn't be the worst move if it meant he could limp through the season without hurting his hamstring any more badly. The problem is that this isn't a team with an unlimited number of patches; unlike the Twins, the Braves simply don't have many, and can't really reconfigure their offensive talent all that well to compensate for a major loss or two. The conceit that Mike Hampton can be fixed is still a problem, and having lost Ramirez, in Smith they're finding themselves forced to rely upon a retread of significantly more dubious provenance than Jaret Wright or John Thomson. The Marlins and Phillies aren't going to run away, so John Schuerholz's challenge is to stop standing pat, and actually think in terms of what can be done to win now. The alternative is that they could continue to rely on guys like Hessman and Smith, which I guess would be part of a 'lose-now' program.
On a certain level, it's impossible to get worked up about this. Kelton won't get to play any more than Jason Dubois has. The Cubs aren't sinewy in their ability to change with every problem, they're regular in that fibrous, Ralph Houk sort of way. They're short at short, so the solution? Rey Ordonez. I guess there's something admirable in a desire to not merely plod, but to achieve it, but to what end? It's a sad thing, since this is a better team than some of the earlier editions of MacPhail's almost-rans, but nobody in the division got their act together any sooner than the Cubs have, and with Prior due back now, maybe they'll get away with it.
Yow, so much for the Rookie of the Year talk for Wagner. It's stranger still, considering the team is off to the races while everyone else in the NL Central (OK, not the Brewers, they're just happy to be here) seem content to muddle along and watch. Valentine's a good arm as well, and if Wagner can get straightened out on the one hand, while Valentine earns his keep on the other, the Reds might near the trade deadline not needing nearly so many things to be able to take themselves seriously.
In other news, I'm hoping Lopez has a nice comeback. His injury last summer was gruesome, and while he's about as likely to replace King Tut as he is the equally deathless Barry Larkin, he's still
Remember, this is seen as progress. Miles comes back to re-fire his modest ambitions for regularity in the lineup, while Hawpe gets banished. The rationales? Well, they took a chance on Miles, and he's supposed to fix their need for a second baseman for months. They traded a starting shortstop for him and everything, donchaknow. Meanwhile, they've got Matt Holliday stumbling around in an outfield corner, doing plenty to summon up the not-so-good things we think of when we remember Fonzie Bichette, but like Miles, he's part of the present, now matter how much starch the road trips seem to take out of his performance.
Ouch. Ramon Castro may have been freed, but the only way to find him was to first follow the flames, and now the ambulances. Unhappily, Mike Redmond has also been injured, which conjures up the specter of Matt Treanor catching for a team in first place. Facts like that make it no wonder that I happen to take the Mets seriously in the division. And now that Beckett is having his dose of Ismael Valdes/Valdez/Valdesz (will that make him an honorary Hungarian?) Disease, they're going to have to get quickly comfortable with A.J. Burnett in games that matter and Tommy Phelps pressed into the rotation. So, how 'bout them Mets?
It's been easy to get lost in the afterglow of the Rocket's incandescent start, but let's remember, this team isn't winning the division they should be beating to a bloody pulp, particularly with the Cubs short Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and Sammy Sosa. But instead, they've got Pettitte looking like damaged goods, Jimy Williams outfoxing himself like a Sicilian playing a game of chance with at least his professional life on the line, and a team that seems uniquely talented at being a set of components whose sum adds up to less than the whole. Neat stuff about Clemens, though, right?
OK, I've been guilty of this before, but I'm developing, for me, an unusual acceptance that the Dodgers are really going to beat any problem down. Roberts isn't a great hitter to carry in left, but he's useful as a leadoff man, and you need one of those. Nomo's broken, but not irreparably, and if he isn't around to keep getting drubbed every fifth day, is that really a setback in his absence? Edwin Jackson did nicely in a brief spin, they have both Jose Lima and Wilson Alvarez to turn to, and even Jeff Weaver's doing well now and again. This is a team that has solutions to its problems, at least those not involving Milton Bradley.
Activated RHP Tony Armas Jr. from the 15-day DL; placed OF-B Carl Everett on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle); signed RHP/OF?-R Donnie Bridges to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Harrisburg (Double-A). [5/30]
In today's news, Nick Johnson and Tony Armas Jr. are healthy in the same week; 300,000 mounted archers conquered most of the Eurasian landmass; and Katherine the Great puts to rest rumors that she did anything other than die in bed.
These things really do happen once in awhile. Really. I guess the suspension of disbelief issues aren't hard to accept, coming as it does in conjunction with another Donnie Bridges comeback. Is April Fool's two months late?
Like I said in the Marlins comment, how 'bout them Mets? Jim Thome's health isn't guaranteed, and the Phillies are down Billy Wagner and a starting pitcher, any offense out of the middle infield or Marlon Byrd. Is Ed Wade going to be able to adapt on the fly? Or will he wait around? Will the failure to come anywhere close to the easy victory on paper the Phillies had going for them on Opening Day finally lead to the Bowa meltdown we're all waiting for? I know we're all secretly hoping for something to happen that will make us forget Lee Elia or Hal McRae, perhaps even Phillies fans. I mean, those people live for the payoffs of anger and disappointment, right?
Recalled LHP Sean Burnett from Nashville; optioned LHP Mike Gonzalez to Nashville. [5/30]
Wow, Simon's back, Daryle Ward earned his keep, and they seem committed to Craig Wilson, so what do the Bucs do? They do the glorious, running the all-thunderfoot lineup, putting Wilson and Ward in the outfield corners, pushing Jason Bay into center whenever they're not so misty-eyed on all things Mackowiak, and generally resembling a team that's taken an interest in scoring some runs. Okay, it is hard to say that while mentioning Simon in a positive light, but Chris Stynes is gathering splinters. How can we not be happy?
Optioned RHP Brian Sweeney to Portland; activated RHP Antonio Osuna from the 15-day DL. [5/31]
Much as I fret about the Rockies overcompensating for their environment, I'm becoming concerned that the Padres are letting the atmospherics of Petco distract them from the more basic responsibilities they have to keeping up with the Dodgers. I mean, they don't really expect to win anything with Terrence Long playing, do they? Ryan Klesko's low-wattage start aside, he was getting on base, and that's one more thing than Long will ever do, with the reasonable expectation of more than that. But I'm worried that the Padres, and perhaps Klesko himself, have overthought the park as a problem, when they should literally take a page from Crash Davis, take it one day at a time, and remember that Klesko's skills set is still the same. A two-week vacation and some time in the cage, and I'd like to think that they'll have a lefty slugger in the lineup to add to Brian Giles, but where the Dodgers seem to operate pretty well on the fly these days, I'm less confident of the Padres' ability to keep regrouping after every snag. I admit, it's a superficial thing, just a feeling, but one I have a hard time shaking whenever I see Kerry Robinson in uniform.