June 16, 2004
June 8-13, 2004
Placed RHP Aaron Sele on the 15-day DL (shoulder fatigue); recalled 1B-R Robb Quinlan from Salt Lake. [6/11]
The Angels' situation might seem difficult, but it's actually getting better. Take a look at who's being swapped in and swapped out of the lineup:
Pos Before After 1B Kotchman Erstad CF Mondesi Anderson DH DaVanon Salmon*
(* practically speaking; Vladi and Jose Guillen and Anderson have all gotten days off in the DH slot, with DaVanon getting outfield starts)
So, for one of those three events, they go from a promising young first baseman who wasn't hitting to a formerly promising old guy who won't, but that's really the only bad news. Kotchman can and will be forgiven the ignominy of introducing himself with an homage to the collected works of Billy Joe Robidoux, while Erstad will provide some more of that listless, overbred Anglo presence that can only help inspire even more demand for more fresh Latin blood. Nevertheless, losing Mondesi is little loss, especially when Anderson is supposed to be able to handle hitting again now that he's on arthritis meds.
Getting Salmon into the lineup at DH should also boost things a bit, but as anticipated, the problem really comes down to benching Jeff DaVanon to let Erstad do his thing. Like the airwaves, you can't count on the Angels to have the taste or the sense to get the bad stuff out of the way; Erstad's got a following, donchaknow. But where boy bands really do only have to measure their success on life's big financial scoreboard as a reflection of their viability, sports are a little more complicated. When a guy doesn't, hasn't, and won't help you win games, basically because big toothy grins just don't put runs on the board, it's time to send him to whatever perdition claimed Vanilla Ice (VH1, right?), and stay in the business of keeping up with the Beane-brained ballclub.
But that's one lineup slot out of nine. Unhappily enough, there's another potential problem with the loss of Aaron Sele. Although it presumably saves them from the embarrassing rumor of their interest in dealing Ramon Ortiz for Buddy Groom, it does force them into pushing Ortiz back into the rotation after a nice five or six weeks in the pen. If that's the case, his next two assignments would involve having to pitch in Pulped Fruit Beverage Ballpark against the Astros, and then in the fourth game of next week's four-game series against Oakland, not the easiest pair of assignments. You might wonder about alternatives, but Salt Lake's regular rotation has been a disaster from Chris Bootcheck on down, so the only real internal alternative is probably Eric Cyr, who was just bumped up to Triple-A after a good start to his season in Arkansas. (For the sake of argument, I guess Jake Woods is an option, but he just finished his second month above A-ball.) So the Angels should let it ride, and skip any of the offers. If Ortiz makes it back and rewards them, they'll be glad they didn't trade him, and if Sele really does come back in two weeks, they're back to having a nice problem, like worrying themselves sick over the planet-killing, Pedro-dwarfing crater that Bartolo Colon is busy burrowing for himself.
OK, now this pennant thingy can get going. Perhaps losing Nomar for a while was for the best, at least if you believe karma's going to go his way, and he'll be fine from here on out. In his absence, Mark Bellhorn got to establish himself as an everyday infielder. As a result, there really shouldn't be any debate about what to do with Pokey Reese, beyond spot-starting him at second on the Lowe days in the rotation. He certainly hasn't done more than hit well enough to prove that he's still just a utility infielder in starter's gear. On the other side of the infield, Kevin Youkilis is doing his part as well, so the only real question is why the Sox would expand their potential choices over who to ship off when Trot Nixon is activated later on this week, beyond Malaska or Anastacio Martinez or Cesar Crespo.
So, in a sense, getting Williamson back is better news, since he'll slip right into the team's front foursome in the pen. By contrast, Nomar's return could encourage the Sox to bench the wrong infielder, handicapping the extent of the good that it will do. Happily, there are plenty of bright bulbs in Boston, so mistakes won't linger for any length of time. Cheer up, Beantowners, you don't have the Gerbil or Johnny Mac or "Do" Little around anymore.
The Sandy Martinez? A Latin player so bad that even Omar Minaya gave up on him with seemly haste? Well, Victor Martinez is banged up, and Tim Laker couldn't scare a slug with a shaker full of salt nowadays, so I suppose these things happen. With Josh Bard still a way off from recovery, the organization's a bit short-handed in the catching depth department.
That isn't the only weak spot, unfortunately. The latest temp stuffed into the fifth starter's slot is Elarton, on the strength of a shutout at Buffalo...and two forgettable starts, and that whole other post-scragging portion of his career. I guess bringing up that he shut out a Charlotte lineup whose best hitter this season has been the deathless Bry Nelson would be gratuitous. So he got the call, and got drubbed. This latest rotation development has to be pretty annoying for the players on the team. Sure, the ChiSox have gotten more attention for their fifth slot woes, but they've helped to create some of their own problems, and they're still within reach of an Indians club that was only supposed to be happy to be here. If the White Sox and Twins want to spend the season screwing around, there's no reason the Indians should be a get-along, go-along ballclub. Hopefully, either Kyle Denney or Jeremy Guthrie will be ready for the call this year, because Jeff D'Amico will not be the answer, any more than Elarton is.
Optioned LHPJ.C. Romero to Rochester; recalled OF-R Michael Restovich from Rochester. [6/12]
Optioned RHP Seth Greisinger to Rochester. [6/13]
Wow, so I guess the moral of this story is that if you threaten someone with professional extinction, you might get something more out of them. Witness the banishment of Romero, so recently a critical cog, and the coincidence with Rivas' return and happy hitting. Anyway, 11 hits since being re-activated is almost a normal month for Rivas, let alone the product of four starts. So Michael Cuddyer will have to settle for slipping back into that utility role.
If the mismanagement of resources has been something of a multi-season leitmotiv for the organization, chalk up the latest screwup involving their fifth starter's slot as another sign on that road to accepted mediocrity. As much a figure of sympathy as he might be, Greisinger was not going to last, but rather than acknowledge that, the Twins lost Rick Helling rather than give him his job back, because they didn't want to recognize their mistaken impression that Greisinger had value for the conceit it was. That is, unless you want to let yourself believe that they wanted Matt Guerrier in the fifth slot all along, you're left with the image of a team that really isn't minding the store, not when they're so busy telling everyone about how they win games and stuff without all that mean-spirited hard-swearing Moneyball nonsense muddying up their thinking. I think we'd all be a lot more impressed if the Twins stopped jabbering about their way of doing things, and got around to embracing the wisdom of George Weiss, took aim at 100 wins, and built a team that's a perennially nasty playoff matchup, instead of settling for this 'little engine that could' shtick. That only takes you so far, and unlike Tonya Harding, baseball doesn't provide a Shawn Eckardt to try and provide ersatz happy endings.
Kenny Lofton doesn't seem to inspire a lot of sympathy at any time of the year, but right now, it's silly to have him sit so that the likes of Tony Clark or Ruben Sierra can keep getting more playing time. I can understand Lofton having to sit on the days that lefties pitch or when Giambi needs a day away from defensive responsibilities. I can understand not starting him in center for as long as the Yankees play the 'we don't acknowledge change over time' card with Bernie Williams as well as with Derek Jeter. But not a single start since being re-activated? I know, no one weeps for the Bombers, nor should we, but I hate to see obvious improvements go ignored. If Torre insists on not playing Lofton, better to get him to whatever team will.
As for Homer's fate, I suspect the qualifications for last man on the Yankees bench include such important responsibilities as knowing the difference between a beignet and a croissant. How then was Homer supposed to stick? This poet can't even read, let alone navigate a Starbucks, and we all know that repeating observations about the very human need to sulk in a tent at length is a lot easier than determining whatever it is that venti is supposed to mean.
I know it's sort of a rehash, but this is what guys like Allen are for: You can designate, outright, waive, release, fold, spindle, or mutilate them, and it isn't really going to alter your organization's fortunes one way or another. At any rate, with the Rangers' offense starting to fade, Mench's return couldn't come at a better time. Although you'd normally anticipate that he'd replace Eric Young in the outfield rotation, Laynce Nix's injury will keep Young in the lineup in center, with Mench and the Davry Mallucci Jr. platoon in the corners.
Kevin Cash may be back, but he's not going to be handed the keys to the car now that he's home. In his absence, Gregg Zaun has made me look the proper fool: when Jonah Keri huzzah'd his signing by the Expos this past winter, my derisive snort about Zaun's failure to hit since 2001 was a bit on the noisy side. Now getting regular play with Canada's other big league ballclub, he's had those great hundred at-bats that, like Junior Ortiz, should keep him going forever. It makes for an interesting problem come the stretch, because Greg Myers should be back sometime, creating a three-way logjam in an organization where the future belongs to Guillermo Quiroz.
As for Doc Halladay's return, it couldn't come soon enough for Jason Kershner. Does anyone like being the sacrificial lamb, as opposed to the guy with the mint jelly? They still have Josh Towers in the fifth slot, but he'll be skipped until this weekend, and there's a reason they call them fifth starters.
Placed 2B-B Carlos Baerga on the 15-day DL (strained left calf). [6/10]
Purchased the contract of INF-R Andy Green from Tucson. [6/11]
Signed OF-B Quinton McCracken to a minor league contract. [6/12]
As much as the return of QMcC might leap straight from the ad copy of an unfortunate film feature of some sort ("He's still stiff, and still coming for you, Tucson!"), none of this is really bad news. Brent Mayne's old bad news, so his absence hardly makes things any worse, just less noticeable on the 13 non-payday sunrises every two weeks. The problem is that his breakdown coincides with the team's mounting frustration with Robby Hammock's slow recovery. So that boils down to a lot of Juan Brito, and perhaps some Alan Zinter. I don't have much to add to what I've said about Zinter in the past; from that time more than 10 years ago when he was dealt for Rico Brogna in a challenge trade, he's been a guy who can hit a little (if not enough) and catch a little (although even less so), so he's simply a nice player to have as last man on the bench in some roster configurations. Brito, on the other hand, is halfway between being Soylent Green in cleats and Keith Osik. Which is to say, should he have a great hundred at-bats in the same place in roughly the same time, he'll eventually earn a pension. Or he's a nice snack. It's sort of up to him.
Anyway, there is some stuff to enjoy. Andy Green is one of those players that is easy to like, providing a little bit of power within an offensive game that makes for a really useful utility infielder (.330/.414/.577), plus a decent bit of defensive ability--at Tucson, he'd played second, third, short, and some outfield. Although Scott Hairston's defensive work hasn't been frightening so far, if it takes that turn and the long-anticipated position switch has to happen sooner rather than later, Green makes for a decent challenger to Kata as a sort of organizational fill-in starter. Certainly, a lineup with either Green or Kata as its worst player wouldn't be too shabby, but with a hole at catcher, temps at first and in right field, and Chad Tracy struggling along, that's not the case. But playing Green now makes plenty of sense, to see whether he can push past Kata before Sergio Santos starts to enter the big league infield picture.
I suspect that even Alice Roosevelt Longworth would tire of sitting next to me as I demonstrate an impossibly implacable dullitude on the subject of Tom Goodwin's lack of diamond virtue, but you're a captive paying audience, and I feel bad about disappointing you. Here's a bit of well-worn cattiness, which is that as long as you're stuck with Dusty, better to stick him with the players he'll use, instead of letting him turn up his nose at some new nameless collection of talent. As we know, Dusty only does established A-list, he does not send invitations to hot new things. And if Dusty's still stuck in a place where Tom Goodwin's on that list, well, the Cubs did know that going in. It wasn't like he was ever going to use Kelton.
The optimist in me doesn't really see this as entirely bad news. Wayne wasn't pitching well, but just about nobody beyond Armando Benitez is doing much of value in the Fish pen. Although Neu might be rusty from the elbow troubles that kept him shelved for much of his season down with the Isotopes, that nifty 2002 season that put him on big league radars wasn't that long ago, and he hasn't required a major surgery yet. If he becomes an asset, that's one less thing for them to worry about between now and the trading deadline.
That's the thing about self-directed problem-making skills: Some people learn them over time, but some people have a real gift. Count Jimy Williams among the latter. How Duckworth was supposed to be useful after failing to get 10 innings of work in the last six weeks defies description, but it certainly helped exacerbate a pitching problem in Houston. Throw in that none of the guys in New Orleans who might have been ready to help are (Chad Qualls and Taylor Buchholz are both struggling something fierce), and Carlos Hernandez is still working his way back up to bread-denting with his wounded limb, and you're left with a prescription for an awful lot of Peter Munro.
As for this latest acquisition of service time for Triple-A lifer Bullinger, I guess he's old enough for Jimy to notice. Keep in mind, the Zephyrs are also using Bobby Chouinard, Chris Enochs, and Jared Fernandez. Who knows, maybe Jimy would be more comfortable using all of those guys now that Duckworth has proven that he's in league with the devil.
The rotation isn't entirely fixed by Capuano's return, of course. Victor Santos has given them only two quality starts in seven, and Wes Obermueller isn't pitching well enough to inspire any hope that he'll be as useful as Matt Kinney has proved to be since being bounced to the pen. So, getting Capuano back is definitely good news, since it at least gives the Brewers another non-Sheets, non-hopeless starter in the rotation.
The sorting out of the rotation somewhat masks some good things going on in the bullpen. Mike Adams has been better than hoped, Danny Kolb has been good from the get-go, Dave Burba's doing all right in his eminence grise/mop-up chieftain role, Luis Vizcaino is useful again, and Ned Yost has even found ways to give Rule 5 pick Jeff Bennett a meaningful workload. Toss in the exploits of an always-delightful Brooks Kieschnick and the excusals of minor menaces like Ben Ford and Adrian Hernandez, and Kinney's newfound utility in the pen, and you've got a group whose performance is a credit to their manager. (As well as a reminder that good pens can be built and not bought.)
If there's a source of concern, it's the minor note that Kieschnick has yet to get any playing time in the field. One of his assets as a two-way player is that he gives you some interesting tactical choices, like double-switching him over to first base or in one of the outfield corners after using him on the mound. Face it, we're not talking Dan Schatzeder here; Kieschnick can hit, pitch, and play a position. Admittedly, it's a minor consideration, and if the Brewers are in the postseason picture, it would be that much more interesting to wonder about.
So now Ohka is out for the year, and the Expos become that much less interesting to follow for anyone besides me, still harboring delusions of a new National League Washington Federals ballclub in RFK next summer. In the meantime, I suppose it isn't the end of the world now that Tony Armas is back, but how long does anyone expect that to last? The Expos will shortly have an expanded set of choices, as John Patterson finishes up a rehab gig, but beyond him, Scott Downs is having a nifty season at Edmonton. So should Frank Robinson and Omar Minaya tire of Sunny Kim in the rotation, they'll have options.
The scuttlebutt is supposed to be that Yates is up to show off his fully operational mid-90s heat, so that Jim Duquette can parlay that power into something that can keep the Mets in the running right now--like a right fielder who can hit, or a third baseman, though neither are all that easy to scare up. Perhaps some addition by subtraction? How about a cat who can drive a car, to take John Franco wherever he wants to go. And maybe Stormy Weathers, while we're at it.
As I mentioned last week, there's reason to have Abbott around, and now that he's been inked, the Phillies could certainly do significantly worse as fifth starters go. This still doesn't save the Phillies from their burgeoning Millwood problem, or the steady decay of Eric Milton. They're sounding happy notes about the pending returns of Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf, which would give them a rotation of Wolf, Padilla, Millwood, Milton, and Brett Myers, but given the smattering of question marks involved, Abbott might have chosen wisely as current employers go.
Among my long list of irrational favorite players, you'll find Telemaco. Perhaps it's the memory of Chicago at a time I lived there, but I doubt it. I liked Telemaco when he first came up, so nostalgia really plays no part. There just weren't a lot of Cubs worth caring about in 1996, and watching a lot of games in Wrigley Field, I couldn't remain a disinterested smartass forever. So Telemaco was one of those guys I wound up rooting for, to the point that losing him on waivers to the Snakes annoyed the bejeezuz out of me. But he's plugged along, and if he hasn't been up for as much as he should have been, he's still one of those people I still scan the boxscores for. In itself, the exercise reminds me of a simpler time for fandom. I don't know about you, but I don't scan boxes because of any interest in fantasy baseball, since I abhor it almost as much as I detest any 'total value' stat. I do it out of habit over my morning coffee after the morning's workout the same as I did in long-ago mornings after feeding the animals and doing the chores. It's simply one of those rhythms of fandom that you can hold onto, or not, no value judgment implied. For me, it's a thing I like™, a thing that tells me what time of year it is, and how the simple pleasures are still sometimes the best. That's not to say I turn up my nose at progress; there was nothing so pathetic as scrambling down to Tower Books in Sacramento to get a copy of Baseball Digest for the season totals, for example.
So… yeah, I still like Amaury Telemaco, just like the person to whom you may have become equally irrationally attached. I wouldn't change that about myself for the world.
Speaking of irrational attachments, in this post-Moneyball world, you might think that side-armers of every stripe might get the same sort of cachet that knuckleballers have always had among fans. Except, of course, they're more common, and some of them aren't all that good, so that, like Puffer, it's hard to get worked up one way or another. Neal's here after a good couple of months in the PCL, having allowed only 41 baserunners in 38.2 IP, while striking out 38. As Michael Wolverton's reliever evaluation tools illustrate, the Pads' pen is among the game's best, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvements. Beyond Hoffman's being plugged into the closer's role and the great work by Akinori Otsuka and (surprisingly) Scott Linebrink, Jay Witasick still inspires Maalox moments now and again, and everyone else hasn't been better than replaceable. Neal probably won't last beyond Jake Peavy's return from the DL, but a few good innings could garner him some consideration for whenever the Pads recognize that Antonio Osuna isn't to be counted on.
As awful as Tomko has been, it says something about the lack of confidence there must be in Wayne Franklin that the Giants would call up and spot-start Lowry instead. Since Tomko isn't expected to be away from the office for any longer than the two weeks, it might be a case of leaving Franklin alone in the soaker's role he has, but that's a roster spot that could be repurposed pretty easily, if you catch my drift.
Recalled RHP Jason Simontacchi from Memphis; optioned RHP Danny Haren to Memphis. [6/11]
Haren was pretty much the obvious choice for the spot start in Jason Marquis' place. Adam Wainwright hasn't done so well, and haven't we all seen enough of Alan Benes already? Haren nevertheless took a heck of a beating, so you can understand if the Cardinals are a little less than sanguine about their rotation situation, especially when you consider that the only starter with a track record for durability is Jeff Suppan.
Beyond the shellacking, there's whatever benefit is supposed to be derived from swapping out So Taguchi. Simontacchi was giving up a run every other inning in the Memphis pen, so it isn't like he's found some new angle that will let him sneak back up on the league. It's a case of carrying a 12th pitcher for lack of any better idea of what to do with the last spot on the roster. I'd think Bo Hart or Colin Porter would be a little more handy, but when you chase after slender tactical advantages as often as Tony La Russa does, maybe losing the game in the fifth or the 13th with Simontacchi seems like a better choice than coming up short one pinch-hitter.