June 20, 2004
Optioned LHP Dusty Bergman to Salt Lake. [6/16]
As much as it might do to point out that B.J. Surhoff and Jerry Hairston Jr. have far out-hit anybody's expectations for them in Gibbons' absence, let's face it, does anyone really expect that to last? Gibbons is a legit power source, and someone who should overcome his slow start and round back into form with playing time. That said, the Orioles aren't about to get over their B.J. fetish. They'll continue using him at first, either outfield corner, and DH, while flipping Gibbons between the outfield and first and Raffy Palmeiro between first and DH. That's how Mazzilli spent his early career, flipping between first base and the outfield, so it seems appropriate that the experience pre-conditioned him to make similar demands of his players.
Although letting Hairston play a lot of outfield has been nice enough in terms of enhancing his value in trade, the Orioles still need to re-solve the Hairston vs. Brian Roberts dilemma. This isn't really all bad, in that the Orioles can afford to trade whichever one fetches the better offer, because offensively, they're sort of interchangeable. (For what it's worth, Mike Fontenot isn't part of the equation as long as he's struggling to reach a .300 OBP in Triple-A.)
Riley's return puts him right back into the rotation, the cost-benefit analysis of having Rodrigo Lopez start versus relieve having generated the answer that this team can find another struggling starter easily enough--though the O's can't easily find someone to pitch in the pen as well as Lopez has. Plus, Riley had three good starts in Rochester (striking out 17 in 15 IP). Chances are, Riley will simply be rejoining the other three non-Ponson starters in the Orioles' early-exit rotation, which means plenty of long relief work for Lopez.
As good as it is to have Nixon back, it's even more important considering how really badly both Gabe Kapler and Brian Daubach have hit. Now, with Nixon back, Kevin Millar can hang out at first base, David Ortiz can be bumped back to DH, and Kapler goes into the platoon role (with Nixon) that he can hopefully fulfill successfully. Daubach might be consigned to the depths of Dave Stapleton 'oops, forgot he was here' status.
Having shipped off Alex Escobar, the Indians were without a fourth outfielder. Now that Victor Martinez is back in the lineup and starting behind the plate, the embarrassment of having Sandy Martinez around can end, and the Indians can fill their pressing backup outfielder needs with career backup outfielder Raul Gonzalez. Gonzalez was even having a nice year at Triple-A (.397/.366/.553), which is basically what you need to do if you're a career spare outfielder trying to keep those credentials up to snuff. Not everybody gets Kerry Robinson's load of good fortune, after all. Besides, neither Coco Crisp nor Jody Gerut are hitting lefties at all, so Gonzalez should end up getting a few starts. Meanwhile, Escobar can try to re-gild his prospect status playing everyday in Buffalo, and Grady Sizemore can keep building a resume for a July promotion (and/or trading off Matt Lawton to a contender).
It's easy to mock Leskanic on the way out, especially given his announced ambition to follow in Jim Palmer's footsteps in doing something besides pitch, but however badly Leskanic was pitching, how can you blame the Royals for calling up Seanez? He's managed to toss 34.1 innings already, and if Rudy Seanez can defy every expectation for yet another breakdown and actually pitch that much, it borders on transactional inevitability. You can't resist the need to call up Seanez at that point, you simply have to have him, because as usually happens when Seanez is healthy in consecutive months, he's mowing people down--this time striking out 41 while allowing only 19 hits. The problem is the flip-side of Seanez's manifest destiny, which is his fragility:
Year Innings Pitched (All Levels) 2003 64.0 2002 37.0 2001 44.2 2000 23.0 1999 53.2 1998 57.0
Some breakdowns are bad fortune, but Seanez is that guy who has the talent, but not the durability, for greatness. It's still added up to a career, but the expectations when he was first rising through the Indians' organization almost 20 years ago were that he'd be one of the best flamethrowers in the game.
I'm not big on beating horses in life, not even the biters, the kickers, or the stompers. It isn't like we're talking Bill O'Reilly here--you can reason with a mean horse, because it isn't a nasty, brutish animal. But when it comes to beating a dead horse, sometimes even I tire of the 'Where in God's Name is %$*#*%* Morneau' issue that nearly defies rational explanation. It sucks, but barring a sudden realization that Doug Mientkiewicz is trade fodder, it's the way it's going to be. Hoping that Morneau gets called up with every single time a roster move is made is sort of like Homer begging the microwave to cook faster. Go ahead, hold your breath until they call up Morneau. Assuming you can take it all the way to a full faint, he'll still be in Rochester when you come to. Letter-writing campaign, perhaps? If Terry Ryan can't or won't read the numbers, I doubt a literary suggestion will set him to thinking. If he won't believe his eyes when Morneau has been up and hit, debating the finer points of whether or not Bishop Berkeley had something there with esse est percipi is sort of besides the point. I'd suggest calling for a cult deprogrammer, but odds are, Kenny Williams would run interference and keep you from getting through.
Placed RHP Kevin Brown on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/10 (strained back); recalled OF-L Bubba Crosby from Columbus. [6/15]
The Yankees are apparently being really cautious with Mr. Brown, which is understandable considering how desperate they could be in the rotation if Brown and Mike Mussina melt down. As is, you're talking about a team that has to lean on Sturtze and Jose Contreras, a team that took Donovan Osborne seriously. If the Red Sox can't beat them this time...well, there probably aren't enough lampposts in Beantown for Sox fans to use for self-stringing, so we can probably hold off on declaring an emergency if it's September and it ain't happening.
Purchased the contract of LHP Nick Bierbrodt from Oklahoma; placed RHP Juan Dominguez on the 15-day DL (strained rhomboid), retroactive to 6/12. [6/16]
It isn't often that a player hits the DL for having busted his parallelogram, but you know how it goes with these modern injuries. Rhomboids, trapezoids, sesamoids, do we now have to consult Euclid to tell us what's been tweaked? Given the burgeoning terminology you, me, and everyone else has to master to be 'in the know' these days, it's a wonder we aren't all healing all hurts, and reassuring people we just spent the night at Holiday Inn Express. But given the mass dissemination of anatomically correct medspeak bleeding on the sports page these days, just imagine if Chris Brown were playing baseball instead of being shot at in Iraq. Just think of the possibilities he would have had at his disposal to help cinch his reputation as the ultimate contemporary 'Alibi Ike.' Or, thank our lucky stars for the invention of medheads.
The Rangers deservedly get credit for a pretty good player development program, but there are times when you have the hiccups, and can't quite spit out what you need when you need it, especially when you have to replace a pair of prospects. That's when you break out the retreads, and in a situation such as this, that means a very special episode with former prospects like Bierbrodt and Conti. As fillers go, you can do much worse, and both guys can boast of strong arms, if little else. Conti will never be more than an adequate fourth outfielder, but you can still hope that Bierbrodt turns his career around, although how many pitchers have done that in Texas, despite the regular casting calls, the auditions, and the cast of thousands?
It's a shame when a team ends up playing musical chairs with its ideal lineup, never finding that eighth or ninth chair, and having to settle for guys you invite to have sit on the floor, like Dave Berg. At this point, the only cool kids at the party who haven't had to leave the game are Eric Hinske (perhaps the gods think he lost enough of last season), Reed Johnson, and Josh Phelps. Perhaps they'll be spared the sproinged joints and strained sinews that seem to be the lot of everyone else in the lineup.
It's a relief to get Hudson back, in particular because of a certain Soviet-style monumental sameness of the alternatives in the lineup. Hudson can hurt right-handed pitchers and plays a nifty second base, whereas Frankie Menechino, Dave Berg, Chris Gomez, and Chris Woodward are all right-handed hitters who at their best get on base and hit for a bit of power, but who are all a step slow in the infield. They're useful plodders, certainly, but relying too heavily on all of them is a reflection of the team's more fundamental problem, which is the Jays' poor fortune with keeping key personnel healthy. Take the loss of Wells; sure, it gives Toronto a chance to look at Alexis Rios in center, but that means Berg plays some outfield as Frank Catalanotto's platoon partner, and that's not something you find on the main menu, or would want to.
I suppose Gutierrez's real positions are 'former Cub' and 'somebody not named Rey Ordonez,' because those are the considerations that have probably given him this latest last lease on professional life. It's a rare ex-Met who can win over the denizens of Wrigleyville. Roger McDowell could have, and although much as I had wished that it were so, HoJo and Todd Hundley could not. So we're left with the distaste of watching St. Rey The Still-With-Us flail through his usual adequacy issues, leading to the inevitable Dennis Franz voice-over, "What's a Met?" (Presumably, Chicago icon Franz hasn't gone soft on New York over this NYPD Blue thing.)
Clark was enjoying a nifty season at Louisville, hitting .272/.403/.467, while flipping between second base and the outfield. D'Angelo Jimenez has been struggling with a strained oblique, and seems to have befouled yet another nest after an initial honeymoon period, so Clark might be able to stick if he shines in his starts at second and in the outfield. If nothing else, he'll give Dave Miley a second lefty bat on the bench beyond Jacob Cruz.
Not that I'm a believer, but calling up Jarvis might make sense if you're appropriately worried about having Jeff Fassero in your rotation. Not that Jarvis is a solution, but he is an alternative, and since the Rockies had to call him up or risk letting him walk, here he is. But since Fassero has done reasonably well in three out of four starts, what's the point of having Jarvis here? He will not do much to propel the club into a run at fourth place, and that isn't the sort of ambition that the Rox should be entertaining in the first place. Simpson may not be a tremendous prospect, but he does need to be looked at. And if Jarvis walks, it's worth remembering that he is only Kevin Jarvis. Denny Stark was actually pitching better in Colorado Springs, plus the Sky Sox also boast Travis Driskill, a similarly interchangeable fifth starter and mop-up reliever. Adam Bernero's rehab work is only a few weeks away from being completed. Given that range of alternatives to calling up Jarvis, the Rox would have been better off letting him make the call and deciding whether or not to take a hike, because they certainly don't need him. Few could.
You know you're desperate in the bullpen when, not only do you have to count Toby Borland among your better options, you call up Josias Manzanillo despite his giving up eight runs and three home runs in 12 IP. Phelps and Bump might seem surprising demotions, considering that both of their ERAs were under five. But let's face it, neither were pitching well, and at this point, Jack McKeon isn't thinking in terms of whose flavor of less-than-mediocrity tastes better, he's looking for combinations that might provide him with a functioning pen. Ben Howard is talented and throws hard, so he stays. Borland can be deceptive and tough on righties, so he stays. Darren Oliver has been modestly effective in middle relief, and he's their sixth starter, so he stays. Basically, McKeon is looking at tools and performance, and since nobody's performing well, he's working on finding guys with something to recommend them.
Acquired RHPs David Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths from the Mets for OF-R Richard Hidalgo and $4 million. [6/17]
This is pretty easy to assess: Will saving around three million bucks add up to more than the Astros would make if they get to the playoffs this year? Because that's what's at stake, and Stormy Weathers does very little to improve Houston's odds of winning the division. Admittedly, plugging Jason Lane into the lineup for Hidalgo is not really a drop-off, especially if you hold Hidalgo's slow start this year against him. So to do a good thing and give Lane an opportunity, you make a move, but in terms of reasonable near-term expectations for what Hidalgo vs. Lane mean for their ability to score runs, it's probably a push. And I guess saving money is always wise and good, too.
But that's about the extent of the benefits, and beyond the expense, this is a wasted opportunity. Having made a decision to deal Hidalgo, does Weathers really do anything to help the Astros win this year? Or is everyone supposed to draw inspiration from a move made to shake up a disappointing team? Usually, firing the manager gets put on the list of options in that situation, but Jimy Williams seems to be safe for now. Especially since he's the supposed beneficiary of a deal that seems designed to re-fill his quart of strawberries before he really goes off the deep end in his paranoia over his bullpen.
In short, I see this as a waste. If you were determined to shake up your lineup and move Hidalgo, you need to get something that makes a difference. Instead, they found somebody they could pay f$4 million to for the privilege of handing off Hidalgo, and they got an overpaid standard-issue journeyman reliever (and an aspiring fifth starter, yee-ha!) for their troubles. That won't win them the NL Central. Consider this a really disappointing misapplication of resources.
I suppose I could work myself up into a dudgeon that Cepicky's a prospect and should have been allowed to play more often for as long as he was up, but I have to take myself seriously from time to time. Besides, now that Everett is healthy (the Hind Brain Cometh), the Expos get to wrestle with their more basic problem, which is whether they'll play Brad Wilkerson in center now that both Nick Johnson and Everett are back. That would resolve their noxious Endy Chavez problem (that being that they have him), while finally giving them the set lineup we'd wished they'd had all along. They can still go with a semi- sort-of platoon of Terrmel Sledge and Juan Rivera in right field, if day-to-day tweaks are what Frank Robinson needs to live with his sentence between now and the end of the season.
Acquired OF-R Richard Hidalgo from the Astros (and $4 million to help pay him with) for RHPs David Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths. [6/17]
I'm genuinely impressed. Skip their place in the standings or their record: The Mets are within shouting distance, and the other teams in the division have pretty significant warts. Why wait 'til the deadline, when a change now could help you make some noise? The Mets do need a right fielder, and for somewhere around a couple million bucks this year (plus two more to buy out Hidalgo's option after the season), they got one. They even got to excuse Stormy for their troubles, and since he is and was an overpaid middle reliever of modest utility, and thus the sort of warm body a canny organization replaces easily, there's really no downside in terms of the talent or the expense. The real question is whether the Mets are really any good, and again, given that nobody in the NL resembles a powerhouse, why not go for it? Seasons like 1973 or 2000 might not seem all that glorious in retrospect, certainly not compared to 1986, but 1969 was a lucky roll, and this isn't a team that is long on todays or tomorrows. As promising as David Wright is, the Mets' future isn't assured, and the present is pretty dodgy. So going for broke now, and not giving up anything to do it, and getting it done long before the trading deadline? Would that more teams were similarly aggressive.
What's a little more interesting is wondering whether, with Tom Wilson around, the Mets might cut back on Mike Piazza's time at first base, because Wilson is one of the few catchers who's worse defensively than Piazza. Neither do much to deter the running game, and neither is known for slick glovework or indomitable plate-blocking skills. If Jason Phillips needs a few more days off, I'd argue that Piazza should pick up the slack. Thataways, the Mets would have been better off scaring up a first baseman who can hit a little, maybe a lefty bat who could be useful off the bench as well. No, not Craig Brazell.
Why send Utley down? Not that I like it much, but look at the rest of the infield. Jimmy Rollins seems to have settled into the leadoff role, David Bell continues to resemble a useful ballplayer, and Placido Polanco has been hitting well since coming off of the DL. Utley was doing a lefty-swinging riff on Luis Aguayo--slugging .500 against right-handed pitching, but struggling to get his OBP over .300--and he did little to inspire confidence that his glovework is going to work out. I still see that as a player who's worth 300-400 at-bats against right-handed pitching, and especially on the days that a pair of flyball-oriented of lefties like Eric Milton or Randy Wolf are on the mound.
Neither Nady or Jon Knott got much consideration in Klesko's absence; the Padres acquired Terrence "Bungle" Long (no Traveling All-Stars or Road Kings need apply) for some sort of reason. Now that Klesko is back, the Pads should be back to having a three-cylinder outfield. That would have helped recently, as they had to play interleague road games, where they were drubbed with alarming regularity before enduring the unendurable humiliation of being swept by the Devil Fishies in front of the home folks.
Over on the pitching side of the proposition, I can't really say that the Pads should miss Antonio Osuna much. Recent tooth-gnashing over bullpen failures aside, the Pad pen has been among the game's best this year.
For all of the keening over Barry Bonds' walks, it's interesting to note that the Giants are among the best offenses in baseball. In the National League, the only teams scoring significantly better are the Cardinals and the Rockies, and neither of them are hitting in Pac Bell. Checking out park-adjusted Equivalent Average, the Giants are a nose ahead of the Cardinals and the equally surprising Dodgers. Given how much time Ray Durham has missed, you might have wondered if the Giants could keep it going, but now that Durham's back, you've got a lineup where Michael Tucker is having a career year, Pedro Feliz and Marquis Grissom have been useful, A.J. Pierzynski and Edgardo Alfonzo are showing signs of life, and even guys like Yorvit Torrealba and Damon Minor are helping the team score runs. They could still sort out their morass at shortstop, and Dustan Mohr isn't going to become helpful without some more playing time, but things are generally turning out well. We can all fidget over what Bonds would do if pitched to, but his lineup is doing well, and the Giants are back in the race. What else matters?