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October 12, 1999

Transaction Analysis

September 25-October 5, 1999

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Announced the resignation of GM Bill Bavasi, and shunted him off to a position as special assistant to team president Tony Tavares. [10/1]

Any chance Bill has an evil twin, Scuzzie? Scuzzie would have no moral qualms about fixing this team's problems. Tim Belcher under contract? Not if he tragically disappears during a camping trip unfortunately close to live artillery fire exercises at China Lake. Darin Erstad can be convinced to take up punting. Gary DiSarcina? Missing after an unsigned press release, attributed to him, makes it clear he's convinced Snoop Doggy Dogg is no artist. Got a team playing uninspired baseball? Have you considered motivational pistol-whippings?

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated RHP Tom Gordon from the DL. [9/27]

The hope is that he's well enough to keep Rod Beck from giving Jimy Williams a Pepto dependency problem. If Flash isn't well enough to do that, the Shooter can aspire to a hallowed place in Red Sox history, sort of like Pete Ladd with the Brewers, or George Frazier with the Yankees.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Purchased the contract of RHP Brian Falkenborg from Rochester; placed 2B Delino DeShields on the 60-day DL (debilitating inferiority to Jerry Hairston Jr.), retroactive to 9/11. [10/1]

DeShields has lost his job to Hairston already, so the interesting dilemma for the Orioles is going to be trying to turn DeShields into an Angel or Cub. The alternative is the Steve Kemp paid vacation for multiple seasons, and not even Pete Angelos likes to pay people to go to Mexico or sip Mai Tais or whatever it was Kemp ended up doing with George Steinbrenner's money.

Falkenborg is an interesting prospect of sorts: another big storky kind of guy from Washington state, routinely injured (he missed half of this year, but did start 16 games for Bowie). Assuming that the Orioles do nothing over the winter--which would be silly--he has a half-decent shot at the fifth spot in the rotation. More likely, if he's at all healthy next year, he'll come up after the expensive master plan collapses in some suitably spectacular fashion.

CHICAGO CUBS

Fired manager Jim Riggleman, and every coach that Sammy Sosa didn't like, or who wasn't in the Hall of Fame. [10/4]

That leaves hitting coach Jeff Pentland and good old Billy Williams.

There isn't much to say here. Riggs was the ultimate anti-Davenport, to go back to Giants manager Jim Davenport. While Davenport had no idea when to put people in, how to use a bench, what a bullpen was for or who should start games, Riggleman was a fine tactician. He'd probably dominate table leagues using games like Strat-O-Matic. He was always aware of platoon advantages, and in games like Strat, little else matters: you don't have to use people in ways that keep them fresh and ready. You're only playing with cards that use immutable numbers. They don't get stale because the manager forgets to use his whole roster.

In the real world of managerial responsibility, the manager has the opportunity, the responsibility, to create roles for players who can become a larger part of the organization's future after they cut their teeth. Instead, Riggleman's rosters were littered with tactical weapons of dubious value: situational relief scrubs like Matt Karchner, roster filler like Scott Sanders, or pinch-runner/defensive replacements like Curtis Goodwin. When things went wrong, the Cubs handed the playing time to the bad bit players who had major league experience instead of to the people who ought to have gotten the at-bats and innings.

Kyle Farnsworth's introduction to the major leagues could have been a lot less painful if he had two months of middle relief work under his belt. Robin Jennings should have been the guy entrusted with Lance Johnson's playing time, just as he should have been the guy on the roster ahead of Goodwin in the first place. Steve Rain or Ray King should have been given real, extended chances ahead of people like Rodney Myers or Richie Barker or Dan Serafini.

Riggleman's profound lack of vision and inability to use roster spots to develop people capable of helping the team in years to come symbolizes an organization-wide failure to look beyond its own nose or think of any goal above self-preservation. In that sense, he was the perfect manager for Ed Lynch and Andy MacPhail. Sacrificing him must have hurt, but it ties into that self-preservation thing.

CINCINNATI REDS

Activated 1B Hal Morris from the DL. [9/25]

While the Reds deserve a bunch of credit for how much they accomplished this year, the best you can say about Morris is that he didn't have to play too much, and he had a nice little season by his own low-watt lights.

The real misfortune is to spend some time considering whether or not keeping Roberto Petagine around as Casey's caddy might have won that critical one extra game at some point during the season.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Announced that RHP Dennis Springer and DH John Roskos have chosen free agency over minor-league contracts; signed UT Chris Clapinski to a split contract for 2000, and outrighted him to Calgary. [10/5]

Roskos would make a swell DH for a team that couldn't afford to spend freely, but at this point, he's got more in common with Eric Wedge than Phil Nevin.

Springer's still good for 30 starts and 200 slightly-worse-than-league-average innings. In this year's free agent class, he should be able to fetch something. Heck, it worked for Willie Blair. If he has any interest in having a good season, he'll need to head for a spacious ballpark, which would help him continue to be an adequate major league fifth starter.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Announced that Bob Graziano will leave his position as team president and CEO. [9/28]

...conveniently in time to avoid summary execution at the hands of a howling pack of Fox vice presidents who want answers, and who never bothered to add Kevin Malone to their speed dials.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated C David Nilsson from the DL. [9/27]

Hired Dave Wilder for the position of vice president for player personnel. [9/28]

Named Greg Riddoch director of player development. [10/4]

Maybe Dean Taylor knows what he's doing, and maybe not. Wilder is spoken of in glowing terms by Cubs GM Ed Lynch, which ought to be a kiss of death, unless he's the guy who got Jon Lieber for Brant Brown.

Pad people undoubtedly remember and resent Greg Riddoch ever darkening their door. While pushing aside the ex-Brewers in the front office isn't a bad idea (and despite one rumor to the contrary, Cecil Cooper is not about to become the #2 guy), for the sake of the long-suffering fans of this team, here's hoping Taylor is picking people whose participation in several spectacular failures has nothing to do with their ability.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Claimed 1B Mario Valdez off of waivers from the White Sox; placed 2B Cleatus Davidson on the 60-day DL (broken bone - wrist). [9/29]

Terry Ryan makes an outstanding swipe off of the waiver wire. It's bad enough that the Sox bumped Valdez off of the 40-man roster to let journeyman (and Triple-A World Series goat) Tanyon Sturtze get a token major league appearance. But with Doug Mientkiewicz joining David Ortiz in the organization's doghouse, the Twins managed to snag, for free, a player who combined each of their good points. He's an outstanding glove, although admittedly not as good as Mientkiewicz. The Twins have convinced themselves that Ortiz is never going to hit 30 home runs in the majors, so Valdez may finally get his big chance to win the first base job next spring.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Announced the retirement of C Mike MacFarlane, effective 10/4. [10/1]

Re-signed DH John Jaha to a two-year contract. [10/5]

Adios to Mike MacFarlane, a guy lots of people within baseball respect, and who did get a nice cheer from the home crowd over the weekend. In theory, he was a player/ coach of sorts, and was supposed to be the kind of guy who helped young guys get over the hump, like A.J. Hinch or Jimmy Haynes. Oops, I've said too much already. Have a nice retirement, and on to more important things, like whether or not Hinch can beat out Danny Ardoin next spring, or even Cody McKay, in the battle for who gets to caddy for Ramon Hernandez.

Re-signing Jaha, and giving him his first-ever multi-year contract, is fraught with risk. Can he play in 140+ games again? Fortunately for the A's, they have enough offensive talent on the way up that if he can't, it won't kill them. It might have been nice if the deal was heavily incentive-laden, and that it's not is great news for Jaha. But if the A's only have so much discretionary cash to spread around, re-upping Jaha probably wasn't the wisest commitment.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Waived LHP Matt Beech. [9/29]

A preliminary move, in that Beech wasn't going to get back on to the 40-man roster anyway.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Named Bob Gebhard to be a special assistant to GM Walt Jocketty. [9/26]

Recalled RHP Chad Hutchinson from Memphis. [9/27]

Hutchinson was called up so that he could, in the organization's words, experience the majors and work with pitching coach Dave Duncan. That's about where you're supposed to have Vincent Price laugh ghoulishly in the background, or where a John Carpenter techno-beat is supposed to start up. In the horror movie industry, this is what is called foreshadowing. What seems like an innocent enough idea at the time ends up in a gory, bloody mess. The natural tie-in is that Dave Duncan will turn out to be the evil henchman in the forthcoming "Doctor Giggles 2K". "More arms, Dunc! Satan needs fresh arms!" Guest appearance by Tony LaRussa as the Lord of Darkness.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed C John Flaherty to a three-year contract extension, through 2002. [9/27]

Kudos to Flaherty and his agent for cashing in, and quickly. Lord only knows what record he convinced Chuck LaMar he was going to reach during the next three seasons.

TEXAS RANGERS

Recalled LHP Doug Davis from Oklahoma. [9/29]

And it didn't even end up hurting Okie. Can they do that?

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Announced that coaches Lloyd Moseby, Jim Lett, Mel Queen, Gary Matthews and Marty Pevey would all have to find work in other capacities or organizations, because Jim Fregosi doesn't feel comfortable with them; picked up the club's option on C Darrin Fletcher for 2000. [10/2]

Okay, okay, my eyes are wide open. Since Jim Fregosi managed to hurt almost every starting pitcher he had this year, I have to admit Phillies fans may have had a point when they pointed out how badly things worked out after 1993. Add that to the fact that the only man Ol' Buggy Eyes kept on his coaching staff was Terry the Neanderthal Bevington, there's reason to believe that the Sleepy Cito era really was the decade's high point in terms of on-field management, even in the snoozy post-World Series seasons.

Speaking of Neanderthals, anyone else notice the recent archaeology discovery that they were cannibals? If I'm Fregosi, I make a point of never ending up alone in a room with my third base coach.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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