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July 16, 2007
National League Roundup
Placed LHP Randy Johnson on the 15-day DL; promoted RHP Enrique Gonzalez from Tucson; acquired OF-R Aaron Cunningham from the White Sox for 2B-L Danny Richar; optioned MI-S Alberto Callaspo to Tucson; purchased the contract of INF-S Augie Ojeda from Tucson; designated RHP Mike Schultz for assignment. [6/16]
Big Move: The Big Unit bouncing on and off the roster like a bad check. Yusmeiro Petit has delivered a winnable (if unexceptional) pair of ballgames in his place, but Micah Owings hasn't delivered a quality start in a month, and Doug Davis is coming off of a rough June (allowing a 6.34 ERA and 67 baserunners in only 32 2/3 IP). By some measures, Livan Hernandez has been the reliable stalwart he was expected to be, delivering 13 quality starts (one blown) in 19, but striking out only 4.4 batters per nine means he's not really fooling people with the same frequency. So, absent the Unit, they're in danger of still just being the Brandon Webb Show, and while that's still must-see moundsmanship, it's not quite where they thought they'd be.
Clever Machinations: I already discussed the virtues of the Snakes dealing from their middle infield depth to acquire a solid outfield prospect like Cunninghan, but as I'll get to in a second, it looks like they really could need him the way things are going with the young outfield Snakelings.
Wheel-spinning: Quentin and Callaspo were both expected to achieve higher things than this, and both have reasonable excuses for having problems-an injury in Quentin's case, and off-field thuggery in Callaspo's-but both were supposed to be significant contributors on a win-now ballclub. In Phoenix, not Tucson. For Quentin in particular, this is a setback, but his flop mirrors that of Carlos Gonzalez down in the minors, and what seemed like an organizational wealth in young outfielders now looks like Justin Upton, Chris Young, and some guys. I like Salazar as an outfield reserve well enough, but his overall numbers in the PCL (.301/.383/.492) are another Tucson-generated fiction; he was hitting .267/.337/.400 everywhere else in the league. Nevertheless, he's the guy they're starting in right, which isn't going to keep them in the hunt.
What's Busted? 'Busted' might be too strong a word, but the rotation and the outfield both have their issues. There's also a bit of a logjam at the infield corners, with Mark Reynolds, Chad Tracy, Conor Jackson, and Tony Clark all fighting for at-bats. Since both Reynolds and Tracy have outfield experience, they really ought to be using the overflow to patch up right field instead of talking about the deals they might make or playing Salazar regularly.
Someone Besides Mom Noticed: I've always wanted to see Augie Ojeda do well, and in his first month in a [insert name of team using generic MLB red] uni was another nice little highlight in a career for a guy who really could have been able to stick around. He's short, he can sock an occasional homer, he can drop a bunt better than most benchies, and he's always been pretty slick at short. And did I mention he's named Augie? There are worse utility infielders to have.
Optioned RHP Blaine Boyer to Richmond; activated 3B-S Chipper Jones from the 15-day DL. [6/13]
Big Move: Like the Snakes, the Braves are down a top starter, but unlike the Snakes, bringing up a prospect-Reyes, in this case-didn't pan out so well the first time around. Reyes gets another shot on Tuesday, but he'll almost certainly go down after that. Although a great start by Reyes might make things interesting, Kyle Davies has been better the last couple of times out. What really matters is that Smoltz will be back the following night, bumping Chuck James, Buddy Carlyle, and Davies back a game for their respective turns. Even if Smoltz can come back and stay back, the Braves will still be looking for an additional starting pitcher.
Clever Machinations: Nothing in particular. I mean, let's face it-an either/Orr choice isn't really all that exciting, even if it means the Braves are down to a four-man bench. Cox uses everybody, and it isn't like the lineup's got any notable holes, at least, beyond wishing that some guys would start hitting one of these months. Picking Yunel Escobar over Orr is all well and good, but does anyone really need an eighth reliever over a disposable pinch-hitter type? Look at the nights that they start Jarrod Saltalamacchia at first-on the bench, Cox is left with Escobar, Chris Woodward, Scott Thorman, and whoever isn't playing left that night between Matt Diaz and Willie Harris. That just seems thin to me.
Wheel-spinning: Getting and then losing Ledezma to a wash day-inspired visa mishap seems pretty cute, but it's a reasonable enough excuse on the face of it (more plausible than saying you were jumped by your truck, certainly).
What's Busted? A short bench and an overcrowded pen seems like overcompensation for a rotation that keeps Bobby Cox on his toes. This club has its issues, not all of which they can address without getting into group hug territory, but this decision is a definite E-manager.
Optioned OF-R Matt Murton to Iowa (Triple-A); recalled LHP Clay Rapada from Iowa. [6/13]
Big Move: Three catchers, no center fielder, and no commitment? Priceless? That's sort of an interesting combination, and while you might ask if some element of self-doubt might be creeping into their decision-making (Alfonso Soriano, center fielder? Pie, ready? Jacque Jones, center fielder? Rob Bowen?), the Cubs are understandably focused on whatever tacking it takes to turn what seems to be less than the sum of its arts into a more efficient team when it comes to generating wins. The danger is that Pie gets a Corey Patterson-style freezeout (or, worse yet, the Jay Buhner bundle-off) in this pursuit of lower, more readily realized ambitions. You have to hope that calling up Soto is meant to make sure that he's going to play regularly, but if Pie's .386/.442/.614 at Iowa didn't translate into major league readiness, what are we to expect from Soto (.341/.412/.584)?
They might yet be this season's answer to their crying needs in center and behind the plate, and a steadier hand might be able to leave them be, let them play, and reap the benefits once they don't have to worry about another trip to the cornfields after consecutive oh-fers. After all, if the Cubs can stomach weeks of inadequate play from Jones, or Koyie Hill and Bowen, why not show a little faith with the kids who could and should be homegrown building blocks? Add in Ronny Cedeno at short, and you might have a really nice blend of a mostly homegrown team up the middle, with veteran quality in the corners. The Cubs could be a lot more like the Brewers; they just lack the courage of their scouty convictions.
While it's semi-cool that they're trying to find ways to play Mike Fontenot, to the point that it might be genuinely cool to try playing Mark DeRosa at short behind the more flyball-oriented starters like Rich Hill or Ted Lilly, it's important to remember Fontenot's not a .500 slugger, and that he's basically just had a lot of luck on balls in play. He deserves to stick, but like Ryan Theriot, he's a nifty bit part, not a star a-borning. It isn't hard to envision a situation where DeRosa becomes a Freel- or Figgins-like multi-position regular rover, so that the Cubs can plug in a semi-regular Fonteneriot platoon at second. That's a lot more easy to do on a roster that has seven other regulars, however, and not the twin clutterbucks in center and catcher.
Wheel-spinning: ... is sort of the name of the game where the carousels behind the plate and in center are concerned, but I've already beaten that pair of dead horses.
What's Busted? Did I mention the psychic benefits of re-beating zombie horses? The really cool thing is that they keep coming back for more, and as Shawn of the Dead reminds us, whatever you do with them, it's basically guilt-free.
Oh, the humanity! Why did Derrek Lee decide to use Grace-brand PEDs? Did he also take up smoking? Did he never, ever hear Harry's exhortations to eat that extra biscuit for breakfast? (Biscuit futures must be down since Harry's passing.) What's next, dating Janine Turner? Say it ain't so, and just go back to trying to win the triple crown.
Placed RHP Jared Burton on the 15-day DL (back spasms), retroactive to 6/11; recalled RHP Todd Coffey from Louisville (Triple-A); activated RHP Elizardo Ramirez from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Louisville; acquired LHP Ben Jukich from the Athletics. [6/12]
Big Move: Beyond the misguided decision to employ Freel at third base and take Edwin Encarnacion back out of the lineup, nothing here rises to the level of a big move. When a team cannot identify the difference between playing Encarnacion and creating playing time for Norris Hopper, you have a problem-of scouting, of performance analysis, and of priorities. Otherwise, what, you expected a viking funeral for Victor Santos?
Clever Machinations: Flitting from talented right-handers with upside to the Stones and Saarlooses sort of defies the label 'clever,' but it's almost Bowden-like in its unfulfilling rapaciousness. Perhaps the closest thing to sensible was sending down Bailey to keep him on his turn over the break, and even that's sort of a half-full glass exercise-what's better, keeping him working on his stuff, or logging innings? I do like that they snagged Smit, but the Dutchman's just another ex-Twin, and so an easy someone to expect to catch Krivsky's eye, even despite a pretty miserable performance down in High-A. Still, the guy's only 21, and he's an exotic import. Products from the land of tulipomania probably have to be treated as hot house flowers as a matter of course, and if he can master his knuckle-curve and get his velocity more consistently up into the low 90s, he'll be a nice pickup. If not, hey, it's totally no-risk.
Wheel-spinning: Beyond the unfortunate exchanges in the pen-both Salmon and McBeth didn't really earn demotions-guys like Keppinger are sort of like the rum raisin pints in the freezer section of a grocery store TBNL-there always seems to be too much of him in stock, but that really doesn't mean you need to feel any compunction to contribute to the corporate cause of creating shelf space. No matter how hany singles he slaps, he's a freezer-burned shade of "Johnny Ray: the Immobile Years" if everything goes right. As Chad Moeller's roster yo-yo lifestyle remind us, getting wound up on individual roster hip-hops when the team isn't getting the big-picture stuff right would be besides the point.
What's Busted? Besides the team? Besides Josh Hamilton? These Reds are no more scary than the ones that put J. Edgar Hoover on the national stage. Not in heels.
Oh, the humanity! Alex Gonzalez had to leave, and Krivsky asks, where, oh where did my Castro go? If familiarity fails to breed contempt, does that mean you're using the wrong petri dish?
Released OF-L Steve Finley. [6/15]
Big Move: The Fuentes meltdown isn't a happy development, to be sure, but he's supposed to head out on a rehab assignment in short order, and if he can win back his role as closer upon his return, it's just a brief career hiccup with a reasonable explanation. If not, they're short-handed in the pen, because as nice a season as Manny Corpas is having, their next-best guy is Jorge Julio.
Clever Machinations: Not that it's reflected here, but it's interesting that Ryan Spilborghs has effectively displaced Jeff Baker as the designated lefty-masher platoon outfielder, when he hasn't simply been given playing time in center during Willy Taveras' time away with a strained quad. That actually matters, because while the Rockies have been wisely willing to see if Brad Hawpe can become more than a platoon outfielder, this year's .203/.289/.297 performance against his fellow southpaws should increasingly militate against it.
Wheel-spinning: Finley to Barker to Sullivan might make the third man happy he found the chair when the music stopped, but the Rockies could have circumvented all of the nonsense by never going out and getting Finley in the first place. Sure, somebody probably had to go off on the fact-finding mission to learn whether or not Finley was really done, but did it have to be the Rockies?
What's Busted? It isn't busted, but the rotation is in a fragile place. Taylor Buchholz has had his moments, and will spot for Hirsh the way he did earlier in the season for others, but the results with Buchholz are always a bit unpredictable, and it's too soon to say he's turned a corner. Add in that Fogg seems to be going back to getting belted around with an alarming regularity, and that Rodrigo Lopez no longer has the element of surprise against the Senior Circuit, and things could go south in a hurry, as the rotation devolves into Jeff Francis and the non-Franciscans.
Oh, the humanity! When ESPN gets around to making a movie of the story of his life, Matt Herges should be played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, because when you bring him up, he can't be bargained with. He can't be reasoned with. He doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. And he's almost as decrepit as the Gubernator.
Placed RHP Henry Owens on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 6/9; recalled RHP Lee Gardner from Albuquerque (Triple-A); claimed LHP Chris Seddon from the Rays, and optioned him to Carolina (Double-A); activated RHP Carlos Martinez from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Carolina. [6/13]
Big Move: Repeating a theme, the brief and unhappy return of Josh Johnson, although there's the added unhappiness of not really getting the old Mike Jacobs back. When you have to take comfort in the performances of guys like Boone or Byung-Hyun Kim, instead of recognizing them as successful filler moves, you're obviously having a bad year.
Clever Machinations: Or not. There's something sort of interesting about seeing a club hopscotch between choosing extra outfielders or sorting out its pitching staff, but not really doing both simultaneously. Reed, Linden, and Joe Borchard are all being used in such limited roles that Fredi Gonzalez isn't simply inviting failure, it's like he's charging rent. Meanwhile, Alfredo Amezaga soaks up playing time like some sort of leech battened to the side of Marlindom.
Wheel-spinning: Is Tankersley fixed? Feeling appropriately punished? Really ready to be here? He didn't exactly log a meaningful amount of work during his two week banishment, tossing 4 2/3 IP across six games. Is he merely being groomed for situational work?
What's Busted? Center field may be the source of continuing ulcers (where else could fans sing "Oh, are you there/speedy Juan Pierre/Miami turns its lonely eyes to you"?), but the rotation's just as broken, and while it might be nice for the Lorians to indulge in recriminations over how it must all be Joe Girardi's fault, Girardi wasn't Billy Martin in 1980 or Bobby Valentine in 1986. With young pitching, there's no guarantee that only good things will happen, and Larry Beinfest has to accept the perils of reaping what he sowed in a nevertheless well-executed rebuild. It isn't like there's any reason to regret the deals themselves, after all, and it's far too soon to close the book on the mound talent they brought in.
Signed RHP Chan Ho Park to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Round Rock (Triple-A). [6/12]
Big Move: You might consider losing Everett a pretty major setback, but as good as he is afield, this team could use something to shake it out of its self-indulgent reverie as far as the talents of many of its regulars. Not that you wish the kind of grisly ill that struck Everett down, and I do still wonder about his utility with a manager who might more aggressively put him in a more irregular Mark Belanger-like role. In Everett's absence, they've learned the hard way that Mark Loretta can't really handle shortstop any more (not that a lot of people believed he did back when he first came out of Northwestern), but Bruntlett's doing good stuff, and if they learn that there's nothing to be lost swapping in Bruntlett and saving the money they've spent on Everett ($1.9 million last year, and $2.6 million this year), that's to the good.
It Just Needed Doing: Cutting lose White, and not getting too familiar with Randolph. Joe made a very good point about the Phillies on Sunday, but the Astros could also be taken to task for employing this kind of dreck in the pen.
Wheel-spinning: Brad Lidge, up, down, around, moving in, moving out, doing a little bit of everything, yet still commanding some sort of positive Q rating-what's the equivalent to metrosexuality for relief pitchers, anyway? And isn't something more stable always a lot more satisfying? If the Astros decide to officially place Lidge into a Somebody Else's Problem field, I can't say as I'd blame them. However, as I'll get to next, it's a reflection of something more fundamentally off.
What's Busted? Organizational decision-making. Whether it's putting Craig Biggio's goal ahead of the ballclub's fortunes, or Phil Garner's fickle relationship with Lidge, or unquestioning Brad Ausmus cultism, or spending big money on Woody Williams and being surprised by the result, it's fair to say that the Astros have consistently made the wrong choices when they have to freedom to make them, and only have happy results from those-like Hunter Pence-who force choices upon them.
Oh, the humanity! Chan Ho Park was allowed back into the great state of Texas? No wonder those people are hopping mad about border security.
Placed RHP Jason Schmidt on 15-day DL; activated UT-L Marlon Anderson from the 15-day DL. [6/18]
Big Move: The rotation shake-up, with Schmidt melting down, and Wolf settling for getting merely half-cooked. It's the difference between slaggy a-aa and more crumbly pahoehoe, but either way, these developments have Dodgers fans set at 'slow burn.' In their places, the rotation has been bolstered by an overdue field promotion to starter's work for Chad Billingsley, a short-circuited return by the talented Kuo, and now a third spin with Mark Hendrickson to see if there's ever going to be a happy ending with that story. Perhaps an instructional video by Mike Morgan on the virtues of the five-inning starter would help get Grady Little to avoid screwing it up this time.
Getting Kuo or Wolf back will obviously help keep these things to a minimum, because we're already at the point of seeing the Dodgers pick between Brett Tomko or Houlton for the last slot in the rotation. Tomko's getting first crack, but he's another one of Colletti's ideas; it would be nice to see whether or not Houlton could cut it, because in extended trials, the Dodgers have accumulated more than enough evidence that Hendrickson and Tomko really can't. A problem with any suggestion to turn to Houlton, however, probably founders on is having the same durability issues as Hendrickson-in 15 starts at Vegas, he logged only six quality starts, and got past the sixth inning only twice. Perhaps as a bass-ackwards flyball pitcher, he could work out well in a Stengel-style mix-and-match rotation where the selections of starters for the fourth and fifth slots are tailored to the opponent, but does anyone think Grady Little could become that kind of manager?
What Have You Done for Me Lately?: Marlon Anderson, thanks. Here's your commemorative Dick Nen plaque commemorating your timely hitting contributions to franchise history, and don't let the door hit you on your way out.
Wheel-spinning: Going with seemingly their worst possible option at third base by playing Tony Abreu there daily for a stretch, and then topping that by trying to redeem the big-money mistake with Nomar Garciaparra by moving him across the diamond. LaRoches? We doan' need no steenkin' LaRoches! Or that Wilson Betemit-curse him for hitting, when what we need is leadership!
What's Busted? Juan Pierre, but perhaps only everything besides his self-esteem. Plus third base and the rotation, but you knew that.
What's Fixed? James Loney and Matt Kemp are playing, regularly, at first base and right field respectively, and have been every bit as productive as expected of them from the end of last season. It's proof positive that goes right with this team comes from Logan White's role as franchise Santa, and is a major bit of roster fix-it for some self-inflicted problems that never had to be. After two winters' worth of bad answers, perhaps if Ned needs the space to be himself, the Dodgers ought to consider letting him go off and find it.
Purchased the contract of 1B/3B-R Joe Dillon from Nashville (Triple-A), but optioned him to Nashville. [6/12]
Big Move: Spotting Capuano during his absence with Gallardo, even if only briefly, because it was a clear opportunity to give the Brewers opportunity to consider whether or not they might want to shake up their rotation, division-leading status or no. Claudio Vargas, Capuano, and David Bush all aren't exactly earning their keep at a level where they should enjoy absolute job security, and Gallardo's really that good that he could be one of the staff's front four in postseason baseball. (I'm setting aside Jeff Suppan's performance, because his contract almost certainly guarantees him that job security.) Among the trio, Bush has put up three quality starts in his last four, but Capuano hasn't had one in six injury-interrupted weeks across four starts, and Vargas has only one in his last five. While it isn't going to be an easy thing to do, this is what Doug Melvin and Ned Yost get paid to do, so here's hoping they have the strength of purpose to do it.
Clever Machinations: I like that they're taking peeks at Mini-Gwynn, because he'd make a better bench weapon, for pinch-hit single-inning leadoff duties and pinch-running. That would be a lot more useful than a twelfth pitcher or a nearly-ignored Gabe Gross when it comes time to start thinking about playoff rosters in the NLDS and NLCS. Should they get to the World Series, Gross really ought to come back into play as a DH option but if he doesn't get a playing time tuneup at some point, it's hard to see how he's going to be ready to help.
Wheel-spinning: Ditching Capellan wasn't an especially good idea, but I talked about that here.
What's Busted? Bill Hall, temporarily, with the misfortune really being that he was really starting to hit his stride. While it's fashionable to start quailing about the Cubs coming up from behind, getting Hall and Weeks back and in full operating order promises the potential for a stretch-drive kick from the lineup.
Oh, the humanity! Dillon was never up, but at least he's now on the 40-man. He more than earned it, as he's hitting .301/.378/.599 for the Sounds. There's something more than a little cool about a guy who beyond doing so much damage has also drawn 35 walks while striking out only 28 times in ~300 PA. Cool, if not quite in a Joe Sewell sort of way, but you know what I mean. Dillon's been worth having on a big league roster for years, so here's hoping that if the Brewers do something with Kevin Mench, he gets some consideration for the job of platooning with Geoff Jenkins, turning the Menchkins platoon into a still-hobbitastic Dillkins.
Placed RHP Jorge Sosa on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Mike Pelfrey from New Orleans (Triple-A). [7/1]
Big Move: There are a couple, but basically, getting Perez back now that Pelfrey has posted a reminder that he remains unready, you have to think that they're already one step closer to having the team they want for the stretch run. The Mets even had the scheduling going for them, as they could ease Perez back off of the DL against the Reds. Jorge Sosa will also be coming off of the DL for tonight's game, but he's your more-standard fifth starter type, and the man who goes to the pen once Pedro Martinez is ready. Although Sosa had a nice initial run, he'd gotten back to being as frustrating as ever; as long as the Mets can put curvy number on the scoreboard, he's survivable, and that's enough.
The other cool move was the broad-mindedness to set aside Lastings Milledge's musical talents and bring him back for a go-round in which he might even actually get to play. It's a necessary upgrade for a team that's short in the outfield, and if he does something with the opportunity, then the Mets become that much less dependent on Moises Alou's bad wheels, not to mention pumpkin insurance against Endy Chavez's ever ceasing to be the upgraded version of The Legend of Timo Perez that Chavez magically became as a Met.
Old Yeller Moment: Julio Franco does deserve the Viking funeral, but he's absenting himself from his own in a feeble attempt to inscribe his name on the pages of history we normally associate with Minnie Minoso.
Clever Machinations: Digging through the ashes of the nearby pyre of Sandy Alomar's career to give him yet another Hollywood Squares-style unnecessary act of career perpetuation might seem entirely meaningless, although it does free up possibilities for getting Ramon Castro into the lineup a little more often, on days that either Paul Lo Duca or Carlos Delgado need days off.
Wheel-spinning: Going to that extra bit of effort to pick between Ledee, Newhan, and Marlon Anderson for the club's lefty pinch-hitter job might seem a little excessive, but Anderson did have his magic moments last September, and nothing's wrong with shaking his can to see if it's empty or not.
What's Busted? The outfield, potentially, but getting Milledge up on top of already having Shawn Green back really helps paper over the absences of Alou and Chavez. All in all, things are on the mend, and the Mets may already being emerging from their worst stretch.
Outrighted RHP Clay Condrey to Ottawa (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Kyle Kendrick from Reading (Double-A). [6/12]
Big Move: If losing Jon Lieber and acknowledging the effective loss of Freddy Garcia for the season don't spell doom in Philly, I don't know what does. The replacements are Kendrick and Durbin, after all, and while you might hope that they'll come to their senses and put Brett Myers back in the rotation once he's back-they need quality innings at this point more than they need individual qualities in the pen-that still looks pretty desperate.
Kendrick's a guy who was very much under my radar, but a quick conversation with Kevin Goldstein clued me in to the basics-he can sometimes get into the low 90s, throws an occasionally good slider, and mixes in a change, but none of them are real out pitches, and without one, you've got a young guy with relatively limited upside. To his credit, he's a sturdily-built fifth-year pro picked in the seventh round out of a Washington high school in 2003, and he has an admirable track record for relative durability. That doesn't exactly add up to a prospect, but some big league staffs get stocked with less, and Kendrick's nice 4-0 run in his first six starts at least gives Phillies fans something to cheer about. Still, his numbers at Reading look a little more gaudy because of a passel of unearned runs-his RA/9 was actually 4.2, not exactly good enough to earn an early graduation to Triple-A, let alone The Show. That plus 5.5 K/9, and I suspect he'll have problems.
Clever Machinations: Well, I don't know if I would elevate getting J.C. Romero all the way up to 'clever,' but it's a nice enough little low-risk attempt to find a situational lefty. If it doesn't work, you can always put him back in the same dumpster you found him in.
Wheel-spinning: This could be it-J.D. Durbin's big opportunity to earn another release or reassignment that gets him onto yet another ballclub in calendar year 2007. He could top Dave Kingman's 1977 easy, what with more than two months and change yet to go. Of course, it might be cooler still if he earns his keep and makes the Twins, Snakes, and Red Sox all rue the day they ever saw the back of him. So far, though, no dice, as he's giving up runs, walks, hits, and homers in a bruising profusion, but he had enough moments as a Lynx to keep people interested.
What's Busted? The pitching staff is listing pretty severely, so a full-scale dramatic capsize wouldn't be all that surprising, with both the pen and rotation going down to take their places among the gym socks in Davy Jones' locker.
Oh, the humanity! Forgive me the conceit, but I'm bordering on having a Bill James moment. Not one of the good kinds, but one of the ones where I'd rather talk about jazz or true crime fiction instead of taking the time to sort out the profusion of homegrown pitching mediocrities the Phillies are deluged with. Anyone up for an extended chat on the relative virtues of corps-level leadership during the Gettysburg campaign? Cute summer tops? Richard K. Morgan's new book (well, wait on that one, please, no spoilers)?
Okay, I thought not, but just checking. Sorry, Phillies fans, you deserve better, from me, and from your team.
Designated INF-L Don Kelly for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Dan Kolb from Indianapolis (Triple-A). [6/12]
Big Move: Because most of the rest of this was sound and fury, signifying nothing-come to think of it, the Bard wrote Kid McClatchy's professional epitaph a few centuries early, methinks-the name move here was shutting down Duke. I won't take a victory lap over saying that adding Tony Armas Jr. was a bad idea-I didn't want him to do badly, after all-but it says something when the Bucs made a point of paying real money to add Armas and Shawn Chacon, and have the both of them in the pen after Duke's breakdown, because both have already been found wanting, and it's time to turn to an in-house retread like Van Benschoten and an organizational soldier like Youman.
I prefer the latter choices-best to see what they're here for, after all-but that doesn't mean they should be able to duck behind Duke's injury as an uninsured disaster. Dave Littlefield had four young starters, and young starters can be unpredictable. He also had two expensive veterans, one of whom (Chacon), he elected to pay through the nose for through arbitration ($3.825 million) rather than non-tender, and the other of whom (Armas) he elected to spend $3.5 million on. If a so-called small market club is supposed to act responsibly within its limited means, what then are these actions evidence of?
Clever Machinations: Pirates, clever, machinations. Hmmm, the oxymoron potential is high, but beyond that, I'm not sure we really have a working thesis in there. I mean, really, what's the point when a team can count grabbing Josh Phelps as a highlight, has to cop to employing both Kelly and Kata, and just saw itself reduced to Marlin-level desperation in center because they lost Chris Duffy? What does it say when you're left with an argument over why Rajai Davis is a better choice than Nate McLouth, but in the face of considerable evidence and way too much invested playing time, they're still impressed that McLouth gets dirty? That's like suggesting that people could get promoted in the corporate sphere for pouring coffee on themselves.
Wheel-spinning: "Wow, Dan Kolb is still done? Who knew? What do you mean, 'everybody?' I'm part of everybody, and I didn't know. Can somebody tell me what Ron Davis is up to these days? We could really use some help."
Somebody Besides Mom Noticed: Whither Wasdin, or is this the end for the man I think of as the ultimate replacement-level pitcher? I mean that not in the Woolnerian sense of the word, but in the more "he's always available if you really have a need" sense, or what I usually just call free talent.
Optioned 1B/OF-L Paul McAnulty to Portland (Triple-A); purchased the contract of 3B-S Chase Headley from San Antonio (Double-A). [6/15]
Big Move(s): I went into this in my trade breakouts segment, but I very much their going out and getting Bradley, and also having a willingness to take a chance on Barrett. Bradley's a potential solution to at least one of their holes in the outfield, while Barrett might represent the sort of insurance they need behind the plate against anything happening to Josh Bard. And if Barrett's really supposed to be the mouthy aspiring leader, that's not a role he'll need to worry about adopting on an overwhelmingly veteran ballclub.
Clever Machinations: The park certainly makes it look easy, but there is something effortless and admirable in the way the Pads can bring in guys like Hampson or Ring and get good work out of them.
What's Busted? Give me a second... not much. I guess I'd rather have a better middle infield reserve than Geoff Blum, but that hardly rises to the level of an action item. What might be interesting is if Kevin Towers could get a veteran player to provide insurance against the seemingly inevitable Khalil Greene injury and the increasingly slack performance of Marcus Giles.
Oh, the humanity! If arbitrage is the name of the game, and bad citizenship seems to be what it takes to make a Friar, how much longer before Elijah Dukes dons his robes? With guys like Jumbo, Mad Dog, the Three True Outcomes king, the hammer of Macedonia, and the Giles brothers, this has the makings of baseball's answer to Slapshot, and better than Major League because it's the real deal. Besides, we all know the Dodgers are evil, so why not root for the rogue's gallery?
Placed INF-R Rich Aurilia on the 15-day DL (strained neck), retroactive to 6/17; purchased the contract of INF-S Luis Figueroa from Fresno; transferred C-R Eliezer Alfonzo from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/18]
Big Move: Slim pickings, but I guess I'd nominate getting Lewis back as the the lone real positive here, and losing Sanchez as a notable setback. The Giants aren't even getting to enjoy the full dignity of a rebuilding sort of season as the backdrop to Barry Bonds' slow slog to the top of the home runs list, because the kids aren't alright, not all at the same time.
Clever Machinations: Not listed here, but they sure did outfox the world at large by pursuing free agents year after year in one of the most feebly-executed win-now programs of recent memory, and then rewarding Brian Sabean for his spectacular non-achievements with a contract extension. Who knew Peter Magowan was the new Tom Yawkey?
Wheel-spinning: Sort of defines the season at this point, don't it?
What's Busted? What isn't? They have veterans they should deal, but who will command very little value on the trade market because guys like Rich Aurilia, Pedro Feliz, Ray Durham, and Randy Winn just aren't worth very much. Dealing Ryan Klesko to the Yankees would make some sort of sense, and if any contender lets position scarcity be its guide and sniff around to see what prying loose Bengie Molina or Omar Vizquel would take, that would also make some sense, but the organization is more broken than it has been at any point since 1985, and that was when they had the good sense to empty the offices and bring in Al Rosen and Roger Craig.
Optioned RHP Kelvin Jimenez to Memphis; placed SS-R David Eckstein on the 15-day DL (back spasms); recalled RHP Anthony Reyes and SS-R Brendan Ryan from Memphis. [6/16]
Big Move: Adding Maroth but losing Edmonds are probably the most significant moves to be found here; I already touched on this particular add-on in this article.
Wheel-spinning: There's something sort of sad about having to have Gary Bennett as the hitting half of a job-share behind the plate during Molina's absence, but happily, that's over with. Also, it isn't the Cardinals' fault they found Tomo Ohka too late to put him to some useful purpose, but when you're panning for free talent gold, you're bound to wind up with pyrite now and again.
What's Busted? Hmmm, it's a pretty long list. The rotation, the outfield, second base, that's all obvious. Scott Rolen's bat too, of course. I mean, let's face it, when Kip Wells can be brought back into the rotation, give up six runs in an inning, and still get another turn, that's the kind of commitment that Brian Kingman or Terry Felton can only envy. Or Anthony Reyes, for that matter.
Someone Besides Mom Noticed: Kudos to Ryan for doing good work at short during Eckstein's absence. It's enough to make you think that he might make a better middle infield solution than just playing Aaron Miles, with Eckstein sliding across the bag to become the regular second baseman.
Activated LHP Mike O'Connor from the 60-day DL, and optioned him to Harrisburg (Double-A); transferred RHP Ryan Wagner from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/18]
Big Move: Losing Cristian Guzman for the year, and just at the point where he'd been playing well enough long enough to give meaningful support to the suggestion that perhaps having surgery on his eyes had brought him back to somewhere around where he was back when people thought he was a prospect. At least there's still that fourth year on his four-year term, right folks? I guess the silver lining is that the campaign to reinflate Ronnie Belliard's value in trade can swing back into action.
For happier news, you might have invested some hope in getting Bergmann back from the DL, but he's not really looking all that ready to be back, struggling to get deeper into games and get people out. Still, the Nats can't afford to be too picky. They can afford to take Jason Simontacchi's alternating between getting pounded and putting up winnable games (with very little ground in between), after all.
Clever Machinations: Clever isn't the same thing as desperate, but the Nats are still finding ways to fill out the roster, and given the hell they're in, that's sort of impressive in itself. They're sort of a live-action example of the agonies that go with trying to survive with the fundamentally fungible.
Wheel-spinning: D'Angelo Jimenez, 1-for-25? Can he really be more cooked than the also-done Tony Batista? When all of your toast is charred, I guess you get to become a connoisseur of the differences.
What's Busted? Ambition. For a while there, the Nats made things interesting, and I really admire the extent to which Manny Acta's doing everything humanly possible to keep this team prepared and in games, but things aren't going to get any easier, and the roster doesn't have much chance of getting stronger in-season.
Oh, the humanity! ... and all the people inside, for all of you true, grieving, unrepentant zeppelin fans. You knew it was only a matter of time, but this team and Tim Redding were destined to be together, especially in a rotation who, for its sheer number of cast members, only Cecil B. DeMille could really enjoy. But to be fair to Redding, he seemed to be doing better work for Columbus, showing durability in his workload, and walking only four in his last 49.1 IP against 28 K's. It can't hurt any worse than the alternatives, and theres still the possibility that he'll be a more worthwhile bit of retreading than guys like Simontacchi or Mike Bacsik.