August 3, 2008
Every Given Sunday
Deadline Day Afters
There has rarely, if ever, been a more active July when it comes to trading. The Indians began the flurry of activity before the July 31 deadline by shipping left-hander and reigning American League Cy Young Award-winner CC Sabathia to the Brewers on July 7 for a package of four prospects. The Athletics sent Rich Harden to the Cubs a day later, and before the month was over other notable names such as Joe Blanton, Ray Durham, Randy Wolf, Jon Rauch, Xavier Nady, Casey Blake, Mark Teixeira, and Ivan Rodriguez were on the move.
Two of the most intriguing trades of all came just hours before Thursday's deadline, when the Reds sent right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox for right-handed reliever Nick Masset and minor league second baseman Danny Richar, and the Red Sox shipped disgruntled left fielder Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers in a three-team trade that also saw Pittsburgh sending left fielder Jason Bay to Boston and receiving four young players in reliever Craig Hansen and outfielder Brandon Moss from the Red Sox, and third baseman Andy LaRoche and minor league right-handed starter Bryan Morris from Los Angeles. In the span of a few hours, a hitter with 600 home runs (Griffey) and another with 500 home runs (Ramirez) had made late-career address changes on their way to Cooperstown. Never before had two hitters with 500 home runs been traded in the same season, let alone on the same day.
While Ramirez had requested a trade and Griffey had not, both deals were surprising in their own right. In Griffey's case, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of interest from other clubs in a 38-year-old whose skills are fading. In Ramirez's case, though he had demanded a trade and pulled a number of juvenile moves to force the issue, it was generally assumed that the Red Sox would not sacrifice his production in the middle of a tight American League East race. Yet when Thursday was over and July had turned to August, Griffey was with the White Sox and Ramirez was with the Dodgers.
That Chicago was the landing spot for Griffey was a bit of a surprise, if for no other reason than that the AL Central leaders seemed set in the outfield with Carlos Quentin in left, Nick Swisher in center, and Jermaine Dye in right. However, general manager Ken Williams felt that the White Sox needed some punch, despite having a lineup that is fourth in the major leagues averaging 5.0 runs per game. More specifically, Williams felt it was time to move first baseman and team captain Paul Konerko (and his .229 EqA and -6.5 VORP) to the bench. Swisher will now play first base, with Griffey, who had a .277 EqA for the Reds, taking over in center field. "I waited as long as I could for guys to turn their seasons around," Williams said. "We believe we're definitely going to have to hit more in the second half than we hit in the first half."
The White Sox are seemingly taking a risk by playing Griffey in center field-he's been limited exclusively to right the last two seasons-but Williams thinks Griffey can handle it. "Center field is actually the easiest of the outfield positions to play from a health perspective," said Williams, who was a major league outfielder for six seasons. "I know that doesn't sound right because you've got to go a lot of left and right, but trust me, it's a little easier to play center field. [Instinctively,] we feel he's going to give us at least what we were getting out there. Remember, we didn't have the prototypical guy out there in the first place; Swish did a heckuva job and he'll continue to get some time out there, but he isn't the prototypical guy that you can put out there, and you don't have to be if you have good baseball instincts."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said it is no sure thing that Griffey will play every day down the stretch as Chicago tries to hold off the Twins in the AL Central. "I'm going to put the best guys I think we have to give us a better chance to win the game," Guillen said. "We brought Junior to play, but if Junior doesn't play the way we think he should be playing then we're going to have guys here to replace him. We are here to win and we will see how it works."
The Dodgers, two games behind the Diamondbacks in the National League West, are curious to see how Ramirez works out after this tumultuous summer, the last of his eight seasons with the Red Sox. Ramirez was accused of intentionally striking out in an at-bat against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera; getting into an argument with Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick which ended with the 64-year-old being shoved to the ground; and was then suspected by team officials of missing two games last week with a faked knee injury.
Ramirez did not want to talk about all of the turmoil with the Red Sox, and said that he is now focusing on getting the Dodgers into the postseason. They haven't won a playoff series since upsetting the Athletics in the 1988 World Series. "I feel great, man. I'm happy," Ramirez said. "Whatever happened in Boston is in the past. I'm excited, man. I can't wait. I feel like I took 5,000 pounds off my back. It's just a new chapter in my life. I'm happy to be here. That's all I can say. LA's a great city. I'm happy to be a Dodger."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre's only concern with bringing Ramirez onto his team was that his dreadlocks were a little too long. "All I asked him to do was clean his hair up a bit and make it more manageable," Torre said.
Griffey and Ramirez weren't the only future Hall of Famers to changes uniforms this past week. On Wednesday, the Tigers traded Rodriguez, the 14-time All-Star catcher and 13-time Gold Glove winner, to the Yankees for reliever Kyle Farnsworth.
The Yankees were in need of a catcher after Jorge Posada underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, and they believe Rodriguez will fit the bill despite having a lackluster .257 EqA with the Tigers this year. For his part, Rodriguez was happy to have a chance to put on the pinstripes in his 18
The Tigers had been slowly phasing Rodriguez out, alternating him behind the plate with Brandon Inge, and did not plan to re-sign him as a free agent after this season. The Tigers are in third place in the AL Central, 6½ games behind the White Sox, but they insist the trade does not mean they're giving up on making the postseason. "It gives us, probably, a better chance," Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said. "We don't think we take much of a step down at catcher because we do like Brandon and it's a situation that we help our bullpen."
Rodriguez's signing of a four-year $40 million contract as a free agent prior to the 2004 season was a watershed moment in recent Tigers' history, as they had gone 43-119 the year before. By 2006, the Tigers had won the AL pennant and were in their first World Series since 1984, losing to the Cardinals. "This franchise started coming back, on the field, the day we signed Pudge," Dombrowski said.
While the Red Sox and Yankees both made moves at the deadline, the AL East-leading Rays stood pat. They made a run at trading for Bay, but came up empty when they refused to give up any of their premium prospects. Even so, they do not feel they've been put at a disadvantage by not adding any players. They still hold a three-game lead on the Red Sox, and a 5½-game edge on the Yankees, despite being 20th in the major leagues in runs scored with an average of 4.4 per game.
"We have to keep in mind we've got a first-place club, and for us, offensively, we have struggled," Rays GM Andrew Friedman said. "We believe basically we're going to have made an acquisition by the way our guys are going to perform over the last two months. They have track records that suggest such and we believe there's a lot more to come. Look, we're in first place and we control our own destiny, and I feel we have the talent on hand to continue to do what we've done through the first two-thirds of the season."
At least the Rays won't have to contend with Ramirez, who has a career line of .310/.406/.612 against them with 41 home runs in 680 plate appearances. "He's done very well in the past against us," Friedman said. "Hopefully, we see him again this season."
That, of course, would be in the World Series.
When Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki flared a single into left-center Tuesday off the Rangers' Luis Mendoza at The Ballpark in Arlington, it marked his 3,000
One interested observer in the debate is Warren Moon, a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback who spent six seasons in the Canadian Football League before coming to the NFL. His CFL stats, however, did not count toward his career totals. "You can't blame Ichiro for where he was born and where he played," Moon told the Seattle Times. "Just like me. You can't blame me for the NFL not wanting me to play quarterback (coming out of college at Washington)." Moon passed for 49,325 yards in 17 NFL seasons after throwing for 21,228 in the CFL. "I was running the football up there as a quarterback a lot," Moon said. "All of that takes a toll and potentially shortens your career. It's the same with Ichiro. You wonder what he could have done if he didn't spend all the years he did playing over there in Japan. We see what he's done each and every year he's been here. If you take those totals and average them out for the years he played over there, he'd probably still be at 3,000 hits."
Suzuki got the first 1,278 hits over nine seasons in Japan, where they play 130-135 games a season. He now has 1,731 in his seven-plus seasons in the major leagues, all with the Mariners. "If you look at it, my pace at getting hits in the US is quicker than in Japan," Suzuki said. "So if people are going to say [bad] things, I'd like them to take a look at that stat."
Major League Rumors and Rumblings: The Red Sox and Phillies both hope to add left-handed relievers in waiver deals this month, and both are eyeing the Royals' Ron Mahay. The Red Sox also have interest in the Cubs' Scott Eyre, while the Phillies like the Pirates' John Grabow and the Giants' Jack Taschner. … The Red Sox and Tigers are both interested in signing reliever Joe Borowski, who led the American League with 45 saves last season but was released by the Indians last month. … Phillies rookie left-hander J.A. Happ is working out of the bullpen, but will move into the starting rotation if right-handers Joe Blanton or Brett Myers falter. … The Diamondbacks are close to signing right-hander Dan Haren, under contract through 2009, to an extension.
Interesting facts as the 18