keyboard_arrow_uptop
IN THIS ISSUE

American League

National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Activated C-R Javy Lopez from the 15-day DL; optioned
C-R
Eli Whiteside to Ottawa. [7/25]

Lopez couldn’t come back a moment too soon, because while some have
focused
on the failures of a “name” slugger like Sammy Sosa to
provide much value, or Larry Bigbie‘s career seeming
to be
set at “stalled,” the real reason the Orioles got into the position of
contending this season was their offense, and remains their offense.
Not
that Sal Fasano disappointed anyone; far from it. But
nobody expects Fasano to slug .480 all season, whereas with Lopez, that
wouldn’t be unreasonable. Add in that Lopez’s return also helps against
lefty pitchers, since Lopez can always flip over to DH so that a bat
as
weak as Bigbie’s might hit the bench, with Fasano slipping into the
lineup
to add some extra righty oomph. Considering the slimming trends in the
Orioles’ opportunities, they’re going to need every advantage they can
get,
however small.

Ideally, Whiteside is going to Ottawa with a less outspoken
appreciation of
the virtues of the home of Canada’s Tulip Festival than
David Newhan. Some people just never stop to smell the
flowers, I guess.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Optioned 3B-R Kevin Youkilis to Pawtucket. [7/20]

This is just the follow-on transaction that completes last week’s
decision
to acquire Tony Graffanino from the Royals. As used to
waiting on something as the Greek God of Walks is certain to be,
waiting on
his big-league opportunities has to be a bit draining, even for him.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Recalled 1B-L Ross Gload from Charlotte; placed DH-R
Frank Thomas on the 15-day DL (foot inflammation),
retroactive to 7/21. [7/22]

You like “Turn Back the Clock” promotions, with the old uniforms or
going
without electronic sound, and perhaps even cancelling fish tacos at the
concession stands? No, rather than leave that experience to their fans,
the
White Sox are the team willing to take the concept all the way,
blending “Go
Go Go White Sox” sensibilities on the diamond with dusty legends about
the
No-Hit Wonders to give us a low-wattage winner that simply keeps
winning.
And why not? Considering that the lineup is reduced to scoring as many
runs
as can be produced by Scott Podsednik‘s scampering, as
far
as Tadahito Iguchi‘s line drives will take him, there
does
seem to be more than a few echoes of a franchise whose past is stocked
with
similar heroes, guys like George Davis or
Eddie
Collins
or Nellie Fox.

But I guess it’s the ’50s that seemed to come to mind more than
anything
else while I was at Sunday’s Sox game. Sitting in the upper deck of
the
ballpark formerly named for Cheapskate Charlie Comiskey, I couldn’t
help but
get a laugh over the almost Stalinist scenery of the seventh inning, as
the
theme song of the ’59 Sox was blared repeatedly as part of the stadium
staff’s inspired effort to make everyone bellow approval as the bullpen
shut
down a Red Sox rally. Thousands happily assented, and if the only thing
that
was missing was Ozzie Guillen shaking his fist at the masses and
promising
them that those less nimble teams would choke on their own patience and
power and rue the day that they ever crossed the proletarian
achievements of
basepath mayhem. Perhaps we’ll get that come the day that he abandons
the
dugout and stations himself in that mammoth new “Fundamentals”
pavilion in
the upper deck overlooking the left-field corner. From there, Ozzie’s
spluttering sermons would thunder over an adoring audience, punctuated
by
the aforementioned folk music…”We Will, We Will… Rock
You!”…and
parades of high-stepping cleated heroes.

Besides, however many runs come in on Paul Konerko‘s
clouts, no doubt home runs are as fascist as Crash Davis felt strikeouts
to
be, and the people’s heroes need to possess simpler virtues. In these
heady
times, the Big Hurt, always unloved, and of course a class traitor for
having once hired non-union labor, will no doubt not be missed as much
as
blamed in his absence. In his absence, Carl Everett
will
step in, do his wacky shtick, and perhaps even hit enough to be
worthwhile.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Transferred RHP Troy Percival from the 15- to the
60-day
DL; designated LHP Doug Creek for assignment; placed
INF-R
Placido Polanco on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring),
retroactive to 7/12; acquired 2B/SS-R John McDonald
from
the Blue Jays for a PTBNL; recalled CF-L Curtis
Granderson

from Toledo. [7/22]

Recalled RHP Justin Verlander from Erie (Double-A);
optioned 2B/SS-R Kevin Hooper to Toledo; optioned
Verlander back to Erie; designated Hooper for assignment;
purchased the contract of LHP Vic Darensbourg from
Toledo.
[7/23]

Even though they’re only bouncing around .500, the Tiggers are still
just
five games out of the wild-card race, and given the horrors of most of
the
last dozen years or so, it’s going to behoove Dave Dombrowski to take
the
next six weeks seriously, so that nobody feels that the organization
started
phoning it in and looking towards 2006 before its time. Thus the move
to
get McDonald in Polanco’s absence (with Omar Infante
getting yet another opportunity to redeem himself), and hence the
decision
to stop settling for Nook Logan, and plug in
Granderson.

What, turning to prospects as a means towards contention? Center field
has
been a problem position for Detroit since Chet Lemon
finally crumbled away, and Logan was a patch in the organization’s
finest Cuylerian
solutions. Granderson, by comparison, is the real deal, and the best
player
for the position that the organization has come up with on its own
since
signing Ron LeFlore in 1973. During his season at
Toledo,
Granderson did nothing to take the shine off of his prospect status,
hitting
.295/.356/.517, and seems to have silenced the reservations that he
might be
the best guy to cover the gaps in Comerica. There’s the larger concern
that
Granderson might not be all that special when his most-comparable
players
include names like Gary Thomasson, but skip down the
list a
bit, and you find guys like Ray Lankford and
Bobby
Abreu
who still score highly as PECOTA-comparable players. At
least
initially, Logan will still get platoon playing time, starting against
lefties and no doubt helping out as a defensive replacement and
pinch-runner
now and again.

Similarly, I’m not bent out of shape by the decision to bring up and
demote
Verlander to cover for the weekend double-header. Spotted against a
struggling Twins offense, he did get belted around, but they’re
treating
these gigs as tasters, not trials, so that he simply gets an idea of
the
competition, not an expectation that he’s going to stick until he’s
ready.
Politically, it even helps keep fans interested, since Verlander’s one
of
the most promising arms in any farm system anywhere. It can’t hurt to
make
it obvious to more casual fans that he won’t get peddled for
Doyle
Alexander
(as John Smoltz was), or dumped
because
the manager can’t figure out what to do with him (as Rule 5 pick
John Wetteland was), or worked into the ground a la
Mark Fidrych. In the end, the Tigers should have a
non-Bonderman reason to be really excited about next year’s rotation.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Recalled 2B-R Donnie Murphy from Wichita (Double-A);
optioned OF-R Shane Costa to Wichita (Double-A).
[7/20]

Recalled RHP Kyle Snyder from Omaha; optioned LHP
J.P. Howell to Omaha. [7/23]

Optioned RHP Mike Wood to Omaha; purchased the
contract of
RHP Shawn Camp from Omaha; transferred RHP
Denny
Bautista
from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/25]

As we anticipated last winter, the battle royale for the job at second
base
is on. Murphy earned his promotion by having hit .313/.359/.523, but
Ruben Gotay certainly helped by struggling as much as
he
has this summer. Although we compared the coming combat between the two
for
the position to the one the Cardinals didn’t resolve between
Geronimo Pena and Luis Alicea for
years, I
see this as something less than that particular clash of the titans.
Call it
a hunch: when you have two second basemen with adequate power, less
patience
than you’d like, nothing you’d call speed that might make a manager
notice
him, and solid defensive skills. Neither one will put you over the top,
and
given the organization’s decisive commitment to indecisiveness, it
might be
years before a winner emerges, but where both Pena and Alicea could
play,
there’s just something about a couple of guys who can both boast
Slammin’
Sammy Khalifa among their top comparables that makes
you
think they both might not make it as regulars. Murphy’s already been
getting
tried out at third and short, so the the possibilities of a career like
Shane Halter‘s or Bill Pecota‘s
beckons.
At 22, both Gotay and Murphy are young enough to inspire optimism, of
course.
And so was Slammin’ Sammy, once upon a time. If the organization picked
the
one they thought would learn and adapt better than the other, and stuck
with
him, I’d be more optimistic, but what are the odds of that happening?

Instead, some moves are symptoms of a persistent, perhaps incurable
mental
illness, even when they’re meant to reflect the team’s recognition that
all’s not well. There’s just something ill about a team that stuffed a
guy
like Wood in middle relief all season while letting Jose
Lima
keep goofing around to post all of four quality starts in
twenty. Maybe it’s something about an overly permissive society
flourishing
in Kansas City, but while those sorts of struggles are acceptable for a
guy
like Zack Greinke, who should be part of the next
eighty-win Royals ballclub, it’s inexcusably bad for the staff’s
designated
freak show. There’s still every reason to expect that Wood’s assignment
to
the minors to get him stretched for a return to the big league rotation
will
work out, and give the Royals the adequate third or fourth starter that
they
could have expected all along; the shame is that it took so long for
them to
realize it.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Scott Baker from Rochester; optioned OF-L
Michael Ryan to Rochester; recalled 3B/1B-B
Terry
Tiffee
from Rochester; optioned Baker back to
Rochester.
[7/23]

These were the contortions to get through a double-header, as Baker
came up
to make the spot start, did well, and went back down. It remains
somewhat
reassuring that if the Twins ever do tire of Joe Mays
or
find a way to smuggle him into any deal that helps them shore up their
offense, Baker’s ready to step into the rotation, but as ever, the
concern
is that Terry Ryan won’t make the move, or won’t make a move that
actually
helps his team as much as it gives the appearance of helping, like the
Shannon Stewart trade in ’03. As for Tiffee’s call-up,
I
wouldn’t get excited. He hasn’t hit all that well in Rochester
(.266/.313/.454), so I wouldn’t get my hopes up that Michael
Cuddyer
or Luis Rodriguez might move over to
second, not while there’s the glamor of watching Bret
Boone
‘s death rattle.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of LHP Alex Graman from
Columbus;
optioned LHP Wayne Franklin to Columbus. [7/20]

It’s about time. Look, the Yankees may or may not catch Boston, but
whether
they do or don’t should not be left to the likes of pitchers named
Wayne.
Franklin, Garland,
Gomes,
none of
them should be allowed to get in the way of the Yankees’ banzai charge
into
an increasingly gray destiny. Graman’s been ready to pitch in the
majors for
more than a year, striking out 220 hitters in 222 IP as a Columbus
Clipper
between ’04 and ’05, working almost entirely as a starting pitcher. In
a
bullpen whose only other lefty is Buddy Groom, you
would
think that the organization would have long since gotten over its
manager’s
inability to remember who makes up the back end of the roster. Graman’s
real
problem is that as a lefty who relies on a splitter, he isn’t really
the
sort of guy you might typecast in a situational role, but that seems to
be
all the Yankees can think of to do with him. If they can move beyond
that,
they’ll have a handy pitcher, but if they don’t, he won’t be the first
discard likely to turn up and make them regret giving up on him.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Optioned C-R Kevin Cash and RHP Lance
Carter
to Durham; recalled C-L Pete LaForest
from
Durham; activated RHP Jesus Colome from the 15-day DL.
[7/22]

Gave RHP Hideo Nomo his outright release; activated
RHP
Doug Waechter from the 15-day DL; optioned 2B-L
Fernando Cortez to Durham. [7/25]

As noted below in the Rangers’ comment, the Rays’ pen has been the
league’s
worst, and while Carter obviously isn’t the only guy around to bother
blaming, he’s not a situational reliever with the difficulties of his
specialization to blame the way Trever Miller might,
and
somebody needs to rue the day they let Chuck LaMar down, right? People
might
focus on Carter’s former All-Star status, but like Danny
Kolb
, in some things there’s just no accounting for taste.
However,
it’s beginning to look like Lou Piniella might wind up with a good pen
after
all. Chad Orvella is filling a key role, Joe
Borowski
has been outstanding since coming off of waivers from
the
Cubs, and it’s worth remembering that Colome had an outstanding partial
season with the D-Rays last year. For as long as we’ve been hearing
about
Colome, he’s still only 27, and he still cooks with gas. He should
still be
somebody that a good GM would flip for a prospect, although with the
concerns for Colome’s shoulder, it might have to wait for a waiver deal
in
August, after he demonstrates that he’s healthy.

As for fixing the catching situation, at least the Rays seem to have
gotten
over their embarassment for ever having traded for Cash, let along
giving up
a prospect like Chad Gaudin to get him. Having hit
.268/.321/.574 at Durham, you may think that LaForest has finally
arrived,
but keep in mind that he’s already 27, and only a little more than two
years
younger than Toby Hall. However, having popped 21
homeruns
in 272 at-bats is pretty sweet, and he does hit lefty. Hall doesn’t
boast a
consistent platoon tendency, so he might be more of the job-sharing
type of
backup should the Rays decide to plug LaForest into the lineup for
grins.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Acquired RHP Kevin Gryboski from the Braves for RHP
Matt Lorenzo; claimed RHP James
Baldwin

off of waivers from the Orioles; optioned LHP C.J.
Wilson

to Frisco (Double-A). [7/21]

Recalled 1B-L Adrian Gonzalez from Oklahoma; optioned
INF-R
Marshall McDougall and LHP Erasmo
Ramirez

to Oklahoma. [7/23]

Give credit where credit’s due, at least the Rangers aren’t sitting
still,
hoping to patch up their pitching staff and their rotation while
keeping
their postseason hopes alive. But let’s face it, when guys like
Gryboski and
Baldwin represent improvement, you’ve got one of the worst pens in the
league, which happens to be the case with the Rangers. Ranking AL
bullpens
by Adjuste
d Runs Prevented
(ARP), the Rangers have bragging rights over only
the
Red Sox and the Devil Rays. Where the Red Sox are hunting bigger game
to fix
their pen problems, the Rangers are more in hunter-gatherer mode,
picking up
whatever dessicated berries they can to keep themselves going, hoping
that
guys like Doug Brocail or John Wasdin
or
now Baldwin and Gryboski can help them make it the next waterhole.
Don’t get
your hopes up; Gryboski’s career-long control problems are reason
enough to
not expect a lot of relief from him, and while Baldwin comes over
boasting a
sub-two ERA, he was being used almost exclusively in mop-up situations.
There’s talk that Baldwin could be plugged into the rotation to help
paper
over Kenny Rogers‘s coming suspension, and while
Baldwin’s
not the worst guy to give a fifth starter’s slot, if you’re being
charitable, that basically describes most of the rest of the rotation.

At least the decision to turn to Gonzalez can inspire some sort of
hope,
because at least he’s an upgrade on a roster cluttered with bats whose
contributions have been as worthless as most of the pen’s have been.
Gonzalez’s knee is healed, and he’d gotten his numbers at Oklahoma up
to
.316/.379/.502. His call-up heralds further change, since it looks like
he’ll be splitting time between DH and first while David
Dellucci
starts nicking starts in the outfield corners from
the
less deserving Richard Hidalgo.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Traded 2B/SS-R John McDonald to the Tigers for a
PTBNL.
[7/22]

Recalled RHP David Bush from Syracuse. [7/23]

This is a pretty sensible reshuffling for the Jays, as they put Bush
back in
the rotation, keep Chad Gaudin around to gain further
big
league experience pitching in the pen, and getting rid of a spare
veteran
infielder they really didn’t need now that we’re almost in August, and
it’s
clear that Russ Adams is fine at shortstop. Not only
are
they more than adequately covered in the infield courtesy of the
positional
flexibility of Aaron Hill and Frank
Menechino
, they also have Shea Hillenbrand
ready
to slip over to third base as needed. It also isn’t like the Jays need
to
worry too much about their place in the wild card race; staying close
while
Roy Halladay is on the DL would be pennies from
heaven, and
if they do it while relying on guys like Bush, Hill, and Adams in
regular
roles, it’ll be something of a bragging right for the entire
organization.

The more relevant near-term issue is who might get the boot when
Corey Koskie comes off of the DL sometime this week.
Gaudin
seems like a good bet, since the Jays are currently carrying thirteen
pitchers. Scott Downs has made two good appearances in
middle relief, so he should be relatively safe. More likely targets?
Although Gaudin has struggled, Brandon League is
spending
more time watching baseball since his recall than throwing them, having
only
appeared in one game in the two weeks since his recall earlier this
month.
If only to get him back in the swing of things, he’s probably the one
due to
get shipped out.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Acquired RHP Tim Worrell from the Phillies for INF-B
Matt Kata. [7/21]

Outrighted LHP Armando Almanza to Tucson. [7/22]

It speaks volumes about the state of the NL West that the Snakes are
still
able to entertain the idea that they’ve got a shot, but the Padres keep
making it look like 82 wins is all that it might take to crown a
division
winner this year. Not that Worrell is that likely to help fix one of
the
league’s worst pens, but at least he might, whereas there was
basically no way that Kata would play a significant role on this or any
D’back squad. Although Joe Garagiola Jr. has stated that Worrell won’t
take
over as closer, the “variety of roles” he’s supposed to be used in
don’t
leave a lot to the imagination, especially when the Adventures of
Brian Bruney seem to involve a few too many
cliffhangers
that end without the scripted happy ending, but instead close on images
of
snake-shaped craters a la Wil E. Coyote.

Even with Worrell, the pen still
isn’t
fully stocked, not even with Jose Valverde rounding
into
form and Brandon Medders going well since his recall.
Lance Cormier is showing signs of wear after allowing
nine
runs and nine walks in the 9 2/3 innings he’s thrown in July, and the
organization’s blind faith in Greg Aquino has not been
rewarded. But again, when your gold standard is 82, heroes can come in
strange shapes and sizes, or through throwaway trades such as this. If
Worrell gets his shot to be for the Snakes what Roger
Mason

was for the ’93 Phillies, I guess that’s something you might feel good
about.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Recalled LHP Macay McBride from Richmond; acquired RHP
Matt Lorenzo from the Rangers for RHP Kevin
Gryboski
. [7/21]

This isn’t a bad little exchange for the Braves. Gryboski was pretty
useless
in a pen already stuck with Danny Kolb, so besides the
value of swapping in McBride as a second lefty for the pen, there’s
also the
possibility that moving over from the Rangers’ organization to the
Braves
might be what Lorenzo needs to get his prospectdom back on track.
Flipping
between Georgia Tech and Kent State before getting drafted by the
Rangers in
’03, Lorenzo flashed mid-’90s heat and occasionally effective
breaking
stuff. He’s shown some measure of talent,
striking out 144 hitters in 123 innings between the Midwest and Cal Leagues last year
while
walking just 33, but has been struggling this year since his promotion to Double-A from Bakersfield.
Moving
over
to an organization that does seem to know how to coach its young
pitchers
certainly shouldn’t hurt.

As for McBride, he hasn’t been particularly effective down on the farm
this
year: in 65 2/3 innings at Double- and Triple-A, he’s giving up almost five
runs
per nine and a hit per inning, although he has struck out 58 batters.
Perhaps the Braves are focused more on his skills, since he’s a lefty
who
can get into the low 90s, and as a former starter, he can probably
handle
long relief while allowing John Foster to remain in a
purely situational role. With or without Gryboski, the pen wasn’t
looking
all that strong. Barring a trade, the Braves will have to hope that
Blaine Boyer can be the guy who can get games to
Chris Reitsma, which is another way of saying that you
can
count on their making some sort of move in the next six weeks.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Placed RHP Kerry Wood on the 15-day DL (shoulder
inflammation); recalled LHP Rich Hill from Iowa.
[7/25]

When an emergency drill goes from being an emergency to the everyday
experience, I suppose you can get used to anything. Like having a great
rotation, except not quite. If you add up the Support-Neutral Value
Above
Replacement of the teams in the league, the Cubs rank around the middle
of
the pack, which actually isn’t so bad when you think about the time
that
Wood and Mark Prior have missed. However, injuries
have
also trouble the Braves, and by that performance metric, they’ve gotten
the
best work out of their starting pitching of any team in the NL. The
Mets and
Marlins have had their share of problems with durability in the
rotation as
well, and they also rank ahead of the Cubs’ famous foursome (and
supporting
cast). Add in that the Cubs are an organization that’s loaded with
pitching
talent, and I’d argue that it isn’t the injuries that are choking the
life
out of their ambitions, it’s the flakiness when it comes to relying on
that
talent and the usual wishy/washy commitments. Players like
Neifi Perez seem blameless, while it took forever to
reshuffle the responsibilities of Glendon Rusch and
Ryan Dempster.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Activated UT-R Ryan Freel from the 15-day DL; recalled
OF-R
Austin Kearns from Louisville. [7/20]

Recalled 3B-R Edwin Encarnacion from Louisville;
acquired
RHPs Travis Chick and Justin Germano
from
the Padres for 3B-R Joe Randa. [7/23]

There are almost enough bits of good news here for a person to forget
the
first four months of the season, and think happy thoughts about the
future.
By moving Randa off of third, room has been made for Encarnacion to
take
over the position he’s ready to own for the next five or six years,
having
plastered the International League to the tune of .309/.384/.546 in a
half-season’s worth of playing time. Add in getting Freel back to man
second
base and bat leadoff, and you might finally plant Rich
Aurilia
on the bench and get the Reds back to boasting a major
league-quality infield, with Sean Casey being the
weakest
link. That’s still fixable if the Reds did something clever, like
moving
Casey and plugging Adam Dunn in at first base so that
Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, and Ken Griffey
Jr.

could all play simultaneously, but I think we all know they’re thinking
in
terms of moving Dunn or Griffey, and not Casey. So the Reds’ news isn’t
entirely rosy, such as it goes.

Renting Randa for a single season also brought the organization two
young
pitchers already on the cusp of making it. Germano is a bit of a
stringbean,
but he can get his heat over 90, and he owns a nice big-bending curve
that
elicits a generous comparison to Mike Krukow now and
again.
At Portland, Germano has posted a 3.70 ERA, giving up a hit per inning
pitched in the PCL over 112 frames, and logging Defense-Independent
data of
100-32-13 (strikeouts, walks, and home runs) across that workload. He’s
a few
weeks removed from his 23rd birthday, so the chance is there for him to
pick
up some velocity as he ages and perhaps fills out, but even if he
doesn’t,
he’s a better body to have around than waiting on the next
Jimmy
Haynes
to stumble into town. Chick is a bit more rough around
the
edges, having gotten knocked around as a 21 year-old in his
introductory
season at Double-A, but he’s been pushed up rather aggressively for a
high-school pitcher picked by the Marlins in ’02. He’s a bigger-framed
hurler
than Germano is, and gets into the mid-90s regularly, while hammering
hitters
with a particularly nasty slider. Again, the Southern League hasn’t
been
kind to him, and he’s struggled to a 5.45 ERA while allowing a 96-43-12
SO/BB/HR split across 102 1/3 IP. However, allowing for this being
his
first full season in a rotation as well as his first year in Double-A,
I
wouldn’t get down on him. It may turn out that Germano is the throw-in
in
this deal.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Claimed INF-B Anderson Machado off of waivers from the
Reds. [7/20]

Optioned INF-B Eddy Garabito to Colorado Springs;
purchased
the contract of LHP Randy Williams from Colorado
Springs;
placed RHP Jason Jennings on the 15-day DL (fractured
finger); transferred RHP Blaine Neal from the 15- to
the
60-day DL. [7/23]

Optioned RHP Zach Day to Colorado Springs; recalled
RHP
Scott Dohmann from Colorado Springs. [7/25]

It is in the nature of some things to inspire despair. Whenever I think
of
what to say about the Rockies, I almost end up sympathizing with Dan
O’Dowd,
whose sense of hopelessness came through loud and clear during his
participation in the panel asking about the difficulties of playing
baseball
at altitude during SABR’s annual convention in Denver in 2003. Having
pondered everything, researched anything and even attempted some
things,
O’Dowd seemed to be a man fatalistically resigned to the handicaps of
his
environment. (For those who don’t belong, check out SABR’s site. Although I won’t be at this year’s
convention, I can’t say enough good things about the amount of fun I
generally have at the annual meeting, and encourage anyone who wants to
write about or simply research the game to take advantage of SABR’s
burgeoning list of benefits.)

So it isn’t too dissimilar for me to approach saying something about
the Rox
on a day-to-day or weekly basis with no small amount of trepidation.
It’s
rare when any move is about progress; most are more about the bookkeeping
of
disappointment. In part, that’s a reflection on the modest virtues of
too
many Rockie farmhands, the absurd enthusiasm for some players with so
little
to offer, and the lurches from an over-active desire to do something
and fix
something alternating with the realization that there is no fixing
something
this broken.

Nevertheless, there’s no reason to give up. Snagging Machado off of
waivers
lets the Rockies finally bring the exercise of putting Desi
Relaford
in the lineup to an end, and if Machado ends up being
both
a better source of OBP and a more adequate shortstop in Clint
Barmes
‘s absence, that’s not all bad. Once Barmes does return,
either he or Machado might move across the bag and push Luis
Gonzalez
into more of a supersub role and Aaron
Miles
out of the lineup altogether. However, it’s probably
more
likely that Machado will wind up as another utility infielder drifting
in
and out of what looks like the perpetually supperating situation at
second
base, as the Rockies fail to fix another ongoing problem.

Less happy still is losing Jennings for the season, since it means that
instead of replacing roster filler like Jamey Wright,
the
Rockies will have to continue to rely on him while sorting through
their
options. One choice will be to hope that Day gets his stamina up down
in
Colorado Springs. That done, Day could then step into the rotation, and
wind
up getting pounded into jam the way you’d expect any starting pitcher
who
doesn’t strike a lot of people out to have done to him on Planet Coors.
There is also the probability that Aaron Cook will
complete
his comeback from his circulatory problems, and return to the major
leagues
in the next week or so, and he’s a better source of inspiration than
Day.
Finally, Reds refugee Jose Acevedo might be able to
make
more of his opportunity, and stick in the rotation after Day’s ready,
in
which case Wright might finally see his ninth life expended. But given
Wright’s staying power, I wouldn’t bet against his still starting games
in
Colorado into September. And why not? LoDo may not be Chinatown, and
Dan
O’Dowd might not be Jake Geddes, but the refrain that “It’s
Denver” is used to cover every sort of quirk of fate.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Optioned LHP Scott Olsen to Carolina (Double-A);
activated
RHP Ismael Valdez from the 15-day DL. [7/22]

Optioned RHP Travis Smith to Albuquerque; activated
RHP
Josh Beckett from the 15-day DL. [7/23]

Notionally, this means that there’s a full plate of the original Fish
in the
rotation, with no more Gorton’s-style solutions, but when you talk fish
fingers and Josh Beckett, there’s more than one reason to cringe, and
it
isn’t because of the tartar sauce. Add in that Valdez is a similarly
affected tender-fleshed hurler, and one who’s three years removed from
his
last really useful season, and I can’t help but think that we’re not
far
removed from seeing Jeffrey Loria dig back into the freezer and serve
up
Travis Smith to the paying customers one more time.

In the meantime, it seems strange that Olsen has lost out to Vargas for
the
last slot in the rotation, but with Valdez back as well, the Marlins
have
all sorts of choices, and only one slot to offer for as long as Beckett
is
healthy or A.J. Burnett is in teal. Should Valdez
show
that he’s healthy, I suppose that there’s always the possibility that
he
gets dealt in a low-stakes deal to a team that desperately needs a
starter
(Texas? the Yankees?), while the various Burnett deals fizzle out
because of
the expectation of how much he’s supposed to bring in return.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Activated CF-B Milton Bradley from the 15-day DL;
designated OF-R Chin-Feng Chen for assignment. [7/23]

As Joe Sheehan has noted, Bradley’s the player this team cannot
replace, so
getting him back makes a significant difference. Now the Dodgers can go
back
to relying on their extra outfielders as spare parts to cover only two
outfield slots, instead of all three. That should mean a lot of
Jayson Werth and Ricky Ledee in the
corners, with increasingly smaller doses of Jason
Repko
and
Mike Edwards. It’s an assortment that can better
handle the
corners, providing limited offense and decent enough defense, instead
of
trying to have any of them cover center, where they weren’t doing the
pitching staff many favors.

The question now isn’t whether Bradley will set it off, but whether
he’ll
be da
bomb
, or simply drop
one
. He managed to get tossed from one of his rehab games, but that
goes
with the territory of being Milton Bradley, and if
you’ve
ever talked to many umpires, it isn’t unusual to find out that they
look
forward to going after the hard cases in a game as much as those with
problems with authority enjoy a bit of confrontation with the boys in
blue.
So everyone gets what they wanted, with bragging rights and cred and
vented
anger and all the rest. The real question is whether Bradley can get it
in
gear enough to help drive a Dodgers comeback from the 18-27 stretch
they
were mired in over June and July before his reactivation.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Wes Obermueller to Nashville; recalled
RHP
Justin Lehr from Nashville. [7/20]

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Jose Santiago from
Norfolk;
optioned RHP Heath Bell to Norfolk; transferred LHP
Felix Heredia from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/24]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Clay Condrey from
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; optioned UT-R Danny Sandoval to
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; acquired INF-B Matt Kata from
the
Diamondbacks for RHP Tim Worrell; transferred LHP
Randy Wolf from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/21]

Activated RHP Geoff Geary from the 15-day DL; optioned
RHP
Clay Condrey to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/24]

Not that I disagree with the decision to ship out Worrell once Geary
was
basically ready to come back off of the DL, but is there any reason to
believe that Kata has any more to offer than Sandoval? I guess the
Phillies
want a veteran infield reserve in the interim, because they do still
have an
opportunity to win either their divison of the wildcard, but Kata’s
just a
supernumerary on a bench that already has two veteran infield reserves,
and
he’s not really a guy who can play short. At 27, he certainly isn’t a
prospect, but if he and Tomas Perez give the Phillies
a
pair of switch-hitting backups who do a lot of pinch-hitting, while
Ramon Martinez is reserved for use as Chase
Utley
‘s platoon partner, that would make sense.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Recalled 1B-R Brad Eldred from Indianapolis; optioned
2B/3B-B Bobby Hill to Indianapolis. [7/21]

To expand on what Steven Goldman said Monday, I’m not overly
troubled by
the suggestion that first base is a position where the Pirates have had
their problems. If you build a lineup around players who are better
than
their peers around the league at other positions, you can get by with
solidly useful first base solutions that don’t bruise your wallet. You
don’t
fall in love with Sid Bream or Orlando
Merced
, you get by with them as fixer-upper first basemen,
finding
them appropriate platoon partners where applicable, and outscoring your
opponents because you’ve instead invested in having guys like
Barry
Bonds
, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy Van
Slyke
around, and also leaning on the other guy because you’ve
got
a nice Spanky & Sluggo platoon behind the plate while he’s trying to
get by
with Damon Berryhill or Brad Ausmus.
If
money’s tight, the last thing you want to do at first base is… well,
over-invest in Kevin Young, or sign Jason
Thompson
to oodles of cash. Not only does this potentially
leave
the team susceptible to catching a nasty summer case of the olds, it
potentially blocks cheap homegrown talent on the way up, as you stick
with
the “money” player over the kid. (For greater detail, go over
to
the other end of Pennsylvania, and see what’s going on with the
Phillies and
Jim Thome.)

Happily, the Pirates don’t have that exact problem when it comes to
sorting
out what to do when you have a Bunyanesque first baseman on the way up,
as
they have in Eldred. I was enthusiastic about him when I wrote about
Eldred
in last year’s edition of the annual. In part, he’s up because
Daryle Ward is never going to be a fixture, but Eldred
is
also up for having continued to bop, slugging .674 between Altoona and
Indianapolis. He’s belted 28 homeruns this season despite missing three
weeks with bruised ribs. Now after all that, the pressure’s on, and
expectations have perhaps gotten too quickly ramped up. The real
dilemma for
me is that I can’t help but think of the similarly mammoth Joey
Meyer
when I think about Eldred, which leads to a comparison
of the
Brewers’ equally troubling franchise history at first base. Even if
he’s
always going to have a long stroke, make no mistake, he’s not the new
Meyer,
or the next anyone else for that matter; a quick glance at his most comparable players leads off with Albert
Belle
,
and the score’s low enough that it indicates that he isn’t really very
comparable. For statheads, I’d like to think that Eldred’s one of the
most
interesting players around, because of that very unpredictability, so
chalk
this up as another reason to watch the Pirates down the stretch. They
may
not quite be a good team, but it isn’t like they’re boring or bad.

I can’t help but feel some measure of pity for Hill in the meantime.
Spurned
by Dusty Baker as a Cubby, he seems to have reached that same place
that
dooms and damns so many other up-and-coming second basemen, where he
possesses no single skill that makes him someone that his manager
latches
onto. So like Chad Meyers or Keith
Miller
,
Hill is a guy without a position who might make a hell of a leadoff
hitter
in the PCL, and who gets to be exactly that because of his failure to
pass
any particular Goldilocks test: not enough defense, not enough power,
too
short, too slow, too scrappy, too agented, too ineffably whatever that
just
never makes him the it-boy at the keystone. If he’s lucky, he can grow
up to
be Jerry Hairston, turning into a useful utility
second
base-outfield guy, but Hairston’s that rare survivor who actually
stuck.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of LHP Craig Breslow from
Mobile
(Double-A); optioned 3B-L Sean Burroughs to Portland;
designated RHP Luis Mendoza for assignment; acquired
3B-R
Joe Randa from the Reds for RHPs Travis
Chick
and Justin Germano. [7/23]

Optioned LHP Craig Breslow to Mobile (Double-A).
[7/24]

“Hi, my name is Joe Randa, and I’m here to speak on behalf of an
organization that many of you are familar with, Adequacy Anonymous. If
you’ve always been good enough to get by, and handy in a pinch because
the
dog doesn’t have opposable thumbs, you don’t need to get down about
that.
You may want to look into our long list of motivational tapes about
being
the right guy in the right place at the right time. Later on, we’ll
have a
chance to sit down with Pauly Shore. So if you’re average, don’t get
down
about it. Or up. We’re here to help you learn to be happy with just
enough.”

Can we blame the Pads for making this move? I wouldn’t, not when A.A.
won’t
even pledge Burroughs, not when adequacy is still something for him to
attain. Despite the high price paid in pitching talent to get two
months of
Joe Randa’s time (he’s a free agent this winter), the lineup needed the
help, and if Randa’s power will fade considerably moving from the GAP
to
Petco, he still won’t be what Burroughs had become, “a sphinx
without a riddle,”
perplexing and pointless. At the least,
Randa’s
no Geoff Blum, and now that Mark
Loretta

is back and playing second on a daily basis, the Pads’ lineup lacks a
weak
spot. It’s worth asking if it has many strong spots, because beyond
Brian Giles, the entire lineup is really an
amalgamation of
adequacy. That’s not a bad thing; barring how you decide to use a term
like
‘contenders’ to describe a team, the Pads field
a
more productive lineup than anyone in the playoff picture outside of
the
Marlins and the Cubs
, and there’s something to be said for having
no
real weaknesses beyond only one notable source of strength. It would
have
been nice to acquire a more potent hitter than Randa, but third base
was the
Pads’ problem spot, there aren’t a lot of top hitters at the position
lately, and the only other third baseman who might have been available
beyond Randa is probably Shea Hillenbrand, and the
Blue
Jays seem inclined to hold onto him. I suppose they could have done
something like dealing for Mark Bellhorn, and moving
him to
third, but if that didn’t work, everyone would have been complaining
that
all Kevin Towers did at the deadline was go out and get a Mark
Bellhorn, and
how did he expect to win when he settled for that? Randa’s been talked
up to
the point that people in the press and the stands feel he was one of
July’s
prizes, so the move reflects well on Towers for having made it, even
with
the cost of giving up Germano and Chick.

Which leaves the more troubling question: can Burroughs be
rehabilitated
back into some form of prospectdom? He’ll turn 25 in September, and I
don’t
know if it’s a matter of going to a friendlier ballpark with cozier
dimensions, or finding a hitting coach that will convince Burroughs to
let
it rip at the plate. Some feel that he’s become too defensive at the
plate.
I don’t know what Walt Hriniak is up to these days, but Burroughs’
focus on
contact might need tinkering with, so that he can do that and drive the
ball, as opposed to settling for tappers to the right side of the
infield
and weak liners to left that don’t drop. In the right situation, he
might
yet become a Rance Mulliniks type, a line-drive hitter
and
OBP source who plays a good third base and gives you enough doubles
power to
help an offense score runs. If the Pads let their disgust with him get
the
better of them, he’s worth taking a flyer on, certainly.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Activated 3B-R Edgardo Alfonzo from the 15-day DL;
optioned
OF-L Adam Shabala to Fresno. [7/22]

Activated OF-R Marquis Grissom from the 15-day DL;
activated RHP Jesse Foppert from the 15-day DL, and
optioned him to Fresno; placed OF-R Alex Sanchez on
the
15-day DL (sprained elbow). [7/24]

If you don’t look too closely, this almost looks like the Giants are
putting
themselves back together again. Of course, where the Giants are
concerned,
it’s best to always avoid looking too closely. To help yourself out,
switch
from storing your contacts from saline to onion juice; you’ll be amazed
how
impressionistic life can get with a few neat home remedies. But in this
case, they’ve got Alfonzo back at third and Grissom back in center, and
if
that almost gives them a lineup that resembles what they wanted at
season’s
start, that’s what makes it really sting. At this point of the year,
center
really should just belong to Jason Ellison, with
Grissom
splitting time with Michael Tucker whenever
Pedro
Feliz
isn’t in an outfield corner. Although Feliz would be be
more
helpful at third because of his defensive value, Alfonzo’s the better
bat to
have in the lineup over Grissom and Tucker, which makes Feliz an
outfielder
so that Alfonzo can man the one position he can still play. It’s
amazing
to think that this team is within ten games of first place, but that
has
everything to do with the rest of the division rather than any
peculiar
brand of genius or good fortune.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Placed 3B-R Scott Rolen on the 15-day DL (shoulder
soreness); recalled 3B-R Scott Seabol from Memphis.
[7/22]

So what can Rolen do that doesn’t involve his surgically repaired
shoulder?
Most vacations are out of the question, as everything from poker to
pinball
might involve some use of his bad wing. Paying him to sit still might
not be
fun for him, but the regular season is not what’s at stake here. The
Cardinals will win the NL Central, however much they may play the hare
to
the five legless tortoises that call themselves their divisional
rivals.
That quintet can only croak their dismay over achieving little more
than
witnessing the Redbirds’ bunny act. Meanwhile, I hope Seabol gets a
chance
to show something. Although his season at Memphis has been interrupted
twice
before already, he has managed to hit .266/.330/.507 in the third of a
season he’s been there. Hopefully, the odd fascination with
Abraham
Nunez
will be dispelled by a realization that he’s just a nice
utility infielder, but at this point, I don’t think even a Tom
Lawless
comeback would keep the Cards from printing playoff
tickets.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS Return to Top

Claimed OF-R Kenny Kelly off of waivers from the Reds;
outrighted LHP Joe Horgan to New Orleans; outrighted
Jacobo Sequea to Harrisburg (Double-A); designated
1B-R
Wil Cordero for assignment. [7/20]

Placed Cordero on unconditional release waivers. [7/25]

Claiming Kelly doesn’t really help the Nats regain traction, but it
does
reflect an active realization by Jim Bowden that his team’s best
possible
bench isn’t the same in every situation. In particular, there are
differing
priorities in the wake of some of the injuries that have been endured.
With
Nick Johnson on the DL and Brad
Wilkerson

subsequently playing first every day, there isn’t a need for a
right-handed
hitting caddy at first base. Instead, the Nats seemed to feel that what
they
really needed was a backup center fielder to caddy for Preston
Wilson
, thus reserving Ryan Church and
Marlon Byrd for platoon duties in left. But you may
have
heard that Johnson’s about to get some playing time on a rehab
assignment,
which might make you wonder why Bowden would risk rattling a few cages
by
releasing Cordero. But even if Johnson comes back by month’s end,
Kelly’s
simply more useful as a bench weapon than Cordero. Not only can he
handle
some defensive replacement and pinch-running chores, but if Johnson
keeps
having problems, Frank Robinson can always just return Wilkerson to the
infield. And once Johnson returns, both Church and Byrd will be on the
bench
regardless, scrapping for spot starts in all three outfield positions
and
whatever pinch-hit chores they can get. At-bats for Cordero would be
scarce,
and Robinson would be without a guy who, if not a real prospect, is
still a
useful reserve.

Where I worry is that snagging Kelly is just another incident in a long
line
of the packrat pickups that have always been Bowden’s signature. In an
organization with as little depth as the Nats, that’s less of a
problem,
because he has spots on his 40-man roster that he can play with.
However, if
this is how he keeps investing spots on the 40-man on players with low
or no
upside, he’ll never move beyond having this sort of problem. It’s what
happened in Cincinnati, and if nothing was learned from that
experience, it
might be what happens here.