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ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated 3B Matt Williams and 1B Erubiel Durazo from the DL;
placed IF Danny Klassen on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/8 (toe);
optioned OF Rob Ryan to Tucson. [7/13]

Recalled RHP Nelson Figueroa from Tucson; optioned 1B/OF Travis
Lee
to Tucson. [7/16]

Perhaps nothing reflects the immediate needs of the Snakes more than the
returns of Matt Williams and Erubiel Durazo and the demotion of Travis Lee.

Williams’s return is supposed to help the Snakes resolve some of their
persistent offensive problems, especially against left-handed pitching.
While he hasn’t done much this year in the little time he’s been healthy
enough to play, he did slug above .600 against left-handers in 1999. In a
lineup featuring as many left-handed hitters as Arizona has (Durazo, Steve
Finley, Luis Gonzalez, Tony Womack and now Jason Conti), they need somebody
resembling a right-handed threat. Coming on top of Bernard Gilkey’s
meltdown, Jay Bell’s drawn-out fizzle only compounds the problem, and Greg
Colbrunn can only play first base or pinch-hit just once. Counting on a
34-year-old Williams is a risky proposition, and there’s a pretty good
chance you’ll see a lot more of the 1997 or 1998 versions, rather than the
1999 year in the sun.

Travis Lee’s troubles (.232/.308/.397 and a .239
Equivalent Average
before his demotion) highlight a lesson we should learn: rushing players with
little experience above A ball is a bad idea. Lee went into 1998 and his
major-league debut with less than 60 games of experience above A ball.
Think about what that may mean for player development, especially radically
accelerated player development. An advanced college player like Lee gets
less than a half-season’s worth of playing time against generally solid
veterans of the upper levels of the minors, guys like Larry Luebbers or
Blaine Beatty, before getting exposed to the highest level of competition
there is. Add in that he’s played in a cozy park like High Desert, a
bandbox like Tucson and a good hitter’s park like the Bank One Ballpark,
and it’s no surprise that he still has a lot to learn about hitting.

The need to trade for some right-handed sock seems obvious, except that the
farm system is running close to empty after last year’s trades. Because of
Omar Daal’s struggles and the never-ending arm problems of Todd Stottlemyre
and Armando Reynoso, they can’t afford to part with either smuggled import
Geraldo Guzman or Nelson Figueroa. Jack Cust is just about the last
remaining position prospect worth mentioning. Matt Mantei’s name is being
bandied about, and they could replace him easily enough in the closer’s
role with Byung-Hyun Kim and on the roster with Johnny Ruffin. Trading him,
though, would only add an exclamation point to why it was such a bad idea
to acquire him in the first place, even without considering his persistent
arm problems.

In short, the Snakes look like a team that could crater in a hurry, even if
everyone in the lineup stays healthy. They don’t have the talent in the
organization to fix problems that arise with the talent on the roster. If
they hold on to win, it’ll be a great accomplishment considering they’re
operating without a net.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated LHP Mike Remlinger from the DL; designated RHP Dave
Stevens
for assignment. [7/13]

Placed 2B Quilvio Veras on the 15-day DL (torn ACL); recalled UT
Steve Sisco from Richmond. [7/15]

Too much has already been made about how much Quilvio Veras’s absence is
going to be felt because of his stolen bases, but getting caught 12 times
to go with his 25 successful nabs essentially wiped out the value of his
speed. The more critical loss is his .409 OBP.

Considering he’s gone for the season and the Braves have already discarded
Bruce Chen as if he were a beer-soaked foam tomahawk, we’ll all get a
really long look at Rafael Furcal. Furcal stands a good chance of being
overextended by everyday play, and Keith Lockhart hardly provides a viable
alternative. Unlike the Snakes, the Braves have other minor-league arms
they could peddle for some semi-adequate journeyman to help out in the
infield, but that kind of player will not significantly help this year’s
pursuit of the pennant.

That chase for postseason glory was the central reason for getting Veras in
the first place, and now that he’s gone, the short-term payoffs of this
winter’s deal with the Padres is spent; the most you can say for the long
term is that the Braves have an open outfield corner in 2001, and the money
to fill it. Worst of all, losing Veras might also give the Mets just enough
incentive to pull off a big deal for a shortstop or a centerfielder.

The Braves can at least cheer up on two counts. Mike Remlinger has easily
been their best reliever this season, and his time on the DL was due to a
reaction to the dye used in the MRI of his elbow, and not the elbow itself.
If he’s fine for the rest of the season, they’ll be much better able to
afford patience with John Rocker.

The other happy news is that while Steve Sisco (.274/.328/.443 with
Richmond) is hardly a star or an ideal replacement for Veras, he is at
least a better bench player than some people who have littered Braves’
postseason rosters of the recent past.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed 3B Dave Hollins to a minor-league contract, and assigned him
to Rochester. [7/13]

Placed 3B Ryan Minor on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/5 (strained
ribcage); recalled IF Ivanon Coffie from Bowie (Double-A). [7/15]

As bad as the Orioles are, sometimes they give you hints that they want to
be even worse. How else to explain why a bad, old team would add worse, old
players like Mark Lewis, Darren Holmes and now Dave Hollins? The Redbirds
have little chance of competing with Buffalo, Pawtucket or Scranton in
their division, so adding Hollins doesn’t even merit consideration as a
Triple-A playoff move.

Ivanon Coffie was the starting shortstop for the American League in the
Double-A All-Star game, and while he’s not really a tremendous prospect,
he’s a young left-handed hitter who can play anywhere in the infield. After
hitting .264/.338/.420 at Bowie, he has a reasonably good chance to be the
new Ernest Riles, who was pretty valuable as a part-timer and useful
utility man in his prime. Coffie is up to fill in temporarily at third base
until either Cal Ripken or Ryan Minor heal, and one of them will be ready
by the end of the week.


BOSTON RED SOX

Activated RHP Pedro Martinez from the DL. [7/13]

Optioned 1B Dernell Stenson to Pawtucket; activated CF Darren
Lewis
from the DL. [7/14]

Dernell Stenson was banished without an opportunity to play, but
fortunately for the Sox, Troy O’Leary came back from his stint on the DL a
new man, while Morgan Burkhart continues to impress. With Burkhart and
Brian Daubach, you need to tip your cap to the Duke for how he’s spreading
his money: he’s spent top dollar on top offensive players in important
defensive positions, like Nomar Garciaparra and Carl Everett, and done his
bargain shopping in slots like first base and DH. A lot of organizations
could learn a thing or two from that approach, instead of shelling out good
money to the Rico Brognas, Kevin Youngs and Mark Graces of the world. The
statement isn’t seamless, of course: Jose Offerman and Mike Stanley aren’t
looking like nifty investments nowadays, let alone Darren Lewis.

Oh, and the team’s meal ticket is back on the bus.


CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned RHP Ruben Quevedo to Iowa; recalled CF Gary Matthews
Jr.
from Iowa. [7/14]

It’s just as well that they send Ruben Quevedo away for the next two weeks.
Blistered fingers or bad pitching aside, if the organization wants to
capitalize at all on the decision to rent Ismael Valdes, they need him to
make three starts between now and the end of the month to set up a trade.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Optioned LHP Jesus Pena to Birmingham (Double-A); purchased the
contract of LHP Mark Buehrle from Birmingham. [7/16]

Jesus Pena’s demotion coincided with his admission that he was trying to
crease a Cardinal noggin or two, but five home runs in 22 1/3 innings
probably didn’t help his case any either. Still, you can’t help but hope
the hot dog gets back, if only for the amusement factor.

Mark Buehrle is coming up after a tremendous half-season with Birmingham: a
2.28 ERA, with 95 hits and 17 walks allowed in 118 2/3 innings, with only
eight home runs allowed. While obviously helped by his ballpark (a 1.84
home ERA versus 3.12 on the road), he also owns one of the nastiest pickoff
moves this side of Terry Mulholland (info courtesy of Baseball
America
‘s Lacy Lusk, who told me this not long before I watched him
pick off the leadoff man in the Double-A All-Star Game).

Buehrle is up too soon for my taste, but having him up at the same time as
Jon Garland gives the Sox the opportunity to mix and match them in the
fifth spot, spotting Buehrle against teams like the Yankees or Athletics
while saving Garland for heavily right-handed lineups. Since the fifth spot
gets skipped, that also affords the Sox the opportunity to use either of
them in middle relief, sort of in the same role in which Kevin Beirne is
already being used. That just highlights the fact that the Sox really need
to make room for a 14th position player, either a healthy and rehabbed
Craig Wilson or a fifth outfielder.

In the big picture, Buehrle represents what the Sox have going for them in
terms of player development: pitching. Like any true pitcher-development
program, the focus isn’t on one great prospect, but on the broad variety
and sheer number of types of prospects the Sox have coming up. Since the
casualty rate will be tremendous, it isn’t a question of whether or not
they will all pan out; some of them won’t. But Buehrle, Kip Wells, Lorenzo
Barcelo, Rocky Biddle, Jon Garland, Josh Fogg, Matt Ginter and Jon Rauch
are names you should remember, because there’s a pretty good chance that a
couple of them will be more than just rotation regulars during the next
decade.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated RF Manny Ramirez from the DL; outrighted RHP Brian
Williams
to Buffalo. [7/13]

Purchased contract of RHP Jaime Navarro from Buffalo; optioned RHP
Sean DePaula to Buffalo. [7/15]

Set aside all the speculation over whether the Tribe will deal Manny
Ramirez. If the Indians can’t mount a threat to the White Sox in the next
two-and-a-half weeks they should, especially considering their recent
drafts. But with him around, they may well be able to mount that charge, as
they can reduce Ricky Ledee, Russ Branyan, Alex Ramirez and Richie Sexson
into two strong platoons in left field and at DH, which is best for all
parties. Plus, a strong bench is a great way to create big innings or mess
with the opposing manager’s pitcher substitutions. Since the Tribe is
entering a weak stretch in the schedule, now’s as good a time as they’re
going to have to mount a rally.

Just as importantly, the bullpen’s looking like it’s almost fully
functional. Steve Karsay, Steve Reed and Paul Shuey have been reinforced
with Justin Speier and Andrew Lorraine, filling the Tribe’s need for
adequate middle relievers and your basic lefty garbageman. Sean DePaula has
gone Chad Ogea, down the path blazed by the original, shuttling from
postseason hero to perpetual Bison.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Signed 3B Jeff Cirillo to a four-year contract extension. [7/13]

Placed LHP Scott Karl on the 15-day DL (strained lower back). [7/15]

Acquired DH Butch Huskey and 2B Todd Walker from the Twins
for 1B Todd Sears and cash; placed C Scott Servais on the
15-day DL, retroactive to 7/9 (strained calf); recalled C Ben
Petrick
from Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of RHP Bobby
Chouinard
from Colorado Springs; designated OF Bubba Carpenter
for assignment. [7/16]

While the rush to nominate Dan O’Dowd for all sorts of smart-guy prizes has
caught up even yours truly at times, I’m at a loss to explain what the
Rockies expect to do with Todd Walker and Butch Huskey. Neither of them
have defensive positions, and neither of them have done much besides wash
out. Walker, far-removed from the expectations of Tom Kelly and a few
thousand baseball fans, wasn’t hitting much in Utah (.324/.396/.415, with a
whopping two taters in 277 plate appearances), no matter how happy he
claimed he was.

Where picking up Walker makes sense is if the Rox decide to build a
second-base platoon. Neifi Perez can sit his light-hitting keister on the
bench, with Mike Lansing moving over to shortstop. He wasn’t a very good
shortstop with either the Miami Miracle or the Montreal Expos, but he does
have pro experience at the position. That would open up second for a
platoon of Walker and Terry Shumpert, which could do some damage. It would
mean scragging the defense, but it’s Coors Field, and years of Perez
haven’t helped make a difference in the past any more than Vinny Castilla
or Fonzie Bichette did.

Huskey is interesting, if only because he has some similarities to Jeffrey
Hammonds. Like Hammonds, before Coors he struck out in about 17% of his
PAs. Like Hammonds, he slugged almost .450 (.447 to .454) before this year,
and both players owned .268 batting averages before this year. Neither one
of them walks much. Could Huskey end up hitting anything like Hammonds? I
don’t see why not. He’s eight months younger, doesn’t have Hammonds’s
terrible knee problems, and hey, it’s Planet Coors: everything’s in orbit.

If he ends up thriving, chalk this up as another example of O’Dowd’s
comparatively scientific approach to identifying who he wants playing in
his stratosphere. But even if you want to create a tortured scenario to get
Walker on the field, it’s an even uglier one that gets Huskey any kind of
playing time.

Losing Scott Karl forces Buddy Bell across that bridge of no return, having
to stick with both Kevin Jarvis and Brian Bohanon as full-time starters.
That could mean call-ups for Rigo Beltran and Giovanni Carrara, as both
have been pretty effective at Colorado Springs.

The truly good news is that Ben Petrick is back. While it’s just to platoon
to start off, he should eventually force his way into a straight
job-sharing situation, and then force Mayne to the caddy role before the
end of his contract. As trade bait for teams like the Braves or possibly
even the A’s, Mayne will eventually give O’Dowd a nice chit to add another
prospect or two. Fun with minor-league data: against left-handers in the
Pacific Coast League, Petrick was hitting .448 and slugging above .800,
which is the kind of fun you get with all of 58 at-bats.


DETROIT TIGERS

Placed 1B Tony Clark on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/15 (strained
back); recalled 1B Eric Munson from Jacksonville (Double-A). [7/16]

Tony Clark was finally doing the Tigers some good, and around the right
time–the trading deadline–when his back troubles put him on the shelf.
Having already lost Rob Fick, the Tigers did the best thing they could with
the only commodity they have, which is playing time: take a look at Eric
Munson. While Munson wasn’t being a dominant hitter at Double-A
(.261/.349/.471), he is the organization’s future at first base. Once Fick
returns, if Munson earns his keep this may encourage them to make Fick a
regular at catcher, or at least the second coming of Johnny Wockenfuss.

That still leaves them trying to find a way to move Clark or Juan Gonzalez,
but Juango’s the one who might at least fetch some value. Clark won’t be
ready to come off of the DL until a day or two before the deadline, but he
is the kind of player who may pass through waivers and get dealt before the
end of August.

There is the question of why Munson gets to come up before Alejandro
Freire, who slowly but surely earned the dreaded minor-league hitter label
(.272/.373/.472 at Jacksonville, at the relatively old age of 26). Munson
is the prospect who might do something to save Randy Smith’s bacon,
while Freire is just another guy who can outhit Gregg Jefferies and Luis
Polonia.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Named Mike Maddux as the new pitching coach at Round Rock
(Double-A). [7/13]

Mike Maddux is replacing Burt Hooton, who in turn replaced Vern Ruhle on
the major-league team. That should produce great instructions like "If
you can’t throw as hard as the owner, try to have my kid brother’s command
of your breaking stuff. I taught him everything he knows, donchaknow."


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Optioned RHP Jeff D’Amico to Omaha; recalled LHP Tim Byrdak
from Omaha. [7/15]

Jeff D’Amico still has a long way to go before earning consideration as a
worthwhile position-player-to-pitcher conversion, let alone being mistaken
for the hugely talented (or talented and huge) Jeff D’Amico of the Brewers.
At this stage, he’s ahead of Jeff Hamilton and far behind someone like
Guillermo Mota within the always-trendy group of conversion projects.

Tim Byrdak fills the bill as token left-hander in the pen, which is all the
more important for the time being now that Muser is down to only two
trustworthy relievers (Jose Santiago and Jerry Spradlin) now that Dan
Reichert is in the rotation.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated RHP Jeff Shaw from the DL; recalled C Paul LoDuca
from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Jamie Arnold and UT Mike
Metcalfe
to Albuquerque. [7/13]

Paul LoDuca is up to compensate for the twin misfortunes of Chad Kreuter’s
continuing suspension and Todd Hundley’s broken thumb. Kreuter’s suspension
is at least over, leaving the Dodgers fully covered on the roster, and
Hundley is expected to return to the DL in short order.

Hundley’s return at full health will be a key component of any Dodgers’
drive to unseat the Snakes, which considering their problems is turning the
NL West into a mass of mauled and mangled rosters limping into the final
two months. The real winners from this predicament are the Braves and Mets,
since chances are that both of them will make the playoffs instead of just
one of them.

Jeff Shaw’s return won’t do much for the Dodgers if they limit him to the
closer’s role. If they instead allow him to work his way back to full
strength (if it’s even possible) with structured, regular work in middle
relief, they could end up with as good a six-man pen as any in baseball now
that they have him, Antonio Osuna, Terry Adams, Matt Herges, a surprising
Mike Fetters and, finally, Onan Masaoka.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Traded 2B Todd Walker and DH Butch Huskey to the Rockies for
1B Todd Sears and cash. [7/16]

Talk about going out of your way to make sure everyone knows you can’t
stand somebody…. Todd Sears isn’t really a great prospect. He’s a huge
hitter with a disciplined stroke enjoying a good year in his first season
at Double-A (.306/.441/.503), but he’s already 24. Not to mention that
sending Todd Walker to the best hitting environment in the major leagues is
a great way to make themselves look bad in the media, if almost irrelevant
to their own team.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Purchased the contract of LHP Joey Eischen from Adirondack of the
Northern League, and assigned him to Ottawa. [7/13]

Placed OF Rondell White on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/8 (pulled
hamstring); recalled 3B/1B Andy Tracy from Ottawa. [7/14]

Placed SS Orlando Cabrera on the 15-day DL (separated shoulder);
recalled SS Tomas De La Rosa from Ottawa. [7/15]

Add more tinder to the funeral pyre of Montreal baseball. Trading Rondell
White is something that would make sense in normal circumstances, but the
team is still clinging to wild-card dreams. New owner Jeff Loria would
probably prefer to not even make the appearance of throwing in the towel as
long as he can keep the focus on Quebecois perfidy as a central reason for
the need to skip town. An additional factor could have been Milton
Bradley’s various owies at Ottawa, but that shouldn’t have played as
important a part as the political considerations. So now White is hurt
(again) as well as disenchanted.

Perhaps its just as well: it wouldn’t be hard to see how he could become a
much larger star if the team was playing in RFK Stadium, as one of the
team’s Anglophones as well as one of those guys who deserves more credit
for hard-nosed play.

Orlando Cabrera’s game is one that seems to show up in bits and pieces. His
defense comes and goes, ranging from spectacular to indifferent; he flashes
just enough power to convince some people that he’ll hit for more someday,
and the speed that was his offensive signature in the minors has gone on
vacation. In his absence, the Expos can play a nice platoon of Geoff Blum
and Tomas De La Rosa, with De La Rosa also coming in for defense.

Andy Tracy’s return brings to the fore the issue of whether or not the
Expos should finally do the right thing as far as Michael Barrett is
concerned. There are several catchers who should be available at the
trading deadline, and among those available Chris Widger ought to command a
good return. That would let the Expos finally get Barrett back behind the
plate. Unfortunately, there isn’t really another third baseman in the
organization, the move of first-round pick Josh McKinley to third base
notwithstanding.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Purchased the contract of OF Ryan Thompson from Columbus; recalled
OF Luke Wilcox from Columbus. [7/13]

Optioned LHP Craig Dingman to Columbus to make room for some guy
named Neagle. [7/14]

Optioned OF Luke Wilcox to Columbus; recalled IF Clay
Bellinger
from Columbus. [7/16]

In the sordid story of "who’s our fourth outfielder now?", the
Yankees are finally approaching something that resembles the right answer.
While Felix Jose’s continued presence on the roster, in the Lance Johnson
spot, is cronyism at it’s worst and might give hope to people ranging from
Ruben Sierra to Oscar Azocar to Steve Kemp, at least Ryan Thompson actually
played well enough at Columbus to earn a spot on the big-league bench. In
addition to hitting well (.304/.359/.638, with 20 home runs in 262 plate
appearances), Thompson finally gives the Yankees a backup center fielder.
He can also look forward to starts in an outfield corner against
left-handed pitching.

It says something about the Yankees’ state of mind that they now have three
defensive replacements for Chuck Knoblauch on the roster, and someone like
Felix Jose to pinch-hit for Clay Bellinger, Jose Vizcaino and Wilson
Delgado. The Yankees still desperately need to cherry-pick some over-30
outfielders from teams that don’t need them.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed DH John Jaha on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/9 (shoulder
tendinitis); recalled 3B/LF Adam Piatt from Sacramento. [7/13]

It isn’t often that people with a sabermetric bent to them argue against
the value of someone with a .398 OBP, but just as I doubted the value of
Dave Magadan as a regular by the early 1990s, I have more than a few
reservations as far as John Jaha is concerned. The A’s already have plenty
of guys familiar with how to get on base. What they need, especially
against left-handed pitching, is somebody who can regularly deliver some
hard-hit balls in play. Adam Piatt is a much better option to have batting
in the sixth or seventh slot in the lineup, not to mention that he adds
some positional flexibility to Art Howe’s bench.

The A’s had to be prepared for this, having given Jaha the first (and last)
multi-year contract of his career. The politics behind the decision to give
him that contract say a lot about how even a well-run organization feels
obligated to make prestige-oriented signings or re-signings. It can happen
either to keep other players happy, to make the right kind of impression on
season-ticket buyers or to generate the kind of headlines that can
influence nearby communities which might be gearing up to help build a new
stadium. Because the A’s had talented right-handed hitters like Piatt and
Jason Hart on their way up, you could argue they could afford to sign Jaha
for these kinds of atmospheric considerations, but it isn’t an argument I’d
like to try to win.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed RHP Wayne Gomes on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/7 (elbow
tendinitis); recalled RHP Mark Brownson from Scranton/Wilkes Barre;
assigned LHP Jimmy Osting to Reading (Double-A). [7/14]

Considering that he was among the league leaders in appearances, it
shouldn’t surprise that Wayne Gomes broke down. This is the flip side of
Terry Francona’s special talent with how he handles his pitching staffs: in
addition to his fixation on leaving starters out too long for morale
purposes, he tends to overuse his better relievers by riding the hot hand
instead of spreading the work around over the course of a season. So Gomes
bites the dust after being the Phillies’ most effective late-innings
reliever, leaving a bullpen filled with six journeymen who don’t throw
especially hard or well, although Chris Brock has been a godsend in middle
relief. While there are plenty of good relievers who don’t throw hard who
happen to be journeymen, it ought to be a continuing item of concern that
it doesn’t look like anyone can stay healthy while working for Francona.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed IF Luis Sojo on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/3 (elbow
tendinitis); recalled 2B/SS Abraham Nunez from Nashville. [7/13]

Placed RHP Francisco Cordova on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/5
(elbow tendinitis); placed CF Adrian Brown on the 15-day DL,
retroactive to 7/6 (strained hamstring); recalled LHP Jimmy Anderson
from Altoona (Double-A); recalled RHP Bronson Arroyo from Nashville.
[7/16]

The Bucs continue to talk tough about how they’re not satisfied with what’s
happened this year, but who’s really to blame? This is the team Cam Bonifay
wanted, from Wil Cordero on down. They’re about as good as anyone should
have expected, better if you consider how badly the pitching staff has
broken down this season. Francisco Cordova is giving up more than 5.5 runs
per nine innings and Jason Schmidt has been fragged. Now they’re reduced to
using both Jimmy Anderson and Bronson Arroyo in the rotation, which is a
bad spot for a team some people rushed to tout as a contender before this
season.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed 1B Mark McGwire on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/7 (sore
knee); activated 1B Eduardo Perez from the DL. [7/13]

Placed LHP Mike Matthews on the 15-day DL (hand); activated SS
Placido Polanco from the DL. [7/16]

So far, the plan has worked, and it looks even better if you consider the
unscripted absence of Fernando Tatis for a couple of months. The three
rented veteran starters in the rotation have been sturdily adequate, the
three replacement starters (Matt Morris, Alan Benes and Mark Thompson) are
all pitching well in long relief, and the offense, while cooling off from
its early grandeur, is chugging along.

It’s at this moment that losing Mark McGwire might be affordable, as long
as it’s only for two weeks. If it’s longer, it won’t take long for people
to start noticing just how little regulars like Edgar Renteria, Craig
Paquette and Mike Matheny are contributing on offense.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed C Carlos Hernandez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/6
(lower back strain); recalled RHP Carlos Almanzar from Las Vegas;
outrighted RHP Carlos Reyes to Las Vegas. [7/13]

Purchased the contract of OF/1B Joe Vitiello from Las Vegas;
optioned OF Dusty Allen to Las Vegas. [7/16]

While he’s scuttling back to the DL, let us all herald the possibility that
Carlos Hernandez represents. Should the silly proposal of Bud Selig’s
blue-ribbon economic committee, that all teams be forced to spend $40
million on player payroll, come to pass, there’s a good line of argument
that mediocrities like Hernandez can automatically expect oversized
multi-year contracts as teams race to fulfill this odious requirement. The
other line of thought is that some teams will instead pay the A-Rods and
the Nomars even more money in multi-year deals signed even earlier in
careers, but that sort of activity will probably be restricted to the
better-run franchises, while the Hernandez deals get showered on players in
Philadelphia and Baltimore and San Diego.

In Hernandez’s absence, the Pads can get to where they should have been in
the first place, alternating Ben Davis and Wiki Gonzalez behind the plate.
Neither player is going to grow up to be a great two-way star, but a
Davis/Gonzalez tandem fits in pretty comfortably in a division that
features other successful catcher job-sharing situations, like Arizona’s
Damian Miller/Kelly Stinnett duo or the Giants’ combo of Bobby Estalella
and Doug Mirabelli.

Kudos to Joe Vitiello on his return to the majors. While I’m taking Kevin
Towers to task on other fronts, it always seems as if he’s able to stock
Las Vegas with a few good veteran minor-league hitters. People like
Vitiello and John Roskos and even Dusty Allen could help teams as
pinch-hitters and spare parts, and each of them would make a fine platoon
partner for Ryan Klesko at first. Hence the ease with which the Pads can
dispatch an Ed Sprague and not come close to missing him.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed RHP Joe Nathan on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation);
recalled RHP Scott Linebrink from Fresno. [7/14]

Losing Joe Nathan ought to be the first blow in what’s going to be another
meltdown in the Giants’ rotation. He was giving up close to six runs per
nine innings while walking almost six men per nine, and while his pitch
counts weren’t too high, he was spending a good chunk of his time on the
mound pitching from the stretch. This is a situation where a tool like Rany
Jazayerli’s Pitcher Abuse Points can only hint at pitcher misuse, and why
it represents an important step in the evolution of diagnostic statistical
tools for pitcher use and abuse.

In Nathan’s absence, Mark Gardner re-enters the rotation. While we’ve
talked about how Pat Gillick’s decision to retain seven viable starting
pitchers is probably the only way to cope with having Lou Piniella run a
pitching staff, Brian Sabean deserves similar credit for carrying a sixth
starter to enter the rotation as soon as another pitcher collapses under a
Dusty Baker workload. A better pitcher than Gardner would help make the
Giants’ playoff dreams a little more realistic, but the point will be moot
when Shawn Estes breaks down by the end of August.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated C Dan Wilson from the DL; designated C Robert
Machado
for assignment; placed SS Alex Rodriguez on the 15-day
DL (sprained knee). [7/14]

Recalled UT Charles Gipson from Tacoma. [7/15]

That big sucking sound from the Pacific Northwest wasn’t just coming from
hundreds of surprised Microsoft lawyers, but also from thousands of equally
frightened Mariners fans. Lose A-Rod for any length of time, and happy
stories about pitching and defense and Pat Gillick’s genius die faster than
Darva Conger’s celebrity status. It looks like Rodriguez will be back
before deadline worries force Gillick to turn one of his spare starting
pitchers into a desperately needed second and/or third baseman.

Dan Wilson’s return still doesn’t represent an improvement for the team’s
offense, unless his time off gave him the rest he may have needed to
recover from the long decline his hitting has been in for the last four years.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.