|IN THIS ISSUE|
|ANAHEIM ANGELS||Return to Top|
Activated RHP Aaron Sele from the 15-day DL. [9/29]
Sele was activated from the DL, but significantly enough, not added to the postseason roster. Steve Green, of course, remained on the 40-man, fulfilling his notional purpose of being on the 60-day DL all season and theoretically allowing Francisco Rodriguez to slip onto the postseason roster… except that Rodriguez wasn't added to the 40-man until after September 1, and was notionally ineligible for postseason play. That said, don't hold your breath waiting for the Angels' title to be forfeited. If this was a miscarriage of roster management, the commissioner's office is charged with the responsibility to make sure these things don't happen. Since the commissioner's office has been turning a blind eye to roster shenanigans for at least the last two or three years, "anything goes" has been the rule of the day long enough that it would probably be akin to Merkle's Boner to suddenly single out the Anaheimians. It's a pity the Fourth Estate missed the story. I guess it was too baseball-related.
|ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS||Return to Top|
Announced the retirement of RHP Todd Stottlemyre. [10/29]
Picked up their 2003 option on LHP Mike Myers. [11/5]
Signed INF-R Mike Bell to a minor league contract. [11/8]
It's interesting that it took this long to finally make the obvious public. Perhaps the Snakes took this long because they wanted to let Stottlemyre participate in their postseason glories, and then when there weren't any, waited until the end of the World Series to make it so. The Diamondbacks haven't been around long enough to really have a history, so there's not a whole lot of reason for them to have held a Todd Stottlemyre Day anyway. I've written enough retrospectives on Stottlemyre's career already, so there's no reason to repeat another, although I can't help but find his early flirtations with becoming a closer before settling into being a solid starter interesting, and not just because I'm a Keith Foulke fan. Would anyone have expected his career would end before his old man's?
|ATLANTA BRAVES||Return to Top|
Re-signed pitching coach Leo Mazzone. [11/8]
I don't go through coaching staff hiring decisions in too much detail in this space, especially when I'm trying to catch up. That said, re-upping with Leo Mazzone is one of those things that is big news, especially since his career with the Braves will be taking a more interesting turn should both Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine wind up elsewhere. Then the Braves would essentially be left with people Mazzone really would have taught or will need to teach. That's not meant as a slight on Mazzone, but a staff that lives and dies with Millwood and Marquis and Moss and some of the interesting young pitchers in the organization would go a long way in terms of making certain that all of Mazzone's reputation is his, and not just the product of some inspired synergies with two of the smartest pitchers in the game.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||Return to Top|
Signed RHP Pat Hentgen to a one-year contract with a club option for 2004. [10/30]
Signed RHP Mike Drumright. [11/7]
No real surprises here, re-upping a lot of their own minor league free agents and keeping a lot of their own around. Calvin Maduro should be going from spring training NRI to 40-man roster and back again every year. The Orioles are hoping that they'll get something out of Pat Hentgen, and the odds are decent that he might be useful by the second half, given that he's only a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery. He'll be in the running for the fourth or fifth slot in the rotation, but he'll also be competing with Jason Johnson, John Stephens, Sean Douglass, and more. What they elect to do about Sidney Ponson's arbitration situation is, of course, a complicating factor.
|BOSTON RED SOX||Return to Top|
Claimed RHP Jason Shiell off of waivers from the Padres. [10/2]
Claimed RHP Brandon Lyon off of waivers from the Blue Jays. [10/9]
Signed RHP Hansel Izquierdo to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [10/17]
Declined to pick up the option on RHP Dustin Hermanson for 2003. [10/31]
Re-signed LHP Alan Embree to a two-year contract. [11/5]
Well, you win some and you lose some, but as much as Dustin Hermanson was one of those big, dumb Big Mistakes that an organization should take on the chin, they've cut bait and moved on, and done smart stuff beyond that. Brandon Lyon's a nice claim to make, Hansel Izquierdo's an interesting NRI, and Alan Embree was a sweet pickup last summer for the short-term, and remains a good choice to keep around as your primary lefty reliever. So while none of this is going to win them the division, these are the little things that can add up to a good winter.
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX||Return to Top|
Barcelo has been a consistent disappointment, so his eventual removal from the 40-man roster given his injury history isn't really a surprise. That doesn't make him a lost cause, just a risky use of any organization's main winter commodity, a 40-man roster spot. Kane and Wylie have also both shown flashes of promise, but this organization is rich enough in pitching, and both of them lost time to injuries this year as well. Quality retreads have to come from someplace, so in the same way that you could invest in a flyer on Barcelo, you could take them on Wylie or Kane just as easily any time in the next two or three years and be rewarded for it.
|CHICAGO CUBS||Return to Top|
Announced that interim manager Bruce Kimm will not be retained for 2003. [9/29]
Released LHP Jesus Sanchez. [10/1]
Declined to exercise their option on 1B-L Fred McGriff for 2003. [10/31]
Announced they will not exercise their 2003 option on RHP Jon Lieber. [11/1]
There's a lot here to like, but there's also a goodly share of dirty pool too. Dumping Bruce Kimm couldn't come fast enough. After a week-long honeymoon which served as a reminder that managers can have settings other than 'morose,' Kimm's mini-season at the helm showed him to be a gung ho commando from the army of irresponsibility. He got wacky, he worked the team's only future-oriented big league commodities–the young flamethrowers in the rotation–far too hard without any worthwhile end, and he fulminated with a bellicosity not seen in these parts since Lee Elia. I guess the nice way to look at it is that he did it his way.
Excusing Fred McGriff is similarly necessary for the club to make any progress. He's expensive, and you can simultaneously consider him as a known commodity, a useful offensive placeholder, a defensive slacker, and a jogging gentleman, all at once. With the right team, and especially if he remains in the NL, he'll be a borderline All-Star. Considering his age, he's lapsed into that area where he's useful to a contender that lacks a short-term answer at first base (for the right price), or he'll be a free agent boondoggle for a team that isn't close, and worse yet doesn't know it. If he gets more than either a two-year or year-plus-option deal, it'll be a shocker.
The interesting choices were with the pair of pitchers. Mike Sirotka talked about trying to make his comeback in Toronto, but the Cubs showed him a little bit of money, and his bold talk about trying to give the Jays something for their effort disappeared in a quick puff. But on the other hand, the Cubs had no problem handing Jon Lieber his walking papers, saving themselves a good chunk of change. It was a completely defensible business decision, with nary a gesture towards Lieber's good work in a Cubs uniform. He's damaged goods, unlikely to contribute much in 2003, so this move was equally calculating and proper. Both were merely business decisions, with no wasted words on loyalty between wealthy employers or liberally compensated employees, and that's totally OK.
No, the really cynical yet inspired move was Gary Hughes' decision to slip into the Cubs' organization. This is a team that should show off a lot of premium talent in 2003 and the years to come, and that provides great cover (and a little reflected credit) for Hughes before he even does anything. Hughes is one of the most highly-regarded talent wranglers in the game, but he's also getting long in the tooth. Why not hook up with an organization that already has good young talent, and glom on to add the next generation and help the Cubs mount their best shot at multi-year contention since the '60s?
|CINCINNATI REDS||Return to Top|
Released RHP Jose Silva; activated RHPs Seth Etherton and Luis Pineda from the 60-day DL; activated 1B-L Sean Casey, OF-R Austin Kearns, 3B-R Brandon Larson, C-R Jason LaRue and LHP Gabe White from the 15-day DL. [10/2]
Reinstated RHP Carlos Almanzar from the 60-day DL, and outrighted him and RHP Luis Pineda to Louisville. [10/9]
Josh Hall is one of the organization's best young arms, having worked his way up to Double-A. A high school pick in 1998, he's a decent example of what can go right when you draft a high school pitcher with a non-top choice (Hall was a 7th rounder). Chris Booker was a hard-throwing guy in the Cubs organization, but he lost 2002 to injury. What he'll be next spring will determine his future, but he could be an early candidate for being outrighted in March to make way for a NRI, especially if he isn't 100%. Steve Smitherman hit for power in the California League, which is nice, but he's already 24, so he'll have to move up the chain fast to have a shot at a real big league career. Rainer Olmedo isn't really a prospect after hitting .247/.331/.314, but there are people in the organization who like him. But he doesn't look like he's going to stick at short defensively. He is only 21 with a full year of Double-A under his belt, and even Jose Oquendo came from somewhere, after all. I'm not a big believer, but between moderate patience and youth, he's worth a 40-man roster spot until you've got enough reason to keep him off.
|CLEVELAND INDIANS||Return to Top|
Declined their option on RHP Jaret Wright for 2003; outrighted RHP Dave Elder to Buffalo and re-signed him to a minor league contract. [10/16]
Named Eric Wedge manager and signed him to a three-year contract with club options for 2005 and 2006. [10/29]
I have absolutely no explanation for why Eric Wedge is the man beyond guessing that he's simply the guy that Mark Shapiro feels most comfortable with. They're both buckled in for the long haul, as the Tribe's real hopes reside with Brandon Phillips and Alex Escobar and Milton Bradley more than they do with Jim Thome's financial choice. After five years in the organization and two years in Buffalo, Wedge has seen most of the guys who will be once and future Indians on a day-in, day-out basis. Although his age (34) is considered an issue, that should be a non-story. There have been other managers getting jobs at younger ages. The Cleveland media market isn't known for its barracudas, and the organization can use somebody familiar with everyone in camp for the next few years. A manager can win more games through a roster designed out of the knowledge of what he's got and what his people can do than out of anything related to tactical micromanagement.
Jack Cressend is a nice little claim, although his September shoulder surgery probably precludes his being able to contribute before the last couple of months next season. Cressend keeps the ball on the ground and usually shows good command. If or when he's healthy, he can be a very handy long reliever on a team that's going to need good long relievers.
|COLORADO ROCKIES||Return to Top|
Add Todd Zeile to the ever-growing heap of O'deas that didn't pan out. At some point, you'd have to think that the sheer size of Dan O'Dowd's cluttered waste basket is going to be a threat to his job security. I admire his commitment to an intellectual curiosity when it comes to trying everything to try to win in Coors Field, but that's also the nature of the problem: he's trying everything, instead of taking the time to see what works and doesn't work. Sure, executing and sticking with one plan would be dull and potentially threatening (if that plan fails, you're gone), but flitting between plans won't achieve anything beyond plausible deniability, and repeated denials without actually achieving anything doesn't work for college freshmen, Bill Clinton, or big league GMs.
|DETROIT TIGERS||Return to Top|
Fired manager Luis Pujols and his coaching staff. [9/30]
Named Alan Trammell manager. [10/9]
Claimed LHP Pedro Feliciano off of waivers from the Mets. [10/11]
Sure, naming Alan Trammell as celebrity manager with Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson around as celebrity sidekicks seems no more than a publicity stunt. But Luis Pujols didn't demonstrate anything in his brief gig that made you want to keep him around, and the Tigers need something resembling cachet while Dave Dombrowski's crew slowly assembles some viable talent. In three years, the White Sox might have collapsed under the collective weight of their various disappointments, the Indians might still be merely marking time, and the Twins probably won't be an annual hundred-win powerhouse. As long as Dombrowski can work hand-in-hand with Trammell to assemble a better team, and Tram and his merry henchmen don't assume they know everything and are willing to do some OJT, this doesn't have to be as bad as it initially looks.
I don't know what's more interesting, that Mitch Meluskey is this available, or wondering whether or not anyone's going to set aside his reputation from his Houston days and take a chance on his bat.
|HOUSTON ASTROS||Return to Top|
Announced that C-R Brad Ausmus has exercised his option for 2003. [10/16]
Shane Reynolds had long since moved into fragility to be considered anything other than a senior member in a young rotation lacking gravitas. But given how nice Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt and Kirk Saarloos and Carlos Hernandez look, the Astros are like those mid-'80s Royals, and there gets to be a point where you didn't need to count on Bud Black any more.
The question is whether the Astros felt they couldn't afford Reynolds because they knew they'd be stuck with Brad Ausmus. In a world where Randy Smith is no longer there for the easy Ausmus swap, that has to be a particularly bitter pill. Press clippings about "Brad Ausmus, leader of men, molder of young minds" make for fun reading, but they don't add much in the way of putting runs on the board or fact-based data that he's bringing much to the table in terms of improving the staff's performance.
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS||Return to Top|
Even if the Dodgers blew it as far as not taking the Tyler Houston pickup as an opportunity to bench Eric Karros–replacing Karros with Houston or with Dave Hansen would have been an offensive upgrade–at least they got a serviceable middle reliever as a throw-in. Mallette should be given every opportunity to be the team's 11th pitcher, and there's every reason to expect he'll be a good one. And if, as it turns out, the Brewers scrag Ben Diggins before he really gets a shot, the Dodgers will come out looking that much better on this exchange, since they'll have gotten the prospect and the veteran.
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS||Return to Top|
Fired manager Jerry Royster. [10/2]
Activated RHPs Chad Fox and Paul Rigdon, LHP Shane Nance and OF-L Alex Sanchez from the 60-day DL; outrighted RHP Nelson Figueroa, LHP Andrew Lorraine and OF-Rs Ryan Christenson and Ryan Thompson to Indianapolis. [10/9]
Announced that OF-R Ryan Christenson and RHP Chad Fox opted for free agency; outrighted RHP Jose Mieses to Indianapolis. [10/15]
Sent RHP Brian Mallette to the Dodgers to complete the Tyler Houston trade. [10/16]
Outrighted RHP Paul Rigdon to Indianapolis. [10/17]
Named Ned Yost manager. [10/29]
Named Gord Ash to be the Assistant GM and Reid Nichols as Special Assistant to the GM. [11/1]
Signed minor league free agent C-L Cody McKay and added him to their 40-man roster; signed RHP/DH-L Brooks Kieschnick and INF-R Scott Seabol to minor-league contracts with spring training NRIs. [11/8]
It isn't every organization that gets to shake things up with messages like "Snookums, I've decided that you need to be reassigned to spend more time with my grandchildren," but in Milwaukee, that's the shape of progress. It isn't every organization that could look at Gord Ash's track record and say that looks like an improvement. But the Brewers aren't every organization, they're arguably the worst. I mean, at least the D-Rays have a perceived track record for drafting talent. The Brewers still haven't lived down Antone Williamson.
But why linger over the copious amounts of bad stuff? In this, the season of hope, the Brewers can take some small pride in offseason acquisitions like Cody McKay, Brooks Kieschnick and Scott Seabol. Are any of them world-beaters? No, but Seabol would make a nifty utility infielder with a bit of sock, McKay can handle splitting the catching duties of a big league team much better than somebody like Henry Blanco (he can throw, he bats lefty, he's not an offensive zero), and Kieschnick can simultaneously be at least a twelfth pitcher for a mop-up role and a primo pinch-hitter and spot starter at first or left. Sort of Matt Stairs and your last reliever, rolled up in one. I don't know if Ned Yost is the manager to blaze the trail of really creating a dual-purpose roster spot like this, but I'd love to see him try.
|MINNESOTA TWINS||Return to Top|
Re-signed UT-B Denny Hocking to a more mutually agreeable contract. [10/30]
Denny Hocking for a million bucks seems steep to me, but the parties involved all seem happy about it, and it is only Carl Pohlad's money being spent. Better it go to Hocking than to Pohladling trust funds.
|MONTREAL EXPOS||Return to Top|
Activated RHP Troy Mattes from the 60-day DL and designated him for assignment. [10/1]
Picked up the option on RHP Bartolo Colon for 2003. [10/29]
Given that the Expos gave up a good chunk of their future to bring Bartolo Colon in, and given that they're about to have to convert a significant portion of their current roster to make payroll into future-oriented talent, picking up his option makes sense. They may just hold onto him in particular for political reasons, but here's hoping that having mounted his tepid, doomed rush at the NL East title in 2002, Omar Minaya just lets the past go and does everything in his power to assemble some talent as he starts to break up this team, thus handing the future owners of the organization some reason for hope.
Hey, talk about the right idea, it's just too bad that they didn't release The Vlad Sibling by August 1.
|NEW YORK YANKEES||Return to Top|
|NEW YORK METS||Return to Top|
Fired manager Bobby Valentine. [10/1]
Claimed RHP Doug Nickle off waivers from the Padres. [10/2]
Activated 1B/LF-R Jorge Toca from the 60-day DL; designated RHP Kane Davis for assignment. [10/5]
Outrighted 1B/LF-R Jorge Toca and LHP Pedro Feliciano to Norfolk. [10/11]
Named Art Howe manager and signed him to a four-year contract. [10/28]
I've relegated most of the nice things I have to say about Art Howe to the Oakland section, but frankly, I don't know why he'd take this job beyond the multi-year payday. The Mets should have held Steve Phillips responsible for the disasters of the last two years, but his charms seem to work on his employers better than his employees. I don't know why someone with Howe's reputation for being a stand-up guy would work with Phillips, if not for the money, but another strike against Howe's long-earned rep for being generally solid is that he wants to hire Don Baylor.
None of this bodes especially well for the Mets. Will a relatively easygoing manager like Howe be a nice chaser for the memories of the hyperkinetic Bobby Valentine? Almost certainly, but I don't think you're going to see the so-called "Shotton Effect" here, because the basic requisite, a collection of great talent, isn't really here. There's still no outfield on this team. You're still stuck with Rey Ordonez for another season. You're still stuck with Alomar after the good years, Piazza as a declining asset, Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz and Roger Cedeno, and potentially without Edgardo Alfonzo. This team has more of a chance to reprise the grisly early-90s wipeout than they do of winning 80 games, and Art Howe will have very, very little to do with it, which means that when the piper finally kicks down the door and collects his due from Phillips, the next GM is going to have to be willing to work with Howe, or the Mets will have yet another contract to pay off.
|OAKLAND ATHLETICS||Return to Top|
Named Ken Macha manager. [10/29]
Well, there you have it. The A's were happy to let Art Howe move on to greener pastures and acquire the multi-year security he desired, and they were happy to let Ken Macha slip into his place. Although I've complained a lot about Howe in this space (and others) in the past, I'm still going to remember him somewhat fondly. He was a needed antidote to the overwrought LaRussian gotterdammerung that sucked the franchise into a black hole in the mid-90s. If he wasn't Dick Williams, he also wasn't Steve Boros or Bobby Winkles or Jackie Moore. I wish him well managing the Mets, for all the fat chance of that turning out well. But after a successful stint in Houston, Howe deserved a second chance, and if he was at times exasperating with his tactical shortcomings, he had his uses. I'm glad to see him get his payday.
I was pretty critical of the decision to sign Scott Hatteberg last winter, but at the end of the day, he was about as effective offensively as Fred McGriff, and he cost considerably less while theoretically providing the team with an emergency catcher, so chalk one up to the smart guys in green and gold, and one less for the sniveling critic. I can understand the decision to take on another year of the same.
|PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES||Return to Top|
Signed INF-B Tomas Perez to a two-year contract. [10/8]
Announced that RHP Jose Santiago elected to become a free agent rather than accept an assignment to Scranton. [10/10]
Named Joe Kerrigan pitching coach. [10/11]
Declined to pick up the option on RHP Ricky Bottalico for 2003. [10/30]
The Phillies mentioned their decision to let Bottalico slip away in conjunction with a statement that they're looking to upgrade their bullpen. Isn't Ed Wade always looking for ways to spend money to upgrade his bullpen? This isn't quite to the level of missing-the-point/anal retentive as the battalion quartermasters who lost the battle of Isandhlwana for the British, but at some point you need to spend more time worrying about actually fielding a successful team than being a kneebiter on these sorts of details. The Angels and the Giants both fielded good bullpens in this postseason, but while the Giants built theirs by spending (or with their insane devotion to Aaron Fultz), the Angels built theirs with Troy Percival and a bunch of retreads. The Phillies should have been taking notes, instead of wondering where they have to mail Turk Wendell's next check.
|PITTSBURGH PIRATES||Return to Top|
Purchased the contract of 1B-L Carlos Rivera from Altoona (Double-A). [10/8]
I'm easily amused, but the idea that the team that employs Mike Williams would scare up Jim Mann off of waivers seems totally appropriate. Like Williams, Mann has had to beat the bushes for an overly long time. Like Williams, there's probably nothing he hasn't seen, and no situation he hasn't had to confront on the mound. And like Williams, he could be that rare reliever who turns his thirties into his money decade after the miseries of extended apprenticeship in the bus leagues. I'd like to hope so, at any rate.
|ST. LOUIS CARDINALS||Return to Top|
Is Tony LaRussa allowed to operate without three catchers among his thirteen position players? What's next, signing a third catcher who does something better than Mike Matheny? And I'm not talking about finding the next Scott Hemond, the first and only backup catcher/pinch-runner of modern memory. How about somebody with some pop? It might be nice. I think we all understand and can respect the extent to which Matheny's a tough guy at a tough guy position, but that shouldn't blind you to tactical needs as stark as the Cardinals have given their intentionally foreshortened bench.
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||Return to Top|
Released RHP Matt DeWitt; outrighted OF-L Kory De Haan, INF-R Julius Matos and RHP Jonathan Johnson to Portland; announced that LHP Mike Holtz cleared waivers and has elected to become a free agent. [10/2]
Declined to pick up their option on OF-L Ray Lankford for 2003. [10/11]
|SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS||Return to Top|
Re-signed GM Brian Sabean; exercised their option on RHP Tim Worrell for 2003; declined to exercise their half of a mutual option on OF-R Reggie Sanders for 2003; announced that INF-R David Bell declined his option for 2003, becoming a free agent. [10/31]
Brian Sabean wins out over Dusty Baker in the organizational power struggle, and again, I'll take a useful executive over a useful field manager more often than not. The Giants made the right move for them, although it remains to be seen if Sabean can rebuild the organization to generate more talent than the standard crop of bargaining chips to acquire more veteran players. The Giants already have some good pitching talent in the system, but that's combustible, and they haven't really developed a useful position player since Marvin Benard (to be generous to them).
|SEATTLE MARINERS||Return to Top|
Announced that general manager Pat Gillick will return for 2003. [10/9]
Declined to pick up their option on RHP James Baldwin for 2003. [10/30]
Announced they will not exercise their option on DH-R Edgar Martinez. [11/6]
Re-signed RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa and DH-R Edgar Martinez to one-year contracts. [11/7]
Re-signed C-R Dan Wilson to a two-year contract. [11/8]
Pat Gillick gets sold short frequently enough, but given the choice between Lou Piniella and somebody who can play a little baseball, he correctly chose somebody who can play a little baseball. Managerial talent may not exactly be interchangeable, but Bryan Price is more important to this organization from here on out than anything Lou Piniella brings to the table.
What Randy Winn gives the Mariners right now is flexibility. Could they deal Mike Cameron in the last year of his contract? Right now would be a bad time, but Winn could fill in as the center fielder if the right offer came along and the Mariners were sucking wind (or roosting in fourth) next July. In the meantime, using Winn as the near-regular in left isn't a good offensive move, but they'll inevitably mix in a bunch of Mark McLemore when he in turn isn't covering for Jeff Cirillo's roster millstone act at third.
Less to Gillick's credit was his ready credulity about the value of Dan Wilson. Yes, he had a nice little year by his own standards, coming on the heels of four less-than-mediocre seasons. He'll be 34 before Opening Day, and despite assertions to the contrary, in point of fact catchers don't actually age any better than anybody else. Regardless of whether or not you think Ben Davis can go back to being useful, is Wilson really somebody you want to make an expensive multi-year commitment to? At least they managed to re-up Edgar on their own terms, saving some money, and they wisely elected to give James Baldwin the freedom to pursue other opportunities, saving even more.
|TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS||Return to Top|
Named Lou Piniella manager and signed him to a four-year contract; acquired SS-R Antonio Perez from the Mariners for OF-B Randy Winn. [10/28]
Signed RHP Kevin McGlinchy to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [10/30]
I'm not a huge Randy Winn believer, but I wouldn't take a Piniella for Winn offer. At least the D-Rays got a postmaturely aged Antonio Perez in the deal. I don't have this sort of info handy, but my wild-ass recollections tell me that Billy Martin's arrival in Oakland in 1980 did not have a major impact on season ticket sales, and Lou Piniella is no Billy Martin any more than the Devil Rays are an organization that inspires hope. So let's call it the way it is: Piniella offers some veneer of baseball-like authority, sort of like lacquering a layer of a good blue cheese onto a block of Velveeta®–in the end, it's a waste of good material. Chuck LaMar's the third piggie, but with house made out of cheese bricks. Adding Lou Piniella just gives his golden years a bittersweet, wounded quality which only gobs of cash can assuage.
However, if you do want signs of intelligent life, I'm generally positive about that gang of NRIs. All six of them have legitimate shots to make the team, yet none of them is so good that you'd want to commit a 40-man roster spot to them right now. As fishing expeditions go, at least this time the D-Rays came up with more than a few bait fish.
|TEXAS RANGERS||Return to Top|
Named Buck Showalter manager. [10/11]
Signed LHP Justin Thompson to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [10/17]
It's been a long, strange road for everyone mentioned here. John Rocker has gone from frightening to frightening embarrassment to mostly just an embarrassment. Buck Showalter has had to go hat in hand to teams with no sense of direction and one of the best track records from among his generation of managers, and been told to wait because said directionless franchises like themselves that way. And Justin Thompson's long, difficult comeback road may never wind up happily ever after, but it's hard not to close your eyes, think of that terrific overhand curve, and hope against hope that it might just work out. If it doesn't, it's at least a simultaneously gracious and stubborn gesture for the Rangers to keep trying. And Bill Haselman… well OK, there's nothing strange about his long road, he'll just have to hope some other franchise is looking to import a little bit of Haselmania.
The move that deserves comment among these four, however, is the move to hire Showalter. I don't see this as being anything like the old Bob Short '70s Rangers cycling through talented managers like Whitey Herzog and Billy Martin in a vain attempt at contention. This is an organization with the best player in the game, a fine collection of up-and-coming prospects, financial wherewithal, and no idea what to do short- or long-term. Beyond any questions about what he'll do with his pitching staff or who will be in the Opening Day lineup, the thing you can expect above anything else from a Showalter team is structure. That quality is exactly what the Rangers have been lacking for the last couple of years, and weren't likely to achieve with John Hart calling all of the shots to try to win now. Showalter has run two successful build-ups working with two infamously difficult owners. There is no better man to try to manage a Tom Hicks franchise. Assuming Hart can work with and not run up against Showalter, the Rangers should be able to start positioning themselves to contend within baseball's toughest division. If the two cannot cooperate, then the Rangers need to find a way to accelerate the timetable on promoting Grady Fuson and letting Hart slip back into retirement rich in possibilities, trading gardeners willy-nilly and gunning for some coveted competitive lawn art prize.
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||Return to Top|
Outrighted RHPs Luke Prokopec, Chad Ricketts and Chris Baker, and OF-R Reed Johnson outright to Syracuse; announced that RHP Chris Carpenter and LHP Mike Sirotka declined assignments to Syracuse, becoming free agents. [10/9]
Signed free agent LHP Doug Creek to a one-year contract. [10/29]
Clearly, they didn't want to lose Prokopec and Sirotka, but both decided to bolt. Chalk this up as a lesson on what happens when you give people freedom of choice, although near-term, neither pitcher is likely to do his 2003 employer that much good.
No, what's really interesting here is the way in which the Blue Jays are making up for lost time. Last winter, because of the removal of Gord Ash and the time taken to hire J.P. Ricciardi, the Jays were late entries into the minor league free agent market, which left Syracuse understaffed and limited the Jays' in-season options last year. This year, they're out of the gate strong and stealing a march on everybody else. And unlike other organizations (or Jays' past practice), the minor league free agents will get serious looks in camp. Evan Thomas is a steal who might earn a spot on the staff. Josh Towers will have a chance to earn a shot at the rotation with a good camp. Tim Young or Trever Miller could be second lefties in the pen. Howie Clark, Bruce Aven, Rob Ryan and Mike Moriarty are all minor league vets who could use service time, and all of them have opportunities here to earn bench jobs. At the least, Syracuse will be extremely competitive, which is certainly worthwhile in a world where even the Baltimore-Rochester relationship can go sour. But there's also the basic good news that your 2003 Blue Jays won't have the depth problems that the 2002 Jays did.