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Gesundheit

Put bluntly, former Expo Mike Lansing hasn’t been all the
Rockies had hoped for since they traded several pitching prospects
for him during the 1996 offseason. He’s had some major back
troubles, isn’t the defensive player he once was, and really didn’t
hit at all last year (.276/.325/.411 playing half his games on Planet
Coors). Lansing’s raw numbers are better this year, but a quick look
at
Clay Davenport’s current EqA report
shows that he’s only managing
a .252 Equivalent Average. That isn’t terrible for a middle infielder,
but coupled with Lansing’s continuing back problems and mediocre
defense, that’s got to be a disappointment for the Rox.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Lansing "wrenched his back"
sneezing in his hotel room, and had to be placed on the DL on Monday.
Such an injury could only come from the NL West, the division which
produced Chris Brown and his strained eyelash, and it left the
Rockies making brave statements about going with Lenny Harris
at second base. Harris, of course, wasn’t a good defensive second
baseman ten years ago, and the Rockies put up with about one game
of him there before installing longtime minor-leaguer Chris
Sexton
on an interim basis. We’re now hearing rumors that
Lansing’s back may require season-ending surgery.

There were some positives about the Lansing deal at the time the
Rockies made it. With Eric Young leaving town, the Rockies didn’t
have a second baseman ready to step in and contribute, and
Lansing’s health problems hadn’t really surfaced yet. If nothing else,
it was a good sign that the Rockies made a trade to upgrade their
offense, rather than their pitching.

But in the end, this was just another case of a team buying high and
getting burned for it. Lansing was coming off a career year at age
29. His 20 home runs, 45 doubles, 45 walks, .338 OBP, and .472
slugging in 1997 were all career highs. Lansing looked like he’d
have a monster year or two (at least as far as raw totals are
concerned) in Coors, but he didn’t come cheaply.

This isn’t the kind of deal any team–especially a team playing half
their games in Coors Field–should make, unless they’re adding the
last piece to a playoff contender. Colorado has a great opportunity
to make exactly the opposite type of deal with the other teams in
the league; all they have to do is collect Dante Bichette type
hitters, let them play a couple of years and rack up some nice
numbers, and ship them off for real prospects. There’s no real
evidence general managers around the league are as aware of
Coorsflation as they probably ought to be–the Rockies haven’t
really rooked anyone yet, but the monster deals Bichette, Vinny
Castilla and Andres
Galarraga got coming off big seasons in Denver seem to indicate that.
(To be fair, the Braves got an extraordinary season out of Galarraga
last year.)

The cupboard is bare in the minors. The team’s only young position
players are Todd Helton and Neifi Perez, and Perez blows. A
competent general manager would foist Bichette, Castilla,
and most of the rest of the offense off on someone like the Cubs
as soon as possible, take prospects in return, and gear up for a
post-millenial run. As long as the team makes deals like trading
pitchers for Mike Lansing, they’re never going to get anywhere.

Notes

  • San Francisco continues to lead the West, with a 27-20 record
    as this is written.
    That’s despite scoring only four more runs than they’ve
    allowed. Hats off to Dusty Baker, whose Giants are absolutely
    flouting the Pythagorean Win-Loss concept over the last few
    seasons.

  • After a scalding streak with the Birds, Charles Johnson
    is hitting .270/.357/.557, and looks like he may finally
    be having the breakout season that analysts have predicted for
    years. Think the Dodgers miss him? They recently called up
    superprospect Angel Pena, mainly because Todd Hundley
    has been hopeless against both lefthanders and the running game.
    The virtual Johnson for Hundley swap was a daring gamble by the
    boys in blue, but so far it looks like a disaster.

  • The Padres finally demoted Stan Spencer, who was getting
    trashed in every start, and called up former organizational Pitcher
    of the Year Heath Murray to replace him. Ordinarily, this
    sort of "switch non-prospects to get the hot hand" game
    is pure folderol, but Murray has reportedly added a few feet to
    his fastball and was blowing guys away in six starts in Las Vegas
    (42.2 IP, 2.32 ERA, 38 SO). At any rate, he can’t do any worse
    than Spencer was doing.