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ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Activated LHP Horacio Ramirez from the 60-day DL. [9/26]

Ramirez is trying to work through shoulder tendonitis. I expect that even with a few bad showings, if he shows he’s healthy enough to work he’ll get onto the postseason roster as a second lefty in the pen behind Tom Martin.

It’s a reflection of my interests that I’m already wondering what will happen with next year’s rotation, and what Ramirez’s status within it might be. John Thomson and Mike Hampton are both inked for next year, and you can probably guess they’ll re-sign Jaret Wright. However, the nice thing about the Braves is that you never know; they do cut bait, after all, which is why it will be interesting to see if they pursue Russ Ortiz all that fervently. They’ll certainly have the freedom to go shopping this winter if they don’t. There should still be a spot in the rotation for Ramirez next year if he’s healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves let Ortiz walk away to big
money somewhere else, while working out a smaller deal with Paul Byrd to help fill the back end of the rotation, thereby not having to rely too heavily on Ramirez initially.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Placed INF-R Ramon Martinez on the 15-day DL (strained groin). [9/28]

Although it isn’t a happy thing to lose Martinez, I guess Dusty Baker can afford to be blasé about the loss. After all, he’s got Neifi Perez and Jose Macias looking like sometime heroes, and with both Mark Grudzielanek and Todd Walker healthy and hitting, it isn’t like the middle infield is short-handed, even during the stretch where Nomar Garciaparra has to rest. I’m no fan of Baker’s in-game tactical management, but he does have a collection of players on his bench that he isn’t afraid to use.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Placed LHP Jeff Fassero on waivers. [9/26]

Fassero and management fell out over his usage pattern, as he said he wanted some live action before being pushed into the rotation, while the Rockies took umbrage at this sort of insolence in an employee. Although it happened pretty quietly, Fassero actually had a pretty nifty season. Although he couldn’t thrive in Coors, on the road he posted a 3.23 ERA, giving up 58 hits in 61 1/3 innings and allowing opposing hitters to slug just .345. I wouldn’t expect him to do that over a full season for somebody else, but he’s pitched well enough to keep trying to follow in Terry Mulholland’s footsteps, defy Valhalla’s repeated invitations, and fill a role as somebody’s utility pitcher for another year.

Anyway, it does sort of make for a nice bit of transactional punctuation, as the Rockies really turn over their pitching staff. A rotation of Joe Kennedy, Jason Jennings, Jeff Francis, perhaps Jamey Wright and maybe Chin-Hui Tsao…well, it certainly means you won’t have Denny Stark and his ilk to blame. I think we should all hope for recoveries by Aaron Cook and Jason Young, but there might be enough talent around that the Rox won’t have to count on them. It would be nice to see them admit error with the disastrous “Shawn Chacon, Closer” experiment, and give thought to returning him to the rotation. But as my colleague Rany Jazayerli has pointed out, a shiny bauble like 35 saves might blind you to the realities of how badly Chacon has pitched this year.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Activated SS-B Kazuo Matsui and 2B/SS-R Jose Reyes from the 15-day DL. [9/26]

You might think of this as a determination to a Mets effort to give the last Montreal Expos contests their A-game finest. Since it’ll also be Art Howe’s last stand, it’s sort of like that moment when William Holden and company stomp into the midst of los Federales at the end of The Wild Bunch. The stage is set, and you can be reasonably sure the body count at the end will beggar description.

It’s interesting to ponder whether Matsui is a luxury the Mets should regret having afforded themselves. Danny Garcia and Jeff Keppinger have looked good in spots, and Jose Reyes probably shouldn’t be spending his time at second base if he’s going to be an important part of the ballclub’s future. To be fair to Matsui, nobody played in even a third of the team’s games at second, so his defensive lapses might be excused on some level.

But would they make a change? The Mets, while going through their usual backflips and whatever else it takes to get some attention, would almost certainly seem likely to avoid doing anything that might be interpreted as less than contention-minded. I don’t really blame them: as much as the Braves’ reign since 1995 seems deathless, the division has four teams spending to win, and the Braves aren’t invincible. Now that Omar Minaya has been brought in as GM, along with a new manager, he could swap Matsui and Reyes while pointing the finger at previous management. He’ll have other challenges, of course. Perhaps most significantly, the Mets might be able to profit from Minaya’s having favored Latin players in the past, and offering them a slightly more comfortable environment. That’s something worth having; the Cardinals do a great job of selling St. Louis as an organization and a city a player should like being in, and that’s helped with some winter pickups. I guess Latin players could celebrate, because how long will it be until we have a bidding war between Minaya and Arte Moreno?

However, having a bigger checkbook doesn’t make a GM smarter; if anything, he might be able to afford a few significant mistakes. Whether Minaya will be as successful in New York as some people expect remains to be seen.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Jason Simontacchi from Memphis. [9/27]

The pride of Italian League baseball has been whip-sawed back and forth all season, but let’s face it, as sympathetic a story as he might be, he’s a rotation injury supplement and staff fill-in. It’s a reflection of the Cardinals’ supreme good fortune this season that they never had an emergency that forced them to break the glass and press him into action. Still, as a contingency pitcher who stood at the ready to be called upon, and a guy who’s helped out in years past, he deserves association with the Cards’ season. There were no guarantees that Chris Carpenter or Matt Morris or Woody Williams would last a full season. That they did is also to the Cards’ credit to some extent, but with Simontacchi and Danny Haren in the wings, they did have options if something ever had gone wrong.

Finally, I’d like to thank my assistant, Jason Karegeannes, for doing such a superb job this year in helping me with the production of TA. His unstinting enthusiasm and effort spoiled me all season long, and I am certain that same
diligence serves him well in grad school and everything else he pursues. I could not be more fortunate. Meanwhile, enjoy the season’s dramatic conclusion, as I suspect a lot of us will be glued to televisions wondering about the fates of the Angels, A’s, Cubs, Astros, Giants, and perhaps even the Padres.