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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Optioned RHP Greg Jones to Salt Lake. [8/21]

Activated 1B/3B-R Robb Quinlan from the 15-day DL. [8/23]

Since Dallas McPherson is done for the year, Quinlan’s
return represents some sort of certainty, in that at least the Angels now
have an alternative to playing Chone Figgins at the hot
corner. The problem is that the Angels keep finding ways to fidget, because
they don’t know whether they want to let Darin Erstad play
center, so Figgins is still getting time in the outfield while the club
ponders what to do about Steve Finley. Moving Erstad would
make space for Casey Kotchman at first, but the problem is
that the Angels are working with a few silly “rules,” like the one
that says playing Erstad is a must.

Ponder the differences between the Angels recent lineup choices over the
better alternative:

As Is


Hitter Position Equivalent Average

Erstad 1B .264
Quinlan 3B .188
or Izturis 3B .241
Figgins CF .274

Coulda Shoulda


Kotchman 1B .308
Figgins 3B .274
Erstad CF .264

Now, I concede fully that Quinlan’s numbers should improve if he gets to
play; they could hardly go down. But enough to keep Kotchman on the bench?
Admittedly, if Erstad can’t really play center, then you might open things
up to have him fight for playing time with Finley (.230 EqA) or Jeff
DaVanon
or Devon White. But c’mon, the scouts were
right, and Kotchman looks like he’s turned a corner. Why not punt on
Erstand, and let the kid play? The only thing at stake is the division
title, after all, and you might add a win’s worth of runs (ten or so, to put
it simply) out of the difference between leaning towards Coulda Shoulda over
As Is.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned RHP Brian Bruney to Tucson; recalled RHP
Brandon Medders from Tucson. [8/19]

Optioned RHP Greg Aquino to Tucson; recalled RHP
Jason Bulger from Tucson. [8/25]

I guess I’ve labored too long under this misconception that shuffleboard was
a Florida game, because here in Arizona, there seems to be a fascination
with the Tucson two-step. Maybe they don’t know the rules, which explains
the constant reshuffling, but let’s face it, *I* don’t know the rules of
shuffleboard. Old people with sticks, and the mayhem that comes of it…
hmmm, perhaps it actually does sort of resemble the Snakes after all,
although neither Bruney nor Aquino are all that old, but both have generated
far too much mayhem. Sadly, it isn’t that fun sort that you delight in when
it’s your team that gets to do it to everyone else, like the Nasty Boys,
more like the Society for Creative Mitch Williams Impersonation for people
who just can’t get enough of the drip, drip, drip of quiet desperation as
you watch hope die in another half-inning.

In each case, though, I really do wonder what it was that the Snakes were
thinking. Aquino isn’t quite the wunderkind they’ve tried to make him out to
be, but it’s sort of hard to get a relatively inexperienced reliever sharp
with an inning here and there, depending on how Bob Melvin’s karma is
shaking that particular day as he ponders his Wheaties. In his previous 9.1
IP over three weeks before melting down his last two times out, he’d allowed
a single run and pitched through an injury to his right forearm. (His other
peripherals were five hits, two walks, and 11 strikeouts.) Then he made a
one-run deficit into a three-run deficit against the Mets on the 21st, and
then he contributed to the staff-wide grease fire on Wednesday. Obviously,
banishing Bruney for a season’s worth of suckitude wasn’t enough, the
queeglings running this ship decided another example had to be set, and
never mind that these are the same people pretending that Brandon
Lyon
and Buddy Groom are solutions to the club’s
pen problems, the same people who worked Lance Cormier into
the ground.

Now, I know, I’m ranting about who didn’t get moved as opposed to mentioning
who got brought up. But based on how he’s pitched this season, in Tucson and
in the minors, the Snakes should already be comfortable with having Medders
around, but they’ve jerked him around. Bulger’s a young arm of note as well,
owning a fastball he can consistently dial into the mid-90s, but so does
Aquino, and so does Bruney. The goal here shouldn’t be about pretending that
the Snakes will somehow play better than .500 ball to catch the Padres, it
should be about sorting out who can help this team win ballgames, in the
future as well as now. It shouldn’t be about choosing between these four, it
should be about finding ways to use all of them. That they’ve instead
decided that Lyon and Groom and Tim Worrell are the
guarantors of their immediate future should tell you exactly what that
future holds for them. It only delays the more positive possibilities that
the Snakes’ collection of young power arms should promise, but I guess there
is the advantage of associating this year’s “failure to win” with
the gray-haired dreck instead of the kids.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Designated RHP Jim Brower for assignment; purchased the
contract of RHP Joey Devine from Mississippi (Double-A).
[8/20]

Outrighted RHP Jim Brower to Richmond. [8/21]

Activated C-R Johnny Estrada from the 15-day DL; optioned
C-B Brayan Pena to Richmond. [8/22]

Returned LHP Mike Hampton to the 15-day DL (back). [8/23]

Recalled LHP Macay McBride from Richmond. [8/24]

So now it’s a herniated disk, and now it might keep Hampton out for the rest
of the year. I would hope that this latest breakdown would finally convince
the Braves to think a little more seriously about the probability that
Kyle Davies is more than the world’s best temp. The
rotation has only three reliable starters, so the question needs to be about
who would be the guy you’d call upon to start fourth game in a postseason
series, if not Hampton. John Thomson hasn’t had a good
start yet since his reactivation, so he’s not the obvious answer. Why not
Davies? Jorge Sosa may be better used in a bullpen that can
no longer afford the conceit that last winter’s Danny Kolb
trade is something that can be made good with more wasted faith in Kolb. It
might seem expensive in terms of choices, but Sosa’s been among the Braves’ most effective relievers, and Davies has been a useful
starter.

Instead, the Braves are getting cute, but I’d consider Devine’s call-up as a
reminder that even smart teams make mistakes. Propelling him into the majors
is a rush job, but he’s their top pick from the ’05 draft, and I guess we
can understand the motivation when it’s a question of keeping Brower around.
Devine’s call-up unfortunately seems to be the tumbrel that’s supposed to
fall into place once you assume that Sosa has to be in the rotation, and I’m
just not optimistic about it working out as easily as the Braves seem to be.
Sidearmers might be even more unusual in college baseball than they are in
the major leagues, and sidearmers in college probably see fewer lefty
boppers who can can take their diet of low stuff and hammer it.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Claimed RHP James Baldwin off of waivers from the Rangers;
transferred UT/C-R Eli Marrero from the 15- to the 60-day
DL. [8/22]

Placed RHP Daniel Cabrera on the 15-day DL (strained back),
retroactive to 8/17; recalled RHP Chris Ray from Bowie
(Double-A). [8/23]

Placed RHP Jason Grimsley on the 15-day DL; optioned 1B-R
Alejandro Freire to Bowie (Double-A); activated 1B/OF-L
B.J. Surhoff from the 15-day DL; added RHP James
Baldwin
to the active roster. [8/24]

Despite the fact that this leaves the rotation depending on both
John Maine and Eric DuBose, I wouldn’t
begrudge the young Cabrera any rest, especially since it doesn’t appear to
be his arm that’s the issue. To their credit, the Orioles have been careful
with him with his overall pitch counts, but with as many pitches as he’s had
to throw in the innings he does pitch, many of them from the stretch given
that he’s walking five guys per nine, let’s just say that I’m not surprised
that something broke down. Better to be careful, since this isn’t “next
year” just yet. Instead, I’m still mystified about the more immediate
problem, which is the organization’s desire to carry around a guy like
Baldwin in Grimsley’s absence, especially when you really ought to see what
Aaron Rakers can do while you have a few weeks to do so.

Then there’s the decision to bump Freire down an extra level instead of
returning him to Ottawa, supposedly because it’s Walter
Young
whose star is riding high, and it’s Young whose virtues the
Orioles want to ponder. That’s on the “strength” of his having hit
.285/.333/.438 at Ottawa, just good enough to make people forget… well,
okay, the Lynx themselves are utterly forgettable. Let’s just say that if
that’s what an overweight lefty-hitting first baseman with questionable
defensive skills can do at Triple-A, I guess this means that Ken
Harvey
‘s platoon partner has finally been found. No, Jim
Traber
was not available, but then again, he was better than this.
Meanwhile, the roster is once again cluttered with lefty bats without anyone
beyond Chris Gomez to spot-start against a lefty for any of
them.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Designated 2B-B Mark Bellhorn for assignment. [8/19]

Placed OF-L Adam Stern on the 15-day DL (sprained thumb);
recalled LHP Lenny DiNardo from Pawtucket. [8/20]

Activated OF-L Trot Nixon from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP
Lenny DiNardo to Pawtucket. [8/23]

Stern’s quest to make people forget Bob Zupcic seems to
have found every possible pothole along the way so far, but I suspect people
are more interested in the larger point, which is that you do have Nixon to
kick around some more. That in turn reduces Kevin Millar to
a reserve role, sometimes spotting for Nixon in right, taking a start from
Papi at
DH now and again, and otherwise wrestling with the other two hydra’s heads
in the first base mix, the deathless legend of Roberto
Petagine
, and the lingering languor of John
Olerud
. Olerud’s the current most-frequent winner of the moment,
aided by Millar’s slump and Petagine’s being so mysterious that Terry
Francona seems to have discarded him like a particularly difficult crossword
puzzle. But they are all still here, and that’s what matters, both for them,
and in terms of Boston’s roster design for the postseason as we near the
deadline to set who’s available and who isn’t.

Which brings me to the other significant aspect that carrying three first
baseman create: Bellhorn’s designation for assignment, presumably to
posterity. Although Bellhorn was the second baseman on a world championship
ballclub, getting hurt while not smacking 50 extra-base hits makes you a lot
more expendable in a lot of people’s minds than, say, if he were
David Eckstein. So Bellhorn’s dangling, possibly to become
a Cardinal, or perhaps an Angel, or maybe even a Marlin. In the meantime,
the more interesting proposition is whether or not anyone really expected
the sabermetrically-minded Red Sox to decide to go with Tony
Graffanino
and Alex Cora as their combination of
second baseman and utility infielder. It’s economical, certainly, and Graffy
hits well enough to justify some measure of the team’s reputation for
cleverness, but trusting to Cora this much? It resembles creeping
conventionalism.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Outrighted RHP Matt Smith to Charlotte. [8/24]

CHICAGO CUBS
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Activated CF/2B-R Jerry Hairston Jr. from the 15-day DL;
optioned OF-R Matt Murton to Iowa. [8/19]

Because finding a way to play Murton when you have four lefty outfielders,
with just Hairston as an alternative, why, that would have been too easy,
and whatever would this team do without Jose Macias? I
mean, by my count they’ve won eight games with Macias in the starting
lineup, and even if that was out of 18 starts, and that has to mean
something, because there are numbers in that assertion and everything.
Jeepers. Besides, that damned Murton was hitting, and there’s nothing worse
than a young player who plays well without paying his dues to somebody
somewhere

Let’s face it, Dusty Baker is just going to make everyone regret they’ve
ever doubted he knew what he was doing. And if it just so happens that Dusty
might actually have no clue, and is instead the Rick Cerone of managers,
kept around because, gee willikers, he was so smart in 1993, when he was
a first-year manager and the Giants … well, they had this new guy over in
left field, but we all know, that Bonds was the character actually
responsible for the Giants’ blowing their lead so that they’d lose out to
the Braves that year. It had to be, because as we all know, Barry
Bonds
is evil, while Dusty’s not just a prince among men, he’s the
impossible, a living saint, unquestioning and unquestionable. And sure, in
Dusty’s case the wages of faith may be failure, while faithlessness gets you
tuning in to watch the White Sox. Wait a minute… why was it good to have
faith in Dusty again? Because he says so? What is this, the Mother Church of
Dustydom?

I don’t envy Jim Hendry’s having to eventually do what needs to be done, or
the unfair characterizations that might get made about him for doing it. But
that firestorm needs little by way of flint and tinder, and the time to move
past the Dusty Era has long since come.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Optioned OF-R Jason Dubois to Buffalo; recalled RHP
Andrew Brown from Buffalo. [8/20]

Recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Buffalo; optioned RHP
Andrew Brown to Buffalo. [8/23]

It’s an interesting minuet, as the Indians have essentially expanded their
roster to 26 or so, and trying to squeeze value out of every option and
never have a spot wasted on someone who might need rest in their pen. In ten
days, through that last roster slot, they’ve cycled from Tallet to
Arthur Rhodes to Jeremy Guthrie when
Rhodes had to go onto the DL to Dubois once the pen had rested up to Brown
to Tallet again. It may be a serious pain in the keister to have to write
up, since none of the moves represent anything more than a commitment to the
needs of today or the next series, but it’s a demonstration of what a team
can do with its optionable players to basically keep a taxi squad handy,
something that much more easily achieved because Buffalo’s a stone’s throw
away from Cleveland. So a semi-grumpy tip o’the cap to Mark Shapiro, Eric
Wedge, and the rest of the organization, because if there’s one thing that
isn’t going to cost the Tribe a playoff spot, it’s inattention to their big
league roster.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed OF-L Larry Bigbie on the 15-day DL (strained
Achilles tendon), retroactive to 8/21; recalled OF-R Choo
Freeman
from Colorado Springs. [8/22]

Bigbie’s still here, and he’s not even going to play? Is there any justice?
Pity LoDo’s unluckiest denizens. Freeman’s hit .281/.334/.426, numbers that
sound respectable, until you notice that it’s in altitude-inflated Colorado
Springs, in the PCL, in his third year there. It doesn’t matter, since he
won’t play all that much, any more than Jorge Piedra, not
when the organization seems intent on playing Cory Sullivan
and Dustan Mohr. If there was any danger of the Rockies
threatening to move to Bozeman or something, I guess couldn’t come up with a
better way than that if your goal was to keep people from coming to the
games.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed 2B-R Donnie Murphy on the 15-day DL (broken finger);
purchased the contract of OF-L Aaron Guiel from Omaha;
transferred RHP Steve Stemle from the 15- to the 60-day DL.
[8/25]

Ruben Gotay, no soup for you.
Murphy’s out, you say? It doesn’t matter, Denny Hocking has
all of his fingers and toes, he knows where to sit after he makes an out,
and that’s good enough for this team. Besides, having made the self-spiting
choice of having picked first one, then the other, and now neither of their
second basemen of the future, at least there’s the happy-story hook of
Guiel’s comeback from vision problems. He’s been a monster at Omaha this
year, hitting .278/.373/.541, which also involved thwacking thirty bombs.
Sure, he’s 32, and that was in the PCL, but given a choice between seeing if
Guiel can hit again or wasting another plate appearance on the still done T-Dog, is
there really any choice?

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Returned LHP Odalis Perez to the 15-day DL (strained
oblique), retroactive to 8/18; recalled RHP Edwin Jackson
from Jacksonville (Double-A); optioned RHP Jonathan Broxton
to Jacksonville. [8/22]

Recalled RHP Franquelis Osoria from Las Vegas. [8/23]

Placed CF-B Milton Bradley on the 15-day DL (knee);
recalled 3B/OF-R Mike Edwards from Las Vegas. [8/25]

Mark the calendar, ladies and gents: August 25th. The Day The Pony Died. The day I guess I get to
acknowledge that no, the Dodgers did not win the World Series this year, or
win their division, or wind up with the best of all records in the National
League this season. At this point, I can’t entirely discount rumors that I
picked the Dodgers to fly, cure cancer, or make Saturday Night Live funny.
Can you blame me? Memory’s selective as a coping mechanism. Now, you might
expect that I’d offer a mea culpa right around now, and as much as I’d love
to, I’m afraid I have to admit that it’s on the DL. It’s too late in the
year to think that physical therapy and a few weeks rehabbing in Vegas will
do anything for it. Heck, given that there’s no advantage to it being here
at the podium with me as I try to explain why I was so very, very, very
injured… I mean, wrong, very, very wrong… that I expect it will instead
empty the bank account and do something unfortunate, like betting on men
named “Lucky,” or the Cardinals. The Arizona Cardinals. So let’s
just say the pony’s dead, and laugh if you must, but this was nothing if not
an interesting team. My colleague Joe Sheehan has already long since pointed
out, with much healthier prescience, that Bradley is
the player this team can’t replace
, and if Jeff Kent
doesn’t know the difference between the straw that stirs the drink and
stirring up… poopadoodle… then I don’t really know if there’s much to
add to my offering up this, my final DePology for the 2005 season. I sure
hope I don’t hurt myself trying.

Okay, if that much self-indulgent verbiage isn’t enough to scare off the
critics, let’s see what’s left in the wreckage: Edwin Jackson in the
rotation, despite posting an ERA over eight in Vegas, or badly enough to get
himself back down to Double-A. He is only 21, so I suspect that like the
Dodgers themselves, he’ll be able to live down this season of setbacks, but
it wouldn’t hurt to give people reason to look forward to ’06 in the
meantime. And in center field? Jayson Werth seems to have
dibs on thundering around on what had been Milton Bradley’s board. But
there’s also Jose Cruz, at least until Paul DePodesta gives
into the obviously attractive temptation to give Cruz an opportunity to brag
of something Kingmanesque:
play for four teams in a season. Okay, I know, Dave
Martinez
did it more recently than Kong, but he was cooked by then,
while Kingman was still a going concern in the summer of ’77. Any guesses on
which one Cruz Jr. more closely resembles?

NEW YORK METS
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Placed C-R Mike Piazza on the 15-day DL (hand), retroactive
to 8/17; purchased the contract of C-R Mike DiFelice from
Norfolk; optioned LHP Dae-Sung Koo to Norfolk. [8/21]

Recalled RHP Heath Bell from Norfolk; designated OF-L
Ron Calloway for assignment. [8/22]

Activated RHP Steve Trachsel from the 60-day DL; designated
RHP Danny Graves for assignment. [8/23]

Can you blame Piazza for deciding he feels much, much better? Skip his
pending free agency and how well-off the team might be next year just going
with a job-sharing arrangement between Ramon Castro and
Mike Jacobs, they might be fine doing that right now to
help keep their wildcard hopes alive, and perhaps resurrecting the hated Piazza-at-first
experiment. And no, there’s no reason to bring up DiFelice in this potential
blend. Depending on your point of view, he’s either done, or ready to be the
Yankees’ backup catcher.

Okay, so we can now add Graves to the list of people that weren’t fixed by
Rick Peterson in New York. I wouldn’t suggest he was all that fixable, but
at some point, the formerly famous pitching coach is going to actually turn
somebody around, right? Perhaps it will be Trachsel, altough then everyone’s
favorite slow day starter would box out someone like Jae
Seo
, and all he’s done is earn his keep. Hopefully there won’t be
any silliness involving a six-man rotation, but at this stage of the season,
the staff is crowded. It’s also pretty good in spots, the starting spots at
the very least. It’s that overflow from the rotation which has given the
team Aaron Heilman in the pen, where he’s been one of their
best relievers.

But the Mets may finally have a pretty solid pen too, now that most of the
famous or ex-famous people are out of the way, leaving Heilman and Bell as
the organization’s boast-worthy products, and with journeymen of both the
major league and minor league varieties (Roberto Hernandez
and Juan Padilla, respectively). It’s turned into a nice
assortment, even if it was thrown together after the failure of their laid
plans for how Mike DeJean or Tyler Yates
or Felix Heredia or Koo or Denny Stark,
and … wait, Koo? Stark? My god, where is Denny Stark these days? Ah,
Colorado Springs, nowhere near New York, nor Norfolk neither. If you ever
wonder what it is that people who work for the New York Post pray for, it’s
this sort of thing.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Activated OF-B Nick Swisher from the bereavement list;
optioned OF-L Matt Watson to Sacramento. [8/19]

Signed C-R Alberto Castillo to a minor league contract, and
assigned him to Sacramento. [8/23]

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Recalled RHP Aquilino Lopez from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre;
optioned RHP Geoff Geary to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/20]

Gosh, not only does Bigbie hit the DL, but in the same period, the Phillies
recall their ill-gotten gain from the Rockies’ misfortune through Red Sox
shysterism? It must suck to wear purple. Well, of course it does. There’s a
reason nobody from Ms. Manners on down makes any Labor Day-type rules about
purple: it’s purple, for gods’ sakes. Among the many indignities of
attending Winston Churchill Junior High was that we wore purple in gym
class. With yellow lettering. Like we were all Fran Tarkenton, right down to
the dorky knee sox with purple and yellow stripes. No wonder everyone was
itching to get back into their slightly less dorky Members Only jackets.

Anyway, where the Phillies are concerned, they could no longer afford to
carry a tired arm in the pen. Now, to be fair to Geary, it wasn’t him that
got his arm so tired, but Charlie Manuel’s heavy reliance on him as soon as
he came off of the DL. But it isn’t like the Phillies are going to kibbitz
at the moment, not when they’re in a position to win the wild card and
perhaps more. Geary’s long relief role might have been filled by
Robinson Tejeda after Eude Brito was
handed Tejeda’s starting job, but Cory Lidle chose this
particular moment to start breaking down, pushing Tejeda back into the
rotation after all. So an extra arm to pitch long relief would be handy.
It’s Lopez’s opportunity to lose after allowing only six baserunners and
striking out eleven during his brief sojourn in Scranton.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed 2B-R Jose Castillo on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled
3B-R Ty Wigginton from Indianapolis. [8/23]

Castillo’s out for the season, and Jody Gerut may be. As ever, this creates
all sorts of choice about what to do with Rob Mackowiak:
third, second, an outfield corner? Or stick with all of the above, and let
everyone else get playing time wherever he isn’t? The answer appears to be
play Mackowiak at second. although right field might be a weak spot:
Nate McLouth doesn’t seem that ready, Mike
Restovich
may never be what you want in a corner outfielder, and
Ryan Doumit is catching more often these days. This also
involves a new dose of Wigginton at the hot corner. Since his demotion,
Wiggy hit .293/.390/.507 at Indy, or just well enough for David Littlefield
to squint and see the guy he thought was the high profile pickup in last
year’s unfortunate Benson deal. Sadly, the Pirates are talking about how
he’s ‘confident’ now that he’s back, without noting that he’s still Ty
Wigginton, but so be it.

Whether it’s Wigginton or Freddy Sanchez getting the
at-bats, neither of them seem that likely to be next year’s answer at third
or second, respectively. To their credit, the Pirates have correctly
identified that it’s Castillo who has the upside to invest in as their
future at second, where a lot of us were all worked up about Bobby
Hill
or Sanchez. While Castillo’s out, there’s enough room to look
at Wiggy, and once Castillo’s back, Wigginton will lose time to Mackowiak.
As ‘the way it has to be’ scenarios go, it’s not so bad, particularly since
the real news here isn’t Wiggy’s call-up, it’s that Jose
Bautista
was bumped up to Indy after hitting .283/.367/.509. In
doing so, Bautista looks every bit as necessary to reacquire as Dave
Littlefield recognized so very belatedly last season. Now sure, it’s a pity
that Littlefield didn’t recognize Bautista’s ability when he blew picking
his 40-man roster in November of 2003, and thus costing himself Bautista in
the Rule 5 draft. That lamentable mistake created the necessity of the
Pirates having to reacquire their own player (instead of some other
potentially useful additional guy) once they recognized another bit of
obviousness: the need to cash out Benson before his departure as a free
agent. So-called small market teams can’t afford that brand of
“genius.” However, by the end of ’06, the Pirates should have
Castillo at second, Bautista at third, Mackowiak roving, plus whatever
goodies they may get from dealing Wigginton. It might have meant taking the
long way ’round to get there, but all’s well that ends well.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Released INF-B Scott Spiezio; outrighted C-R Wiki
Gonzalez
to Tacoma. [8/19]

Recalled 3B-L Greg Dobbs from Tacoma; placed RHP
Gil Meche on the 15-day DL (tendonitis – knee). [8/20]

Activated 1B-R Bucky Jacobsen from the 60-day DL, and
optioned him to Tacoma; recalled RHP Clint Nageotte from
Tacoma. [8/21]

Recalled RHP Jeff Harris from Tacoma; optioned RHP
Clint Nageotte to Tacoma. [8/25]

For all of that, you’ve got three things to consider in the wake of this
particular collection of moves. First, swapping in Dobbs for Spiezio is
overdue, and while Dobbs isn’t going to do that much, he is on the 40-man,
and better to look at him to see if he has any value as a reserve at the
infield corners than reminding yourself that Spiezio had nothing left to
offer. Dobbs is the sort of line-drive lefty bat that managers sometimes
take a shine to in a reserve role. It’s a role for which he’s suited, and
which might even have a little bit extra value on a team where both starters
at the infield corners bat right-handed. It probably doesn’t hurt that the
organization loves him for the way he survived an Achilles tendon injury
that cost him his ’03 season. Just don’t be fooled by their plugging him:
he’s not a prospect.

Second, Buckybackers of the world,
rejoice!
(The preceding was not a cryptic message to Buckminster Fuller groupies.)

Third, Nageotte doesn’t seem like he can buy a break, but between his
fragility, command issues, and the absence of a decision about what they
want him to be when he grows up–starter, or reliever?–he’s probably better
off just getting out of King Felix’s mushroom kingdom. There are few top
prospects whose careers have gone more AWOL than Nageotte’s has in the last
year, not without suffering a career-altering injury. To top all of that
off, he was burned mopping up for Ryan Franklin, one of the
guys he should be replacing, and thus unavailable to assume Meche’s slot in
the rotation. Now, perhaps after missing a chunk of the season to forearm
and back trouble, and otherwise spending the year in a relief role in
Tacoma, it would be a bit much to expect Nageotte to make Meche’s starts,
but the fact that the Mariners, so often touted for their farm talent, are
instead relying on guys like Franklin or a minor league journeyman like
Harris speaks volumes about how exceptional King Felix may well wind up being,
at least until they break him. It’s what happened with Meche, and what
happened to Joel Pineiro, so you can consider me
understandably skeptical about the nature of King Felix’s royal birthright.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Activated OF-R Moises Alou from the 15-day DL; optioned
OF-R Jason Ellison to Fresno; released LHP Kirk
Rueter
. [8/19]

Placed RHP Tyler Walker on the 15-day DL (shoulder
inflammation), retroactive to 8/20; repurchased of RHP Brian
Cooper
from Fresno. [8/21]

I guess for the fant-heads the news is that saves opportunities will go to
LaTroy Hawkins and perhaps Armando
Benitez
, and what the hell, that might even make the team better
somehow, not that you’d really notice. It’s one of those elements of this
team, like the decision to try to finish up with an outfield of Alou,
Randy Winn, and Michael Tucker. It doesn’t
really matter in terms of helping the Giants go anywhere now or in the
future, but it’s awfully swell if you’re one of those guys and still feel
like playing. Well, okay, there is also Pedro Feliz,
popping into the outfield whenever Edgardo Alfonzo gets
remembered and stuck into the lineup. Is it just me, or does 2000, the last
year in which Alfonzo was great and healthy, seem like a very long time ago?
It’s become that kind of team, where instead of comparing scars, the geezers
can try to top each other with bragging how long ago their last really good
season was. Or laugh politely to be a pal, if you happen to be Deivi
Cruz
.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Activated OF-L Larry Walker from the 15-day DL; optioned
C-R Mike Mahoney to Memphis. [8/20]

This is actually starting to work out very nicely for the Cards. Walker will
get live play in which to rehab, while being rested frequently to keep him
from reinjuring himself before October. In a lineup now definitely short one
Scott Rolen, having Walker in working order is definitely a
priority. But equally handy is that between Walker’s absence and
Reggie Sanders still being on the DL, playing time is being
spread around between So Taguchi, John
Rodriguez
, and John Mabry, and that’s a great way
to have them all geared up for the roles they’re to play in the postseason.
Don’t laugh, but since Taguchi’s finally done something (it only took four
years), and with Rodriguez looking like one of the best free talent pickups
of last winter, all three are going to have their uses as key bit players.
Taguchi might make a nice spot starter for Walker against a hard-throwing
lefty, Rodriguez for Sanders against a dominant righthander with platoon
issues. All three make nice pinch-hitting choices to use on a team that will
need to pinch-hit for its third basemen and catchers, even allowing for some
double-switchery to potentially keep an Einar Diaz at-bat
from costing them. This stuff may matter less over 162 games, but a bench
used with brio in October can make a lot of difference, especially for a
lineup that will not be at its best when that time comes.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Placed RHP Ryan Drese on the 15-day DL (shoulder),
retroactive to 8/19; recalled RHP Travis Hughes from New
Orleans [8/23]

Placed OF-L Ryan Church on the 15-day DL (broken toe).
[8/25]

The Nats are encouraging Drese to look at rehab as opposed to surgery, and
why not? He’s not useful, and he’s a free agent after the season, so why not
weasel around when you might find someone else to pay for the surgery. The
only person who loses out if Drese is healthy enough to pitch as badly as
anyone should expect is Jim Bowden, since he’s the kiddo who felt that he’d
answered his rotation’s problems with waiver manna. As much as I’m a
believer that you can find help on the waiver wire, Drese is not the sort to
inspire that faith.

The problem is that losing Drese coincides with Tony
Armas
‘s latest breakdown, at a time when there’s really only
John Halama in the pen to plug into one of the open slots.
Without any further dumpster diving, the Nats will have to turn to the farm
system, Of course, there is always the possibility that the Nats could avoid
sending Armas to the DL because he might only miss one start, and instead go
with a ‘pen start’ to cover the team in Armas’s slot this Sunday, before
roster expansion gives them more options should Armas not be ready to pitch
by September 2nd. In that scenario they could ask former starter
Gary Majewski to pitch three innings or less to lead off
Sunday’s game, and then see where they are in the game at that point. The
alternative is hauling up Rockie rejects like lefty Matt
White
or Kip Bouknight, or perhaps rushing
Darrell Rasner up from Double-A, with Rasner holding a
major advantage by already being on the 40-man. No, those are not the
worst-case scenarios, those are the best choices in an obviously thin
organization. If you instead wanted to take your lumps with an
“experienced” choice, the Nats would have to turn to Chad
Durbin
or Brian Powell, but the paying customers
might finally grouse.

As for Church breaking his pinky toe, I sympathize. I broke one on my first
full day as a resident of the metropolitan D.C. area, and it was only
slightly more fun than being in a sack of cats. Naturally, I had to break
the other one a couple of months later, to acquired a matched pair. I
wouldn’t recommend that Church make that particular mistake; he should be
back in September, and he’s obviously hit well enough to stake a claim on
the outfield slot that should become available after Preston
Wilson
becomes a free agent in November.

Having hammered Bowden repeatedly over the full duration of his regime, it
is sort of a relief to note what I’d consider one of his best moves, which
was claiming Hughes off of waivers from the Rangers right after spring
training. A gi-normous sinker-slider guy with good velocity, Hughes was
pitching as a reliever for New Orleans, and having a nifty little season: 43
hits, three homeruns, and 22 walks allowed in 56.1 IP, while striking out
66, and posting a 2.88 ERA. He’s a former prospect whose command issues
caused the Rangers to wonder what they had for a couple of seasons before
40-man roster pressures encouraged them to give up on him despite a good ’04
season spent at Double-A. That was when Hughes became a full-time reliever,
and he showed he’d made a successful move to the pen, but the Rangers were
busy futzing around with this year’s collection of big league tape jobs to
patch up the pitching staff (not to mention Ryan Drese), and it cost them.

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