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SEATTLE MARINERS
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Signed 1B-L Roberto Petagine to a minor league contract
with a spring training NRI. [2/21]

Bring me the
head of
Greg Dobbs, because a real classic, old-time,
down-on-his-luck hero has come to town, and we ain’t talkin’ Warren Oates. Warren
fans, don’t worry, you can count me among your ranks, but in the same way
that we all loved seeing Oates show up in one tough-luck role after another,
no matter how many times we knew that there’d be no happy ending, we also
knew that we had to root for our hero anyways.

That’s sort of why I feel the same way about every stathead’s superfan
experience with Petagine. It doesn’t matter that it still hasn’t added up
for him, and it doesn’t matter that the ending never will work out well. He
was born unlucky, starting off with the Astros when Jeff
Bagwell
ruled the roost, then winding up with the Padres in 1995, a
year they spent getting by at first base with shaved hominids like
Scott Livingstone and Eddie Williams. From
there, he went to the Mets at a time when they couldn’t distinguish between
Butch Huskey, Rico Brogna, and a big
league first baseman, and later he wasted a year of his life on Jim Bowden’s
false hope in ’98. At that point, Petagine finally made it big in Japan,
getting into clover for six years, and escaping the disappointments of the
big country as successfully as Spinal
Tap
. Nevertheless, he gave the States another go with Boston last year,
and if he didn’t get his due with the Red Sox, Seattle’s probably the
closest thing to a compromise between Japanese League stardom and existence
in the big leagues.

As much as I’m sympathetic, though, let’s face it, Petagine is 35. Even on a
Mariners team as bereft of serious bench help as you’d expect in a land with
an openly-practiced Bloomquist cult, put this possible last stand halfway
between John
Wayne
and Forrest
Whitaker
. If we’re all lucky, it won’t happen in Tacoma; I don’t think
anyone should have much reason to believe that Carl Everett
can outhit Petagine, but the DH job isn’t up for grabs until Everett hits
badly enough to make it a competition. If that’s all that’s left to one of
the heroes of latter-day performance analysis, then it’s best to remember
that when the play’s the
thing

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed 1B-L Erubiel Durazo to a minor league contract with
a spring training NRI. [2/21]

Durazo’s reportedly going to play for Mexico in the New World Baseball
Classic 2.0 with Nutrasweet (any similarities to real baseball product is
entirely intentional), despite previous reports that he wouldn’t be much
good on a diamond before May. Assuming that Durazo’s healing faster than he
ever has in the past, and that his exhibition play for the greater glory of
a non-employer doesn’t lead to a reinjury or brand new malady, this is a
good pickup for the Rangers, considering that their first choice at DH is
last summer’s mistake, Phil Nevin. Prospect hounds could
and should prefer Jason Botts, but if the Rangers can’t
work themselves up to that, Durazo makes for a solid alternative to the
likely disappointments they’ll get from Nevin’s bat.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Signed LHP Jimmy Anderson and RHP Eddie
Gaillard
to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs.
[2/20]

It isn’t often that I’m sick of seeing some guys turn up, but Jimmy Anderson
is the lucky penny that everyone picks up, figuring they’ve got a penny,
only to find out that it’s actually some damned token to an unnamed kid’s
gumball machine, and good luck tracking the squirt down just to get a gum
ball for your troubles. Sometimes, it’s best to step over, and let other
people get lucky. To put it more directly, Anderson is 30, and is separated
from his brief brush with adequacy as a fifth starter by five years. If the
Marlins are auditioning temps before any of the various fry from their
broadly-cast net this winter produces a single full-grown fish, you’d hope
they’d do better than Anderson.

As for Gaillard, he’s 35. After not showing up in the majors in this
millennium, and washing out of Japan in recent years, and Rockies camp just
last spring, you have to hope that he’s not auditioning for a real role, but
as a substitute pitching coach.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Signed RHP Josh Hancock to a minor league contract with a
spring training NRI. [2/20]

Sadly, Memphis plays in the wrong Triple-A watershed, geography be damned,
so whatever odds of this adding up to be an in-your-face showdown with a
divisional rival will have to happen at the major league level
between the Cardinals and the Reds, and not between Memphis and Louisville.
Overweight for the time being or not, Hancock had never pitched fewer than
100 innings in his previous six years as a pro before being limited to 58 innings
by a sprained elbow and a groin injury. As guys go, there are worse warm bodies to pick
up. He’ll be 28, he’s always had pretty good command of his slider if a
less-than-dominant fastball, and it isn’t like failure in the Reds or
Phillies organizations are iron-clad proofs that you’re someone who can’t
pitch. On the other hand, his up-side really isn’t much higher than adequate
fifth starter or solidly useful tenth or eleventh man on a staff, so don’t
get really worked up. La Russa and Duncan are good at resurrections, but
that doesn’t make everybody in Cardinals’ camp a potential Lazarus.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Signed C-R Mike DiFelice to a minor league contract with a
spring training NRI. [2/19]

Signed RHP Kevin Gryboski and OF-R Cristian
Guerrero
to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs.
[2/20]

One of the great debates about the nature of freedom was whether freedom
should be defined as the freedom to do as you will, or freedom from harm.
It’s a debate you could stretch back as far as Rousseau if you cared to, but
basically, it was something that seemed pretty relevant about the structure
of western democracies until the last five or six years. Now, it’s mostly an
academic debate, and one you might apply towards more fundamental questions,
like whether or not the freedom to sign every backup catcher under the sun
is freedom from harming yourself, or the freedom to harm all of them. Coming
as I do from a union experience, I would think that the choice to employ so
many different card-carrying members of the International Brotherhood of
Backup Catchers would not be in the best interests of the union. If nothing
else, it’s a matter of DiFelice, Wiki Gonzalez,
Alberto Castillo, and Brandon Harper not all being able to have the same jobs,
not in a union shop, and not all at the next level down, either. Even
if Frank Robinson carries both Robert Fick and Matt
LeCroy
, and finds more room still for an actual catch-and-throw
catching reserve, that’s still a crowd at Triple-A, and one which doesn’t
involve anyone you’d actually want to employ. You’d think they’d be more
efficiently spread around, but there could be other factors in play. First,
guys like DiFelice and Castillo have already played for just about every
team in the game, and if they have the good sense not to want them, you
could call that market efficiency, or a case of familiarity breeding
contempt. Either way, it means that the two dozen people following the
Zephyrs will be grousing.

As for Gryboski and Guerrero, both are normal Bowden flyers. Guerrero was in
the system last summer, but hasn’t resembled a prospect in five years,
“peaking” in Ogden as a 20-year old. Gryboski’s a bit of a
longshot, in that even during his good stretch (2002-04), he wasn’t that
good, but what the heck, everyone sifts for the occasional live retread in
the making.