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So many topics, so little time…

It’s hard to argue with the suspension Carl Everett received. There
is a lot of silliness on each extreme, with apologists at one end and
executioners at the other. Everett lost control and in an effort to
intimidate, did the thing you can’t do, which is make contact with the
ump. However, it’s clear in looking at the replay that he didn’t
"head-butt" the umpire, which was the popular description. The
contact was inadvertent and probably unintentional, but the result of a
loss of control that does need to be punished.

The ten-game rest imposed on Everett will almost certainly be reduced on
appeal by a couple of games, but the Red Sox will still miss Everett for
about a week. While MLB has nominally sped up the appeal process by not
waiting for players to come to New York, the process is now two-staged, so
Everett will have an opportunity to drop his suspension if a good time
arises.

Just out of curiosity, I pulled out the Sox schedule to see if there is
that elusive "good time." Assuming Everett and the MLBPA can’t
stretch this out to August 29–when Everett could sit out eight games, six
with an expanded roster, and return for a series with the Yankees–the
easiest stretch they have the rest of the season is a ten-game homestand
beginning August 14, when Tampa Bay, Texas and Anaheim come calling. I
would be stunned if Everett’s absence didn’t coincide with that Devil Ray
series.

(As an aside, here’s another bit of fun scheduling. The Sox spend a week on
the West Coast from July 27 to August 2, fly home to play three games
against the Royals over the weekend…then fly back to California to play
three games at Anaheim. That’s two cross-country flights in five days.)

The Reds are shopping Barry Larkin, with at least three
shortstop-challenged contenders lined up at the door. While some of the
media has tried to spin this as the quintessential "small-market
team" blues, the situation is a bit more complex than that.

First of all, Larkin has already given the Reds the ever-popular
hometown discount. The deal that ends this season has paid him less than $6
million a year for the past five years, and he signed it in lieu of testing
the market after his MVP season in 1995. For him to not want to accept a
lot less than his value at this point is both understandable and unsurprising.

Secondly, unlike the Ken Griffey and Roger Clemens
situations, this isn’t a case of a player demanding a deal and putting his
team over a barrel. In fact, Larkin doesn’t want to be traded. And in a
strange twist, his unwillingness to go elsewhere for the last two month of
the season may be spun as some true test of his loyalty. If he exercises
his ten-and-five rights and vetoes a deal, he runs the risk of being
skewered as a barrier to the Reds’ future success.

The Reds appear to be more concerned with winning the PR battle than with
signing Larkin. By painting him as the bad guy for not signing a
ridiculously cheap deal (they’re offering $6M/year, Larkin is asking for
$9M/year), they can avoid answering the tough question: if the whole point
behind getting Ken Griffey to sign at below-market rates was to help afford
a team around him, why are you dumping your second-best player when you’re
six games out of first place?

Finally–and regular readers may be surprised by the following–signing
Larkin from 2001-2003 may not be such a bad idea. Whether they want to
believe it or not, the $9 million per year (and they can probably get
Larkin a bit cheaper than that) is almost certainly less than Larkin would
get as a free agent this winter, quite possibly in a four-year deal.

If they sign Larkin, then this winter the team can shop Aaron Boone
and Travis Dawkins, make the best deal they can and play Larkin at
whichever position is open come March 1. I have no problem projecting
Larkin as a good regular, even as a third baseman, in 2001.

Regardless of what happens, the Reds’ handling of the situation has been
awkward. Barry Larkin is a probable Hall of Famer and has been the best
player in Cincinnati since Joe Morgan. He deserved better than to be
hung out to dry by an owner who hasn’t been around the team as long as some
of Larkin’s sanitary socks.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.