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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Released RHP Ken Hill; activated LHP Jarrod Washburn from the
DL; optioned RHP Brian Cooper to Edmonton; recalled RHP Ramon
Ortiz
from Edmonton; outrighted OF-R Edgard Clemente to
Edmonton; purchased the contract of IF-R Keith Johnson from
Edmonton. [8/7]

Purchased the contract of 1B/OF-R Chris Hatcher from Edmonton;
returned LHP Jarrod Washburn to the 15-day DL. [8/8]

Ramon Ortiz’s return has been well-earned after pitching well in Edmonton.
While a 4.55 ERA doesn’t sound great, it is the Pacific Coast League, and
giving up only 74 hits in 89 innings is a better indicator of how he’s been
throwing. There are still concerns about his long-term health, but with
Brian Cooper reassigned, Ken Hill released and Seth Etherton, Jason Dickson
and Jarrod Washburn on the DL, the Angels were basically left with Ortiz
and a scuffling Scot Shields to choose from.

Washburn’s reinjury accelerates the timetable for Kent Mercker’s recovery,
and that justs gets the Angels to the four-man rotation they can live with
until they need a fifth starter on August 19. Chances are they’ll recall
Cooper for a tough assignment against the Yankees; he’ll have put in his
ten days in the minors and he’ll have logged a start to keep him fresh.

Ken Hill is talking about retirement. I’ve bashed him often enough in his
incarnation as a worn-out old Angel, to do him justice we should also think
back to 1994. That was the year in which he would have had his big shot at
postseason glory with the rest of a great Expos team that would have been a
great fly in the mythical "big market/small market" ointment.
Instead, he had to settle for being one of several "Less Than
Maddux" candidates for the Cy Young in a season we won’t soon forget.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Recalled 1B-L Erubiel Durazo and RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from
Tucson; optioned 1B-R Alex Cabrera and OF-L Rob Ryan to
Tucson. [8/9]

Erubiel Durazo is back after enjoying his refresher at Tucson. Alex Cabrera
is down because, like Durazo before him, he had a bad week and the Giants
and Dodgers have the Snakes slithering scared and issuing punitive
demotions willy-nilly. Eventually, they’ll have to stop getting cranky
about consecutive 0-fers by people not named Matt Williams or Jay Bell and
start taking their postseason roster a bit more seriously.

While I’m as impressed as everyone else with Jason Conti’s good arm, he’s a
Mike Kingery type. While that makes for a very good fourth outfielder and
defensive replacement for someone like Cabrera, it’s not a good regular for
a lineup already carrying a weak-hitting group of everyday infielders.

The dilemma for the Snakes is relatively simple: they don’t have the roster
room to carry the seven relievers they feel they need as long as the
non-famous starters have problems going five innings; plus two utility
infielders and two relatively light-hitting outfielders and
pinch-hitter and platoon caddy Greg Colbrunn. My biases are pretty
well-known: if you give me the choice between a seventh reliever and a
lineup regular, I’d prefer the lineup regular. In the meantime, Buck
Showalter has three weeks to make his choices for 11th pitcher on the
postseason roster (either Russ Springer or Johnny Ruffin) to make certain
he has the room to carry Cabrera.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Recalled RHP Aaron Myette from Charlotte; optioned 3B/1B-B Greg
Norton
to Charlotte. [8/8]

A really unfortunate development for Greg Norton, because his demotion
wasn’t based on anything he’d done or failed to do, but rather the result
of the doubleheader against the Mariners. Norton had been hitting
.270/.356/.387 with a .243
Equivalent Average,
nothing spectacular, but he
is definitely a handy player to have around because he does his best
hitting from the left side, and this team needs a good left-handed bat to
spot at the infield corners (and even up the middle in a pinch).

Because of the doubleheader, the Sox felt they had to move back to 12
pitchers. While that reflects contemporary wisdom, in the case of the
roster the Sox are carrying, was it really necessary? They’ve been carrying
both Kevin Beirne and Lorenzo Barcelo for long-relief work, both had been
starting in Charlotte before being called up and both have options. Why not
start or simply use one of them in the first game (my choice would have
been Beirne, to avoid pushing Barcelo’s elbow any more than necessary), and
then option him to Charlotte to make room for Aaron Myette to take either
one of their places as a spare long reliever? Why instead make Norton
unavailable for ten days?

Demoting Norton may end up making room for a rehabbing Craig Wilson,
because the Sox are going to have to spend the next three weeks making some
tough choices about their playoff roster. If Wilson is healthy, which
utility infielder do they keep, Wilson or Norton? If Cal Eldred’s elbow
heals up after all, there will probably only be room for two rookie
pitchers, and one of them will be Kelly Wunsch.


CINCINNATI REDS

Outrighted 1B/LF-L Brooks Kieschnick to Louisville; added CF-R
Brian Hunter to the active roster. [8/9]

Brian Hunter is now available to play his roster role as Fonzie Bichette’s
Legs, or maybe Dmitri Young’s, so he can be sort of a latter-day version of
Sammy Byrd and the Babe.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Recalled CF-L Juan Pierre from Colorado Springs. [8/7]

The Rockies definitely have the right idea: as long as you’re going to
bring the kid up in September, why not give yourself two months to get an
idea about whether you need to shop for a center fielder in the offseason?
Why wait for fleeting impressions from next year’s spring training to try
to make up your mind? It isn’t like Todd Hollandsworth is something more
than a good fourth outfielder.

Pierre is the homegrown improvement on Tom Goodwin and Brian Hunter. He can
fly to the gaps like either of them, runs well (46 steals against only 12
times caught at Double-A Carolina), and he’s an extreme contact hitter.
Before being called up to the PCL for a four-game stay, he’d hit
.326/.376/.380 with the Mudcats. To spell out what that means, he had only
20 extra-base hits and 26 strikeouts in 456 plate appearances. Coors is
nothing if not generous to balls in play, and one of the less-advertised
aspects of it as a ballpark is the extent to which it lowers strikeouts. So
the Rockies have got a guy with Luis Castillo’s power and the skill to get
the ball in play almost as often as Joe Sewell. Having seen that a team
with a Goodwin type in center ended up doing better than expected, Dan
O’Dowd is now willing to keep pushing the experiment to see if Pierre is
going to help them even more.


DETROIT TIGERS

Placed RHP Hideo Nomo on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/30
(strained hand); activated RHP Danny Patterson from the DL. [8/7]

Placed 1B-L Hal Morris on the 15-day DL (fractured finger); recalled
1B/OF-R Dusty Allen from Toledo. [8/9]

Losing Hideo Nomo is a bigger deal for the Tigers than losing Dave Mlicki
was. The difference is between losing your fifth starter–since Mlicki
hasn’t pitched better than Air Blair or Adam Bernero–and your third. Nomo
had been the Tigers’ third-most effective starter on the season behind Jeff
Weaver and Scuffy Moehler in terms of
Support-Neutral Wins,
and even if you
scoffed at the Tigers preseason hoopla, it was pretty reasonable to expect
that the three of them were going to be the Tigers’ best starters.

While losing Nomo clearly makes the Tigers’ desperate mission to finish in
third place that much more difficult, fortunately Danny Patterson is back
off of the DL. Patterson has been their most effective reliever on the
season, and with their weakened rotation, they’re going to need all the
relief help they can get as they enter a stretch against the Mariners and
Athletics over the next week and a half.

Hal Morris’s injury exposes the Tigers’ desperate straits as far as have
somebody–anybody–around to play the infield corners. Gregg Jefferies is
out for the year, and neither Rob Fick nor Tony Clark are especially close
to coming back. With Dean Palmer’s injury moving him over to play first
base for a stretch, the Tigers would be better off keeping Palmer there and
taking a spin with a young minor-league veteran, Rob Sasser, at third base.
While Sasser is just as error-prone as Palmer, he has better range and
instincts, starts the double play well and is a useful if not outstanding
hitter. At Toledo, he’s hitting .268/.336/.484 in his first year in
Triple-A, and while I’m not predicting stardom or even Matt Stairsdom, a
guy like this is worth a look when the alternative is Shane Halter.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Recalled RHP Tony McKnight from New Orleans; optioned RHP Jason
Green
to New Orleans. [8/9]

Tony McKnight is being called up for a spot start, and can probably count
on being sent back to the minors soon. He is considered a failed
first-round pick by some, but that’s not exactly fair. Drafted out of high
school, he was barely 18 when he signed in 1995, which means that he’s only
23 now. He enjoyed a very good year in his first season in Double-A last
year (2.75 ERA) and he’s had an adequate season this year in his first spin
through the PCL: a 4.61 ERA, with 105 hits and 27 walks allowed in 93 2/3
innings.

The reason why he’s still not considered anything special is that he does
not have a tremendous fastball (only 44 strikeouts), instead relying
heavily on a good curve. He’s got the big pitcher’s build (6’5") that
usually attracts a scout’s attention in the first place, and I wouldn’t
give up on him just yet. His control has dramatically improved in the past
couple of seasons, and he’s clearly young enough to have a career.

Slow-developing high school pitchers can obviously present their parent
organizations with a problem. For the Astros, it’s whether or not they can
keep him on the 40-man roster, because he’s slowly nearing the point that
he’ll run out of options. I’d compare the situation to that of Todd Ritchie
with the Twins, where it was relatively clear that Ritchie was a talented
pitcher. Most of the world’s pitchers aren’t on the Dwight Gooden career
path. When you get picked as an 18-year-old, you could be seven or eight
years away from being anywhere close to ready for the majors, and sometimes
as many as ten years away from being effective.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Optioned RHP Chad Durbin to Omaha. [8/7]

Activated RHP Chris Fussell from the DL. [8/8]

Chad Durbin is not exactly a victim of Brian Meadows’ nifty relief stint in
his Royals debut; an ERA of 8.21 is more the root of his problems. It would
be hard to identify a point at which he’s earned his keep, but while he’s
been the tenth-worst starter in the major leagues by Michael Wolverton’s
calculations, Meadows has been even worse.

Among the bottom ten starters, Meadows and Jose Lima are the only two who
still have jobs. Omar Daal and Ryan Rupe lost theirs, while Durbin, Roy
Halladay and Vlad Nunez have all been banished. Scott Erickson is out for
the year. So this is Meadows’s big chance to catch Lima among the guys
still pitching where it counts.

Beyond the statistically inane, Chris Fussell is back to reclaim the job he
was doing pretty well before getting hurt, tossing long relief. Beyond
Meadows, the Royals’ rotation is probably stronger now than it has been all
year, with Mac Suzuki, Jeff Suppan, Dan Reichert and Blake Stein all
pitching relatively well. Not that it really matters, but the Royals still
look like the best bet to finish third in the division.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Traded C-R Chris Widger through waivers to the Mariners for two
PTBNLs; recalled C-L Brian Schneider from Ottawa. [8/8]

Placed LHP Scott Downs on the 15-day DL (sprained ulnar ligament).
[8/9]

The other shoe drops: the catcher’s job is Michael Barrett’s to keep once
he finishes his ten-day assignment at Ottawa, with Brian Schneider being
groomed as his caddy. It’s a role Schneider is suited for: he’s that rare
left-handed-hitting catcher with a little bit of extra-base sock in him
(.232/.270/.399). His awful OBP is something that isn’t likely to go away,
but he’s got an outstanding reputation as a receiver, so it isn’t like he’s
Tyler Houston.

What happens once Barrett is up can be interpreted as a litmus test for the
franchise’s future in Montreal: if they cut le Webster, then the
organization is obviously indifferent to local fan sentiment. It might say
something about the state of baseball in Quebec that Lenny Webster is one
of the team’s most popular players, but I remember a similarly desperate
point in White Sox history when Marc "the Booter" Hill was among
that team’s most popular players. That was coincidentally close to the time
that Jerry Reinsdorf was beginning to get serious about blackmailing state
and local government for a new stadium.

One of the rumored players to be named from the Mariners is wild
left-handed reliever Sean Spencer, while the other could be determined by
how far the Mariners go in the postseason.


NEW YORK METS

Activated OF-L Darryl Hamilton from the DL; designated PH-L Matt
Franco
for assignment. [8/8]

Darryl Hamilton’s return gives the Mets a pretty diverse collection of
outfielders. They probably make up in depth what they lack in outright
talent by giving Bobby Valentine plenty of options in-game.

Hamilton is an important addition for two reasons: he gives them a viable
alternative to Jay Payton in center field and he gives them a left-handed
hitting outfielder they otherwise lacked. With Bubba Trammell and Benny
Agbayani to alternate in left field and utilityman Joe McEwing handy for
everything, the only real question is why the Mets chose to move Matt
Franco, who has had some value in the past as a pinch-hitter, instead of
Lenny Harris, who has none. Maybe it’s because of Harris’s ten stolen
bases, because it isn’t like this is a team that needs veteran guidance on
the bench.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Acquired DH-R Jose Canseco from the Devil Rays on waivers; acquired
IF-R Luis Sojo from the Pirates on waivers for RHP Chris
Spurling
; placed 2B-R Chuck Knoblauch on the 15-day DL,
retroactive to 8/3 (elbow tendinitis). [8/7]

You knew it had to happen, of course. Jose in New Yawk. Canseco’s arrival
finally gives the Yankees a good bat to stick into the DH slot, and gives
Joe Torre the tactical in-game flexibility to reserve Glenallen Hill for
use as a pinch-hitter for either David Justice or Paul O’Neill against
tougher left-handed relievers. If everyone is healthy or nearly healthy,
that makes for a pretty good playoff roster, except for the defensive
misfortune of having only Luis Polonia and Glenallen Hill to bring in at
either outfield corner. While Jose is clearly a shadow of his former self,
he’s also been a good hitter during his occasional periods of being healthy
enough to play. His .281 EqA would be fourth-best in the lineup, behind the
big three of Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and David Justice.

Of course, there’s still the weighty matter of Canseco’s apparent pledge to
put a Devil Rays’ cap on should he go to the Hall of Fame. I’m sticking
that in here mostly to see how many complaints it creates, because Canseco
continues to be one of those players who seems to inspire an almost
ludicrous amount of loathing in otherwise thoughtful and rational people. I
bring this up in part because I like tweaking people’s noses on this
subject, and in part because there was a time when I cared more about
Canseco’s career than anybody else’s in baseball. I was in the stands for
his 100th home run–off of Melido Perez to dead center field in old
Comiskey Park–and it meant a lot to me at the time.

The other reason I bring up Canseco’s place in history is because its fun
to kick his career around in the context of Bill James’s Keltner List,
which was a list of questions to help you subjectively ponder a player’s
historical greatness. The initial questions were straightforward: Was he
the best player of his time? Was he the best player at his position in his
own time? If so, for how long? For Canseco, the answer was yes to the first
two, but his problem is that it wasn’t for very long. At any rate, I’ll
continue to wish him well. Even in pinstripes.

Bringing in Canseco to shore up the offense couldn’t come soon enough,
because they had already lost Chuck Knoblauch, which could have stuck the
team with Jose Vizcaino (.194 Equivalent Average) or Clay Bellinger (.218)
to choose from at second base. Fortunately for the Yankees, they managed to
finally bully Cam Bonifay into coughing up Luis Sojo after months of
pestering. While Sojo is no star (.284/.328/.432 with the Pirates, for a
.250 EqA) and can’t match Knoblauch’s ability to get on base, he’s a better
temporary replacement than either Mickey Morandini or Mike Lansing.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Re-acquired OF-L Rob Ducey from the Blue Jays to complete the
Mickey Morandini trade; acquired OF/2B-L David Newhan from
the Padres to complete the Desi Relaford trade; optioned C-R Gary
Bennett
to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/7]

Activated RHP Wayne Gomes from the DL; optioned RHP Cliff
Politte
to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/8]


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated CF-B Adrian Brown from the DL; acquired RHP Chris
Spurling
from the Yankees for IF-R Luis Sojo. [8/7]

For all of the Pirates’ activity, they’ve wound up with a pretty
interesting group of options in the outfield. They’ve got the Browns,
Adrian and Emil, to man center field, and both of them can cover the gaps
and do a few things on offense. They’ve got a potentially nifty platoon of
John VanderWal and Alex Ramirez in one outfield corner. And of course they
have Brian Giles for the other outfield corner, with a shot that he could
remain in center field should Alex Ramirez turn into as good a late bloomer
as Candy Maldonado did once he got away from his original franchise.

The only part where it falls short is when you hear Cam Bonifay talk about
the "championship caliber players" he’s got in VanderWal and Mike
Benjamin. No slight of either intended, because I’ve always wanted to see
VanderWal get at shot at 400 plate appearances and I suppose Benjamin’s one
of the better utility infielders around, but that’s some pretty brave talk
from a man who needs to explain why Kevin Young or Pat Meares are so well
compensated.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Signed UT-R Eric Owens to a two-year contract extension. [8/7]

Eric Owens is a fun player, if only because he’s ended up being such a
surprise after being neglected by the Reds and Brewers. He’s kind of a
latter-day Rex Hudler, and like Hudler, he’s stretched as a regular but an
outstanding utilityman. There the similarity ends: while Hudler was a good
major-league infielder at one time, Owens never really could cut it at
second base or third base, but he’s a very good outfielder. Having hoped
he’d find his niche for years, I’m happy to see him settle in.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed LHP Kirk Rueter to a three-year contract extension through
2003. [8/9]

Kudos to Kirk Rueter and his agent for getting the money right now, when it
was probably the most propitious moment to do so. Consider that Rueter
leads his team in home starts with 13, and has a home ERA of 2.46 versus
4.86 on the road in nine starts.

                        Home              Road
                    ERA      GS       ERA      GS

Livan Hernandez 2.97 10 4.93 13 Shawn Estes 1.80 9 5.82 11 Russ Ortiz 4.48 11 7.26 11 Joe Nathan 2.06 7 8.25 7

So this is a raft of guys happy about their new park, and while Rueter has
been among the most consistent starters in the league, we’re still talking
about a guy doing something everybody who can pitch in Pac Bell Park is
doing. When you consider that Rueter’s giving up more than a hit per inning
overall, and striking out fewer men than he walks, well….

I guess we can remember how many people have counted out Rueter in the
past, and he’s managed to fool a good number of people some of the time,
but let’s just say I think that he and his agent did a very smart thing in
terms of Rueter’s financial future.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed UT-L Raul Ibanez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/7
(strained groin); recalled RHP Joel Pineiro from Tacoma; acquired
C-R Chris Widger through waivers from the Expos for two PTBNL. [8/8]

Added Widger to the active roster; optioned Pineiro to Tacoma. [8/9]

Chris Widger is a very good pickup for the Mariners at this stage of the
game. While he’s been a victim in the past of Felipe Alou’s philosophy of
letting young pitchers ignore opposing baserunners, he’s doing a much
better job of controlling the running game this year. He’s quite capable of
mashing left-handed junk, and was having a decent offensive season for the
Expos, hitting .238/.311/.441 with a .248 EqA. Considering that he was
slugging around .500 away from le Stade Olympique, he may end up
looking like a steal once the Mariners take note that Joe Oliver is only
going to cool off from here and Dan Wilson may never get back to where he
was five years ago.

Joel Pineiro has rocketed through the organization in extremely short
order, and sort of like Gil Meche last season, looks like he’s ready to
pitch in the majors at an early age. Fortunately for the organization’s
future, they don’t need him to be. They’ve still got six solid starters,
and Pineiro’s early arrival merely returns them to the happy situation of
having seven worthwhile starters.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed (and lost) DH-R Jose Canseco on waivers; recalled OF-B
Quinton McCracken from Durham. [8/7]

Activated RHP Dave Eiland from the DL; optioned LHP Mike
Duvall
to Durham. [8/9]

While Jose Canseco was something of a wasted asset on a team like the
D-Rays, the decision to discard Bubba Trammell for Mets scraps looks even
worse now than it did a week ago. Q-McC might have been the team MVP in
1998, but he’ll be battling Jason Tyner for the fourth outfielder’s job at
best.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I’m interested in how the Rays’
rotation works out. I’ve always had a soft spot in my head for Dave Eiland
and his struggle to stick around as a fifth starter. Ryan Rupe is still a
good prospect, while Albie Lopez and Bryan Rekar both look like good
examples of my current half-baked theory that starting pitchers seem to
blossom around 28 or 29.

While I don’t expect great stuff out of Tanyon Sturtze, I have to concede
that according to at least one of our metrics (Clay Davenport’s KWH, which
compares strikeouts to walks and hits allowed, and which Clay says
"serves as an indicator of continued success"), Sturtze was the
leader among minor leaguers in 1999. Taking the time to see if that means
anything seems like a better way to spend the D-Rays’ time than hauling in
some more of last year’s wacky human-interest promotions, and if it means
that someone like Sturtze ends up being the next Rick Reed or Gil Heredia,
more power to them.


TEXAS RANGERS

Optioned RHP Francisco Cordero to Oklahoma; recalled RHP Darwin
Cubillan
from Oklahoma. [8/7]

Received RHP Peter Munro through waivers from the Blue Jays to
complete the Dave Martinez deal. [8/8]

Francisco Cordero’s struggles have taken a turn for the very ugly, which
gives the Rangers a chance to take a look at Darwin Cubillan’s darting
changeup.

From an organizational standpoint, Cordero’s problems could end up being
very expensive. If he had been throwing as well as expected, the Rangers
might have felt more comfortable about trading John Wetteland. Instead,
Cordero went into the tank after a decent start, pushing his ERA up to
5.62. It will be interesting to see if there are any worse ripple effects
from this situation, but in the meantime, Cordero will hopefully iron out
his problems and be back in September.

Snagging Peter Munro for Dave Martinez was a steal, although having Munro
only adds to the Rangers’ potential logjam of young starting pitchers next
spring. He was having an outstanding couple of months in Syracuse after
spending some time in the Jays’ bullpen, posting a 2.48 ERA in ten starts,
allowing only one home run among 52 hits in 61 2/3 innings, along with 25
walks and 45 strikeouts. As the Mariners are demonstrating, you can do a
lot with a deep rotation, and the Rangers will have the opportunity to sort
out how to balance stalwarts like Rick Helling and Kenny Rogers with
question marks like Darren Oliver and Justin Thompson in front of a
talented and young foursome of Munro, Ryan Glynn, Doug Davis and Matt Perisho.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.

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