There has rarely, if ever, been a more active July when it comes to trading. The Indians began the flurry of activity before the July 31 deadline by shipping left-hander and reigning American League Cy Young Award-winner CC Sabathia to the Brewers on July 7 for a package of four prospects. The Athletics sent Rich Harden to the Cubs a day later, and before the month was over other notable names such as Joe Blanton, Ray Durham, Randy Wolf, Jon Rauch, Xavier Nady, Casey Blake, Mark Teixeira, and Ivan Rodriguez were on the move.

Two of the most intriguing trades of all came just hours before Thursday’s deadline, when the Reds sent right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox for right-handed reliever Nick Masset and minor league second baseman Danny Richar, and the Red Sox shipped disgruntled left fielder Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers in a three-team trade that also saw Pittsburgh sending left fielder Jason Bay to Boston and receiving four young players in reliever Craig Hansen and outfielder Brandon Moss from the Red Sox, and third baseman Andy LaRoche and minor league right-handed starter Bryan Morris from Los Angeles. In the span of a few hours, a hitter with 600 home runs (Griffey) and another with 500 home runs (Ramirez) had made late-career address changes on their way to Cooperstown. Never before had two hitters with 500 home runs been traded in the same season, let alone on the same day.

While Ramirez had requested a trade and Griffey had not, both deals were surprising in their own right. In Griffey’s case, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of interest from other clubs in a 38-year-old whose skills are fading. In Ramirez’s case, though he had demanded a trade and pulled a number of juvenile moves to force the issue, it was generally assumed that the Red Sox would not sacrifice his production in the middle of a tight American League East race. Yet when Thursday was over and July had turned to August, Griffey was with the White Sox and Ramirez was with the Dodgers.

That Chicago was the landing spot for Griffey was a bit of a surprise, if for no other reason than that the AL Central leaders seemed set in the outfield with Carlos Quentin in left, Nick Swisher in center, and Jermaine Dye in right. However, general manager Ken Williams felt that the White Sox needed some punch, despite having a lineup that is fourth in the major leagues averaging 5.0 runs per game. More specifically, Williams felt it was time to move first baseman and team captain Paul Konerko (and his .229 EqA and -6.5 VORP) to the bench. Swisher will now play first base, with Griffey, who had a .277 EqA for the Reds, taking over in center field. “I waited as long as I could for guys to turn their seasons around,” Williams said. “We believe we’re definitely going to have to hit more in the second half than we hit in the first half.”

The White Sox are seemingly taking a risk by playing Griffey in center field-he’s been limited exclusively to right the last two seasons-but Williams thinks Griffey can handle it. “Center field is actually the easiest of the outfield positions to play from a health perspective,” said Williams, who was a major league outfielder for six seasons. “I know that doesn’t sound right because you’ve got to go a lot of left and right, but trust me, it’s a little easier to play center field. [Instinctively,] we feel he’s going to give us at least what we were getting out there. Remember, we didn’t have the prototypical guy out there in the first place; Swish did a heckuva job and he’ll continue to get some time out there, but he isn’t the prototypical guy that you can put out there, and you don’t have to be if you have good baseball instincts.”

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said it is no sure thing that Griffey will play every day down the stretch as Chicago tries to hold off the Twins in the AL Central. “I’m going to put the best guys I think we have to give us a better chance to win the game,” Guillen said. “We brought Junior to play, but if Junior doesn’t play the way we think he should be playing then we’re going to have guys here to replace him. We are here to win and we will see how it works.”

The Dodgers, two games behind the Diamondbacks in the National League West, are curious to see how Ramirez works out after this tumultuous summer, the last of his eight seasons with the Red Sox. Ramirez was accused of intentionally striking out in an at-bat against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera; getting into an argument with Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick which ended with the 64-year-old being shoved to the ground; and was then suspected by team officials of missing two games last week with a faked knee injury.

Ramirez did not want to talk about all of the turmoil with the Red Sox, and said that he is now focusing on getting the Dodgers into the postseason. They haven’t won a playoff series since upsetting the Athletics in the 1988 World Series. “I feel great, man. I’m happy,” Ramirez said. “Whatever happened in Boston is in the past. I’m excited, man. I can’t wait. I feel like I took 5,000 pounds off my back. It’s just a new chapter in my life. I’m happy to be here. That’s all I can say. LA’s a great city. I’m happy to be a Dodger.”

Dodgers manager Joe Torre‘s only concern with bringing Ramirez onto his team was that his dreadlocks were a little too long. “All I asked him to do was clean his hair up a bit and make it more manageable,” Torre said.

Griffey and Ramirez weren’t the only future Hall of Famers to changes uniforms this past week. On Wednesday, the Tigers traded Rodriguez, the 14-time All-Star catcher and 13-time Gold Glove winner, to the Yankees for reliever Kyle Farnsworth.

The Yankees were in need of a catcher after Jorge Posada underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, and they believe Rodriguez will fit the bill despite having a lackluster .257 EqA with the Tigers this year. For his part, Rodriguez was happy to have a chance to put on the pinstripes in his 18th major league season. “I love it, I’m telling you,” Rodriguez said. “This is a dream for me to be here. This is great. It’s a thrill and an honor for me to wear this uniform. This is a big deal for me and my family.”

The Tigers had been slowly phasing Rodriguez out, alternating him behind the plate with Brandon Inge, and did not plan to re-sign him as a free agent after this season. The Tigers are in third place in the AL Central, 6½ games behind the White Sox, but they insist the trade does not mean they’re giving up on making the postseason. “It gives us, probably, a better chance,” Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said. “We don’t think we take much of a step down at catcher because we do like Brandon and it’s a situation that we help our bullpen.”

Rodriguez’s signing of a four-year $40 million contract as a free agent prior to the 2004 season was a watershed moment in recent Tigers’ history, as they had gone 43-119 the year before. By 2006, the Tigers had won the AL pennant and were in their first World Series since 1984, losing to the Cardinals. “This franchise started coming back, on the field, the day we signed Pudge,” Dombrowski said.

While the Red Sox and Yankees both made moves at the deadline, the AL East-leading Rays stood pat. They made a run at trading for Bay, but came up empty when they refused to give up any of their premium prospects. Even so, they do not feel they’ve been put at a disadvantage by not adding any players. They still hold a three-game lead on the Red Sox, and a 5½-game edge on the Yankees, despite being 20th in the major leagues in runs scored with an average of 4.4 per game.

“We have to keep in mind we’ve got a first-place club, and for us, offensively, we have struggled,” Rays GM Andrew Friedman said. “We believe basically we’re going to have made an acquisition by the way our guys are going to perform over the last two months. They have track records that suggest such and we believe there’s a lot more to come. Look, we’re in first place and we control our own destiny, and I feel we have the talent on hand to continue to do what we’ve done through the first two-thirds of the season.”

At least the Rays won’t have to contend with Ramirez, who has a career line of .310/.406/.612 against them with 41 home runs in 680 plate appearances. “He’s done very well in the past against us,” Friedman said. “Hopefully, we see him again this season.”

That, of course, would be in the World Series.

When Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki flared a single into left-center Tuesday off the RangersLuis Mendoza at The Ballpark in Arlington, it marked his 3,000th professional hit. It also heightened the debate on whether his 1,722nd hit in the major leagues should be combined with the 1,278 he had in his native Japan to create a milestone. Suzuki made it clear to critics of the achievement that it is important to him, “All I’m going to say is that in Japanese professional baseball, they don’t use metal bats.”

One interested observer in the debate is Warren Moon, a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback who spent six seasons in the Canadian Football League before coming to the NFL. His CFL stats, however, did not count toward his career totals. “You can’t blame Ichiro for where he was born and where he played,” Moon told the Seattle Times. “Just like me. You can’t blame me for the NFL not wanting me to play quarterback (coming out of college at Washington).” Moon passed for 49,325 yards in 17 NFL seasons after throwing for 21,228 in the CFL. “I was running the football up there as a quarterback a lot,” Moon said. “All of that takes a toll and potentially shortens your career. It’s the same with Ichiro. You wonder what he could have done if he didn’t spend all the years he did playing over there in Japan. We see what he’s done each and every year he’s been here. If you take those totals and average them out for the years he played over there, he’d probably still be at 3,000 hits.”

Suzuki got the first 1,278 hits over nine seasons in Japan, where they play 130-135 games a season. He now has 1,731 in his seven-plus seasons in the major leagues, all with the Mariners. “If you look at it, my pace at getting hits in the US is quicker than in Japan,” Suzuki said. “So if people are going to say [bad] things, I’d like them to take a look at that stat.”

Major League Rumors and Rumblings: The Red Sox and Phillies both hope to add left-handed relievers in waiver deals this month, and both are eyeing the RoyalsRon Mahay. The Red Sox also have interest in the Cubs’ Scott Eyre, while the Phillies like the PiratesJohn Grabow and the GiantsJack Taschner. … The Red Sox and Tigers are both interested in signing reliever Joe Borowski, who led the American League with 45 saves last season but was released by the Indians last month. … Phillies rookie left-hander J.A. Happ is working out of the bullpen, but will move into the starting rotation if right-handers Joe Blanton or Brett Myers falter. … The Diamondbacks are close to signing right-hander Dan Haren, under contract through 2009, to an extension.

Interesting facts as the 18th week of the regular season comes to a close:

  • The Yankees are the first team to have seven players on their roster with at least 200 career home runs: Alex Rodriguez (542), Jason Giambi (384), Richie Sexson (305), Ivan Rodriguez (293), Bobby Abreu (236), Jorge Posada (221), and Derek Jeter (201).
  • The Royals swept the Athletics for the first time since 1999 in a three-game series that wrapped up Wednesday. It was also the Royals’ first sweep in Oakland since June 14-16, 1988, when Bret Saberhagen beat Greg Cadaret, Charlie Leibrandt beat Bob Welch, and Mark Gubicza beat Curt Young.
  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has played in 225 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the major leagues. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is second with 196. Howard has 72 home runs and 209 RBI in those 225 games, and the Phillies are 126-99 during the streak.
  • Phillies infielder Greg Dobbs has 20 pinch hits this season, which ties the club single-season record set by Doc Miller in 1913. John Vander Wal holds the major league record with 28 for the 1995 Rockies. Dobbs is just the seventh player in this decade with at least 20 pinch hits, joining Mark Sweeney (24 for the 2007 Giants and Dodgers), Greg Norton (23 for the 2003 Rockies), Lenny Harris (22 for the 2002 Brewers, 21 for the 2001 Mets), Daryle Ward (22 for the 2002 Astros), Jacob Cruz (20 for the 2005 Reds), and Orlando Palmeiro (20 for the 2006 Astros).
  • Five teams are undefeated this season when leading after eight innings: the Rays (58-0), Twins (53-0), Yankees (53-0), Phillies (49-0), and Giants (39-0).
  • White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome is one of only nine players in baseball history with 2,000 hits, 1,500 walks, and 500 home runs in their careers, joining Barry Bonds, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Frank Thomas, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, and Harmon Killebrew.
  • Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez is only the eighth player to hit 20 or more home runs in 14 consecutive seasons, joining Hank Aaron (20, 1955-74), Babe Ruth (16, 1919-34), Barry Bonds (15, 1990-2004), Willie Mays (15, 1954-68), Eddie Matthews (14, 1952-65), Rafael Palmeiro (14, 1991-2004), and Mike Schmidt (14, 1974-87).
  • Angels right-hander John Lackey pitched 8 1/3 no-hit innings on Tuesday before the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia singled to end the bid. It was the latest in a game that the Red Sox had failed to produce a hit since September 2, 2001, when Carl Everett spoiled Mike Mussina‘s perfect game with a two-out pinch-hit single in the ninth against the Yankees at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have now gone 2,458 regular-season games since they were last no-hit by the Mariners’ Chris Bosio on April 22, 1993 at the Kingdome. The Red Sox have not been no-hit at home in over 50 years; the Tigers’ Jim Bunning last accomplished that Fenway feat on July 20, 1958. Since that time, only two visiting pitchers, Mussina and Lackey, have taken a no-hitter into the ninth. Only two franchises have gone longer than the Red Sox without being no-hit at home: the Senators/Twins dating to 1901, and the Cardinals in St. Louis on July 20, 1906. Four other teams in existence for less than 50 years have never been no-hit in their home parks: the Marlins, Astros, Mariners, and Rays. The last time a defending World Series champion was no-hit in the following season was 1990, when the Rangers’ Nolan Ryan performed the feat against the Athletics on June 11 in Oakland.
  • Joba Chamberlain is the first Yankees pitcher to start his official rookie season (2008) with at least 10 relief appearances before a mid-season switch resulting in at least 10 starts since Roy Sherid in 1929. Chamberlain struck out 63 batters in his first 10 major league starts, marking the most strikeouts for a Yankees pitcher over his first 10 big-league starts since Orlando Hernandez had 64 in 1998.
  • Mets shortstop Jose Reyes has four straight seasons of at least 12 triples, becoming only the fourth major leaguer since 1940 to have that long of a streak, joining Lance Johnson (six, 1991-96), Stan Musial (six, 1943-49, missed 1945 due to military service), and Juan Samuel (four, 1984-87).

Key series to watch this week, with rankings according to Jay Jaffe‘s Prospectus Hit List:

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