Posted on: August 4, 2008 7:38 pm

Astros' McLane: We'll never be sellers

I suppose you have to admire Drayton McLane's confidence, his determination and his willingness to spend money.

Or waste money.

It still makes no sense that the Astros were buyers at last week's non-waiver trading deadline. It still makes no sense that the Astros, 13 games out of first place and eight games out of the wild-card lead (with five teams in front of them) traded for Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, let alone that they didn't get a start on rebuilding an organization that badly needs it.

It makes no sense to me, I should say. Because after talking to McLane before the Astros' game tonight at Wrigley Field, I'm convinced that it makes sense to him.

"We never considered selling," he said. "It's not in my makeup. That was never in consideration. We had a lot of offers. You heard about (Miguel) Tejada. There was interest in Carlos Lee. Even Lance Berkman's name was mentioned. Roy Oswalt's, too. We wouldn't ever consider any of those things."

The natural question is "Why the heck not?" But McLane has an answer for that, too.

Quite simply, he expects this team to win. He still expects it.

"Absolutely," he said. "Look at 2004. We were in about the same position we're in now. In 2005, same thing, and we went to the World Series."

So he thinks the Astros are going to win in 2008?

"Yeah, I think we're going to make a great run for it, and I think we have the capacity to win," he said.

Sorry, but I still think it's nuts. I do, however, admire his confidence.

Oh, and for the record, on Aug. 4, 2004, the Astros were 14 1/2 games out of first place and five games back in the wild-card race, which they ended up winning. A year later, they were nine games out of first place, but were already leading the wild-card race (which they won again enroute to the World Series.

Posted on: July 31, 2008 5:20 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2008 5:23 pm

Griffey was great, but can he play CF?

There's a real chance that Ken Griffey Jr. helps the White Sox offensively. Forget the .245 batting average he had in Cincinnati. Over the last 25 games, he's closer to .300, with six home runs and 25 RBIs.

"You make a mistake, he's going to hit it a long way," said one National League scout who has seen him play this week.

Here's the problem: To get Griffey in their lineup, and to get Paul Konerko (.214, with nine home runs all year) out of their lineup, Chicago has to play Nick Swisher at first base and Griffey in center field.

"Oh God!" another scout said when told of the White Sox's plans.

"I doubt he can do it," the first scout said. "That's a little bit of a stretch for me."

Griffey was once one of the best center fielders in the game, maybe the best. But he's 38 years old, and he hasn't played center field since 2006. In fact, scouts will tell you that Griffey is a below-average  corner outfielder at this stage of his career.

There's a real chance that Griffey will be energized by moving to Chicago, and moving into a pennant race. It never really worked for him in Cincinnati, not the way it was supposed to when he left Seattle to go play in his hometown.

If the Sox could use him as a designated hitter, or even in right field, it would be hard to find any fault with this trade. The Reds are paying most of Griffey's salary, and the two players the White Sox gave up aren't their best prospects.

But the Sox have Carlos Quentin in left field. They have Jermaine Dye in right field. They have Jim Thome as their DH.

Griffey basically has to play center field. I'd love to say he can do it, because Griffey has been one of the game's great stars.

I'm just not sure he can.

Posted on: July 30, 2008 4:59 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2008 6:07 pm

Pudge will help Yanks, Tigers will miss him

Here's a prediction. Two of them, actually.

Pudge Rodriguez will help the Yankees. And the Tigers will miss him more than they think.

It's always that way when Pudge changes teams. The Rangers missed him, and the Marlins won a World Series with him. The Marlins missed him, and eventually the Tigers went to the World Series with him.

Now he's off to the Yankees, traded today for Kyle Farnsworth, in a deal that helps the Yankees and might well hurt the Tigers. Yes, the Tigers needed help in the bullpen, and maybe Farnsworth can be effective as a closer.

But they'll miss Pudge.

There are issues with Pudge, but there's also this: Pudge wants to play, he wants to win, and he's still a lot better than most of the catchers out there.

I saw Pudge Sunday morning at Comerica Park, and you could tell he wasn't happy. And you know why he wasn't? In the three-game weekend series against the first-place White Sox, he only played in two of the three games. He wanted to play all three, including the day game after the night game.

Same thing today. Pudge said he was shocked to come to the ballpark and find out that he was getting traded. Why? Because the Tigers are only 5 1/2 games out, and he figured he was going to help them close that gap and get to the playoffs. He never imagined that they'd trade him away when they still had a chance to win.

Pudge will frustrate you at times. He's not the hitter he once was, he doesn't always block balls in the dirt, and some pitchers will grumble about throwing to him. On the other hand, he went out and proved that the $40 million, four-year contract the Tigers gave him in the winter of 2003-04 was money well spent.

Now he might well help a third team get to the World Series.

"He's going to provide an energy that team needs," said one scout who knows the Yankees well. "He brings a Girardi-type influence. He doesn't just know how to won, but he's already won it all. You put him in that clubhouse, he could kick-start them."

The Yankees will be happy to have him. And the Tigers will miss him.

Posted on: July 29, 2008 1:20 pm

Are Dodgers interested in Paul Byrd?

The Indians haven't been optimistic that they'll find someone to take Paul Byrd off their hands, but perhaps the Dodgers will bite.

A Dodger scout who had been in Cleveland watching Casey Blake was told to stay in town through Monday night's game, and he was watching as Byrd threw seven shutout innings against the Tigers.

Byrd is 4-10 with a 5.28 ERA, but he has won two straight games. The start before he beat the Tigers, he allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings against the Angels.

Besides, said another scout who watched Byrd Monday, he'd be an even better fit for a National League team.

"I would take Byrd, especially if I was a National League team, because the (other) NL teams haven't seen him," the scout said. "He pitched well (Monday). He would have beaten anybody."

The Denver Post has reported that the Rockies have talked to Cleveland about Byrd, but the Rockies did not have a scout watching him Monday night.


The Mariners have yet to make a trade, but  you'd think they should be able to make several before Thursday's 4 p.m. deadline.

One name to keep in mind: Arthur Rhodes.

The veteran left-hander hasn't allowed a run in 11 2/3 innings since the end of May, and he was impressive in an inning Monday night in Texas. The Brewers, who definitely need bullpen help, were among the teams in attendance (so were the Tigers).

"He had a very good slider, he was throwing 92 and his arm angle was good," said a scout from another team. "He was outstanding."


The Mets have reason to be concerned about John Maine, who is to have an MRI on his right shoulder today in New York. While Maine didn't want to leave Monday night's game against the Marlins, Mets officials got worried when he had trouble getting loose in 85-degree heat.

The Mets do get one break if it turns out that Maine's injury isn't severe. With off days Thursday and Monday, and with Pedro Martinez returning to pitch this weekend, they could conceivably go nearly two more turns through the rotation before they would need to pitch Maine or find a replacement for him.

In any case, the Mets continue to chase both relief help and a corner outfielder. It's not clear which one should be a bigger priority. In fact, one Mets person said that seems to shift from day to day.


The Marlins keep looking for catching, but they keep running into roadblocks. They felt that Texas's price for Gerald Laird was too high, and when they asked the Giants about Bengie Molina, they were supposedly asked for three top prospects who they wouldn't give up.

Maybe they can revisit Pudge Rodriguez, especially if the Tigers have a couple more nights like Monday.
Posted on: July 28, 2008 9:48 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2008 11:54 pm

Braves expected to trade Teixeira

The Braves are now determined to trade Mark Teixeira, and the biggest question now is where he'll end up.

Arizona remains a real possibility, and the Diamondbacks are believed to have offered a package led by Chad Tracy. Atlanta has asked for the Diamondbacks to include either Max Scherzer or Jarrod Parker -- Arizona's top two pitching prospects -- but that's unlikely.

Meanwhile, the Braves say they have other teams interested, with GM Frank Wren telling Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he has deals (plural) on the table for Teixeira, and that he's holding off because he still wants to see if he can do better. The Braves are expecting to narrow the field on Tuesday, although it's possible that it could take until right up to the Thursday 4 p.m. deadline before a trade is completed.

Other teams that have been interested in Teixeira are the Red Sox, and also the two Los Angeles teams. It's not known if there are more teams involved now, but the Rays and the Yankees have also been mentioned in the past.

Teixeira is a big-time hitter, and he's done his part this season with a .283 average, 20 home runs and 78 RBIs in 103 games. But the Braves are now 7 1/2 games out of first place (and 10 1/2 games back in the wild card). They've now put Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson on the DL, joining John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, and it appears that Hudson is going to join Smoltz in the done-for-the-season category.

Not only that, but the Braves have known for a long time that they weren't going to be able to sign Teixeira, a free-agent-to-be, at the end of the season. It's pretty obvious now that the offers they have (not to mention the improved ones they might receive by Thursday) will be more valuable than the two draft picks they'd get by simply keeping Teixeira and letting him walk.

As one Braves person said last week: "The only thing more iffy than a prospect is a draft pick."

So Teixeira is gone, or at least he will be by Thursday. The question still to be answered is where he's going.

Posted on: July 28, 2008 6:44 pm

Schedule favors Red Sox, Rockies

For all the focus on this week's non-waiver trade deadline, the remaining schedule could have as big an impact on who wins as any trades that actually occur this week (and today seems to have been a particularly slow day for trade talk).

So who does the schedule favor?

The Red Sox. Big time.

While both Tampa Bay and New York will play more than 55 percent of their remaining games on the road, the Sox will play 55 percent of their remaining games at Fenway Park, where they're a major-league best 37-13. The Sox have no games left on the West Coast; the Yankees still have to go there twice. And the Yankees will play 10 of their remaining 58 games against the Angels, maybe the team they would least like to face.

The Rockies' remaining schedule is also favorable, which helps justify Colorado's decision (so far) to refrain from selling off at the deadline. The Rockies will play an incredible 45 percent of their remaining games (25 of 56) against the National League's three worst teams: Washington, San Diego and San Francisco. The Dodgers have almost as many games against those three teams, but the Rockies also have series remaining against Houston and Pittsburgh. Also, the Dodgers still have two three-city trips, while the Rockies are on their final three-city jaunt this season. The Diamondbacks have 16 games against the Padres and Giants, but none against Washington.

In the American League Central, the Tigers have the easiest path, although with a 6 1/2-game deficit, an easy schedule might not be enough to save them. But look at what's ahead for the two teams the Tigers are chasing:

The White Sox play 14 of their remaining 59 games (24 percent) against the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. The Twins still have a three-city trip and a monster four-city trip remaining. And the Tigers are done with all their trips to the West Coast.

A trade could still change the balance of power in any of these divisions. But maybe the schedule will decide it.
Posted on: July 28, 2008 1:19 pm

Baseball in the Olympics? Not with this rule

Baseball in the Olympics has always been a tough sell, because it's not practical for baseball to take an "Olympic break" the way the NHL does, and thus it's impossible for the Olympic teams to include the best players in the sport.

That's fine, and maybe baseball and the Olympics are better off just parting ways, as they will after the 2008 Games in Beijing. I say this despite having fully enjoyed my experience covering the 1988 Olympic baseball tournament in Seoul, and despite knowing that many players have treasured their Olympic experiences.

I say this because the International Baseball Federation just adopted a rule crazier than anything Bud Selig has ever suggested for MLB.

Here it is, on the official IBAF website (don't ask me what the A stands for):

"Beginning in the 11th inning and each inning thereafter, base runners will be placed on first and second base with no outs."

Oh, and that's not all. In the 11th inning, the manager can pick any two consecutive batters in his lineup to be at first and second, with the next batter at the plate.

The IBAF said this rule is necessary, because long extra-inning games can cause "scheduling and logistical nightmares."

Sorry, but this is nuts. This is crazy.

This is . . . you know what, maybe this is the way to decide home-field advantage for the World Series!
Category: MLB
Tags: IBAF, Olympics
Posted on: July 27, 2008 4:58 pm

Jones out as Tiger closer

The Tigers, still hanging onto their chances in the American League Central, have changed closers. Manager Jim Leyland has pulled the job from veteran Todd Jones and handed it to Fernando Rodney.

Rodney pitched the final 1 2/3 innings of the Tigers' 6-4 Sunday afternoon win over the White Sox. It wasn't technically a save situation, because Rodney entered with a 6-2 lead, but Leyland sent him out to the mound in the ninth when it was already 6-4.

"I'm going to give Rodney a shot," Leyland said. "Right now, the quality of (Jones') pitches, and the location of the pitches, is not good enough."

In his last 12 appearances, Jones has converted just four of seven save opportunities, and he has an 8.71 ERA in that span with a .400 opponents batting average.

Joel Zumaya will be the setup man, assuming he can stay healthy. Zumaya had some soreness in his right triceps last week in Kansas City, and the same problem forced him out of the game Sunday. But the Tigers don't believe it's serious.

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