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Giambi, Rolen have intangibles

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The risk the Phillies and A's take in not getting Scott Rolen and Jason Giambi signed runs deeper than home runs and RBI -- and with the dearth of third basemen everyone knows Rolen can break the bank after 2002 and that Giambi's power numbers are going to earn him a few nachos grande at the end of this season, signing freeze or no signing freeze.

Both these organizations are trying to build something long-term. Philadelphia promises Rolen that somewhere around 2004 they will be very good. Oakland already is very good -- according to all scouting accounts the best team in Arizona this spring and again potentially one of the American League's three best teams.

Scott Rolen
Scott Rolen gives the Phillies much more than a big bat.

Giambi feels that if he is willing to defer a chunk of his $90 million, six-year deal, then he is coming in under Carlos Delgado-market value, and thus should have no-trade protection so he doesn't start getting passed around like an e-mail joke. The A's say, hey, Jason is being offered Chipper Jones money and the only reason they'd ever want to trade Giambi is if the franchise is in trouble, and he'd want out at that point anyway.

The risk is that these are people whom teams are built around. Rolen has tremendous leadership skills as well as on-field talent. Giambi learned from Mark McGwire and is willing, like McGwire, to accept the mantle of responsibility to front the clubhouse; if Giambi slipped, McGwire wouldn't hesitate to put him back on track. Those traits are priceless.

"You watch what goes on around our team and Mac casts a huge shadow over everyone," says Jim Edmonds. "He's the first person to the park. He works the hardest. He deals with the media. He doesn't tolerate anyone not approaching the game the right way. I know he pushed me to work ways I'd never thought of."

McGwire's presence takes pressure off young players. "There's no question it helped me," says J.D. Drew. "With the publicity I received, it was a lot easier to break in here that it might have been somewhere else where I would have been the center of attention. I came up the September when Mark was breaking the record, I hit a couple of homers and no one noticed. That was great for me. Even more so -- what a great thrill for me to watch."

McGwire thinks that veteran presence is important. "I think it's important for young players to be constantly reminded that what you do one year means absolutely nothing the second that season is over," says McGwire. "Then you have to start pushing towards the next season. As a young player, you need someone to point you in the right direction. I was brought up right, with the A's. I had Carney Lansford there to teach me the way the game should be played. Look at the way Darryl Kile is with our young pitchers, what a leader he is. Darryl was brought up the right way, in Houston with Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and those guys. Houston's a great example of how you can have a consistently good organization if your star players are the right people. The teams that go up and down are those without that, and it's got to be the players."

A lot of players talk about wanting to win, but they talk. You have to want to be a leader, have to feel that winning is all that counts. The commitment it takes to win and to lead is a lot more than talk.
Alex Rodriguez

McGwire and Bagwell are franchise figures. Todd Helton will eventually be one in Colorado, Darin Erstad in Anaheim once he learns to relax. Carlos Delgado is close to being one. Derek Jeter, too, although he's one of the youngest players on a veteran team. Paul O'Neill has always felt that these 1996-2000 Yankees are what they are because of the leadership of Don Mattingly, and that the attitude, respect and diligence grew under Joe Torre. And now Jeter is emerging as the heir to Mattingly's throne.

One of the reasons the Rangers invested so much in Alex Rodriguez is they feel he can be their franchise foundation for 10 years. At 25 and new to the team, he cannot take over as leader right away, and by bringing in Andres Galarraga, Ken Caminiti and Randy Velarde, Rodriguez can build the base and be the Rangers' Bagwell when Carlos Pena, Jason Romano and their other young players are ready for prime time. Case in point: this spring Rodriguez, usually a 7 a.m. arrival, talked to Pena and Romano about coming in at 9. Soon thereafter, they were in the cages at 7 a.m.

"A lot of players talk about wanting to win, but they talk," says A-Rod. "You have to want to be a leader, have to feel that winning is all that counts. The commitment it takes to win and to lead is a lot more than talk."

It's a hard thing to value in dollars. That's what the Phillies and A's are calculating right now. "You can't put a price on what Mark McGwire brings to the Cardinals organization," says Tony La Russa. "The responsibility he accepts is as great as any number of home runs."


  • How intense is Ken Caminiti? His teammates have nicknamed him "Hannibal." ... A-Rod is working hard with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to "reconstruct" his swing. "I'm trying to stay back longer, stay behind the ball and drive it more to all fields," says Rodriguez. "I feel that if I can make these adjustments, I'll strike out a lot less, and if I do that I'll be a much more productive player, especially in key situations." ... Incidentally, A-Rod has one of the best reasons for why Juan Gonzalez had an injury-plagued off year in 2000, and why he'll come back strong in 2001. "Nao (Presinol) was tied up for a year with the military in the Dominican after the election," says Rodriguez. "Juan ended up with a couple of pulls and injuries he'd never have if Nao had been around." Presinol, the Olympic trainer who was trained in East Germany and Russia, had to tend to his military duties most of last year. He turned Gonzalez's career around (when Juan was so muscle-bound and stiff that he couldn't touch his toes) and alternates as a personal trainer to Gonzalez, Rodriguez and Pedro Martinez.

  • There has been a lot of internal debate in the Cardinals camp about whether or not to keep Albert Pujols, who at this time last year was a Midwest League third baseman on no one's radar screen. "He's a young Edgar Martinez," says coach Mike Easler, and La Russa and McGwire are effusive in their praise of the rookie. The Devil Rays tried to get the Cards interested in Vinny Castilla. No dice. But scouts watching the Rays the last week say that in the last few days Castilla's bat speed has started to come back.

  • When Pudge Rodriguez was younger, all he heard was that he was too small to catch, and that he should be a middle infielder. "Now," he says, "they say I have the perfect build because I have a low center of gravity." There's a point there. One AL club studied big (6-3 and up) catchers taken in the high rounds, and found a high failure rate. This spring, two of the better looking catchers have been 5-10 Einar Diaz of the Indians and 5-10 Paul LoDuca of the Dodgers. Diaz is not only a quick, strong-armed receiver rated by one scout as the third-best catcher in the league behind Pudge and Jorge Posada, but the Indians feel that his infectious energy is a tremendous asset to this club. Diaz's nickname in the organization is "The Dream" because of his energy and attitude. "There's no question that about 5-9 or 5-10 is the perfect build for a catcher," says 6-2 Bill Haselman. Add Jason Kendall, listed at 6-0, into that category as well.

  • The Expos continue to talk to other clubs about Milton Bradley, but in return they want either a big-bat left fielder or the other club's best prospect. ... Years ago Jack Clark went through a nightmare bankruptcy, but the current Dodgers hitting coach has dug himself out of the hole and will finally be back at ground zero this week. ... Garret Anderson's friends feel he has replaced Jim Edmonds as whipping boy in Anaheim and would like to be traded. The Cardinals would love to do an Anderson-Ray Lankford swap, but it likely won't happen after the contract Anderson signed. ... One of the reasons that George W. Bush is shunning Baltimore for Milwaukee's opener is strictly political. Peter Angelos is one of the Democratic Party's biggest contributors. ... That's now three home runs that Russell Branyan has hit to the opposite field, the last one an absolute bomb. ... Ask scouts in the Tampa area for a pitcher who could make a quantum leap, and they'll tell you Paul Wilson of the Rays. And reliever Tanyon Sturtze is in there, as well. "He's touching 94 with a downhill plane and command," says one scout. "You just never know when guys are going to get it together." Sturtze was drafted by the A's in 1990 -- the same year as Todd Van Poppel and all those great arms that were supposed to build Oakland back up.

  • With Chuck Smith down and A.J Burnett out until May, the Marlins' early enthusiasm has been dampened with a need for another starter. Jason Grilli has had a very good spring. On the bright side, Braden Looper is throwing his slider for strikes and may be arriving as a dominating setup man. ... Chris Donnels, who may end up playing a lot of third base for the Dodgers, on what he learned in his four years in Japan: "There's no question they make you come back a better hitter. You get nothing but nasty pitches every pitch -- 3-1 breaking balls on the black, and so forth. You really have to learn to hit good pitches.
    Scott Radinsky is the lead vocalist in the Southern California punk revival band Pulley.

    There are no cripples." It's a beautiful thing to have Donnels and Dave Hansen down at the far end of the Dodger clubhouse, making it the home of the "Pulley (Scott Radinsky's band)" fan club. "Scott's getting mainstream," says Hansen. "You can find his stuff anywhere from Best Buy to Target." Pulley has its own website and its own section at the Tampa Borders.

    NEWS and NOTES

  • There were several teams calling the Mets about Mark Leiter before they dealt him to Colorado for Brian Rose. Boston had tried to re-acquire Rose, whom the Mets hope will be a "right-handed Glendon Rusch." ... Dodgers GM Kevin Malone had to move Antonio Osuna's salary, but there were several teams that wished he'd called them, including the Yankees and Indians. With Steve Karsay ticketed for the rotation, Cleveland is looking for an experienced power reliever. ... As are the Cubs, who are worried about Tom Gordon's comeback. ... Add Octavio Dotel to the most improved list, as he's throwing his curveball and change for strikes and appears to finally be grasping a feel for pitching.

  • Royals players will tell you Carlos Beltran "has as much talent as anyone in the game right now." And Mike Sweeney and Jermaine Dye are doing their best to get it out of him. "Beltran can be in a class with Bernie Williams and Darin Erstad as one of the elite center fielders in the league this season if he keeps his head on straight," says one scout. ... The Mariners have been trying to do a Brett Tomko-John Vander Wal deal, but it doesn't appear to be happening. ... One of the best stories of the spring has been Mark Wohlers. He walked the first batter he faced, hasn't walked another one all March and his velocity is creeping back to 92 en route to 95. With the best slider he's ever had. ... Jim Bowden is willing to trade Scott Williamson, which tells some that the Reds think he isn't a starter because he throws so many pitches in five innings.

  • Arizona teams keep getting Ichiro Suzuki in 3.75 seconds to first. The way he's halfway to first base on routine ground balls by the time the infielder gets to it means he'll get a ton of infield hits and force a boatload of throwing errors. ... The Rockies have asked waivers on Masato Yoshii, presumably trying to get him back to Japan. ... There is no question that Drew Henson is a great prospect, and that in Nick Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, Henson and Derek Jeter, the Yanks have the infield of the future. "Let's face it, as great a job as Brian Cashman and Mark Newman do, it helps to have the cash that no one else can spend," says another GM. "They gave Henson $2 million out of high school, now $18 million (although, since he was told that he'd be the no. 1 pick in the NFL draft next April, some were surprised Henson didn't get more), and they gave Jackson Melian and Wily Mo Pena $5.17 million to use as trade fodder. They paid Adrian Hernandez a ton, they gave Andy Morales $4.5 million and their people don't like him." All that money does buy flexibility, and Melian turned into Denny Neagle. But when Cashman stuck Hideki Irabu on the Expos, it got him David Justice (via Jake Westbrook) and Christian Parker.

  • For all the other negatives of this spring surrounding the Red Sox Superteam, they think Sunny Kim is on the verge of being a power middle man, which they need. "If you look at Kim, Paxton Crawford and Tomo Ohka as important pieces of our team," says pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, "then that's pretty good productivity from our development people. Crawford has had a great spring. His breaking ball has gotten very good, with tilt, and the fastball and change were always there. He can be a very good pitcher." ... The Yankees did inquire of teams to weigh interest in Tino Martinez, but that's as far as it went. ... The Mets have thus far rejected Boston's inquiries on Troy O'Leary because they think that they can better use the money in June when a bigger bat and pitcher become available. Knowing that the Sox may be stuck with O'Leary, several clubs have started circling on Trot Nixon. ... There is a human on the planet who has found some use for the XFL. Chad Hutchinson, the Cards' rookie reliever and former Stanford quarterback, rejected inquiries from that league (and the NFL), but says, "It's given some guys I played with a chance and now maybe they'll get their shots in the NFL. So from that standpoint, it's a good thing."

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