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Peers like what Phillips has done


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DIAMOND NOTES, Aug. 4

  • The Mets were close on a Glendon Rusch-for-Jeromy Burnitz deal at the trade deadline, but it was killed because the Brewers have too many injuries and couldn't deal Burnitz at this time.

    Burnitz
    Burnitz

    Rusch
    Rusch

    And when Cincinnati GM Jim Bowden kept calling about Edgardo Alfonzo, Mets GM Steve Phillips finally said fine, but wanted Pokey Reese, Dmitri Young, Aaron Boone and a pitcher in return. That ended the discussion between the two.

    It's curious that Phillips has taken heat for trading away Turk Wendell and Rick Reed, considering that the vast majority of other GMs thought he did a great job moving age, medical questions and years. Obviously, Mets manager Bobby Valentine added to that heat by taking the leadoff hitter Phillips acquired -- Matt Lawton --and batted him second. Then, after ripping the Bruce Chen deal to media people, threw him out in Enron Field against argurably the best right-handed hitting team in the league. Chen went on to pitch very well, however.

    And then there's the idea that it's Phillips' fault that the farm system is dry. He traded Jason Isringhausen, Terrence Long, A.J. Burnett, Jesus Sanchez, Octavio Dotel, Roger Cedeno, Geoff Goetz, Preston Wilson, Eddie Yarnall, Jason Tyner, Paul Wilson and Melvin Mora to win immediately and get owner Fred Wilpon his new ballarpk. Let's see: the Mets made the World Series last year, Wilpon will get his park and it was Nelson Doubleday who forced the Mike Piazza deal.

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman just kept his toes in the water, but was not in on a number of the deals he was supposedly trying to make before the deadline.

    "We are happy with the team we have," says Cashman, although owner George Steinbrenner erupted after Texas owner Tom Hicks, by the way agent Scott Boras' private golf ball, said "these are not the same Yankees."

    Cashman insists that because Scott Brosius' injury is a hairline fracture in his left hand, he will only be out 3-4 weeks and that the Yankees likely won't need to make a deal in the meantime.

  • The Padres would have preferred that Woody Williams had been claimed on waivers and rid themselves of his $7.2 million contract in 2002, but he went unclaimed. The Padres then decided to make the deal for Ray Lankford. GM Kevin Towers believes that Lankford will go off when he gets home to California, and his numbers against right-handed pitching are still very strong and his strikeouts don't worry the Padres. That's because they are second in the NL in strikeouts, but third in runs scored behind only the teams that play in Coors and Enron Field.

    San Diego is going to have Sean Burroughs play second base in the Arizona Fall League, an interesting offensive experiment for a guy who would have just finished his junior year in college and currently has a .410 on base and .488 slugging percentage in the Pacific Coast League.

  • Actually, the Padres had a deal in place with Sterling Hitchcock and Williams for Lankford, but new management killed it and preferred to see if someone would claim Lankford.

  • Colorado will hold Scott Elarton back because of his bicep tendinitis, which means he may not pitch in Denver until September.

  • One of the strangest teams at the deadline was Toronto, a team badly in need of a shakeup. GM Gord Ash decided against trading Shannon Stewart for Pedro Astacio, which would have freed up money by unloading Alex Gonzalez and would have allowed Vernon Wells to come up and get two months of everyday playing time. But the Jays system is again strong. Their people think Felipe Lopez and Cesar Izturis will be Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker up the middle, and right-hander Brandon Lyon is blowing quickly through the system and could be in their rotation by next month.

    The Jays are looking far and wide for starting pitching, a catcher and a third baseman, but if you're about to roast them on the Tony Batista waiver dump, be aware that the Orioles are back in the market for a third baseman, as well.

  • One GM on Friday said, "there is a ton of claiming going on" as teams put all their players on waivers. It's amazing that every year people find out a player has been on the waiver wire and it becomes a brouhaha, but virtually every player goes on during each period.

    "It will be interesting to see how many expensive players get claimed, however. Not many. Teams cannot take on contracts because there are so many bank covenants that are outstanding."

    Fellow owners claim the Indians are on a course to lose $23 million, which is why GM John Hart -- who stretched it to sign Juan Gonzalez -- was not given the cash to go add a player or two at the deadline. In ownership's defense, the Indians are over $90 million in payroll. The Braves also took some criticism, but they're at $95 million and still took on the Rey Sanchez, who is making $1 million. They, however, decided to go to their budget before the season and try to provide the best season-long entertainment package for their ticket buyers and TV watchers.

    Remember, when they went and got Fred McGriff in 1993, it took them to $44 million, a long way from $95 million. But GMs learned from their calls the two weeks leading up to the deadline that owners are becoming more and more involved in decisions they are not capable of making -- personnel -- and are increasingly adept at the talk show art of second-guessing. There are very few situations where the baseball decisions are made by people who study the game.

    It's interesting that in San Francisco, where owner Peter Magowan probably knows more about the game than any of his owner peers, GM Brian Sabean is wisely trusted to make decisions, which may be why the Giants contend every year on a mid-stream budget.

    The average payroll -- not A.A.V., but money paid out this season -- is $64.7 million, the median $63.5 million, so the Giants are slightly above in the NL West at $66 million, the Rockies have fallen below (this week's series between the Rockies and Phillies was the single worst in attendance in Coors Field history), the D-Backs are right around the average if anyone can figure out all their deferrals and the Dodgers are up over $110 million.

    Lansing
    Lansing

  • Three more things that confuse Red Sox fans: 1. if Jose Offerman can't reach base 30 percent of the time, considering his defensive shortcomings and Mike Lansing's defense and ability to turn the double play, why not let Lansing play? 2. why can't they be more flexible about their policy of free range basestealers? When they have Hideo Nomo's split, Tim Wakefield's knuckler and the uncertainty balls from Rolando Arrojo and Hipolito Pichardo, allowing runners to stroll to third at will is a chancy proposition and another unfair burden on their catchers. And 3. why do they still have the worst out-of-town score posting in the game?

    Incidentally, the bids for the sale of the Red Sox must be in on August 15.

  • Brian Daubach's brother Brad, a third baseman at Southwest Missouri Junior College, has spent his summer working on the Fenway Park grounds crew.

    This and that

  • One of the most interesting teams at the deadline was St. Louis, and GM Walt Jocketty admits "there were two games that we lost that might have changed our trading position." Yet the Cardinals are not out of it, especially if Edgar Renteria, Eli Marrero and others keep playing the way they have since the deadline.

    Marrero
    Marrero

    Jocketty says he got the most calls on Marrero, who Jocketty says "is very close to being a good everyday catcher." This explains why Toronto worked so hard to get Marrero.

  • Pirates GM Dave Littlefield was two weeks into his new job and made three trades. While he got immediate bad luck when Armando Rios blew out his knee and finished his season on a ball hit by -- ironically -- Jason Schmidt, the reviews were positive.

    Ryan Vogelsong and Tony McKnight can go into the Pirates' rotation along with Todd Richie, Dave Williams and Jimmy Anderson. This rotation might be pretty good when Kris Benson gets all the way back in 2003. And left-hander Adrian Burnside, acquired in the deal they made for Terry Mulholland with the Dodgers, has a live arm.

  • If the Giants can get Schmidt signed after this season, look for them to trade Livan Hernandez in the offseason and put young right-hander Kurt Ainsworth in his place.

    "Livan is the kind of person who needs to move every couple of years," says a former Giants player.

  • "Let's not be silly," says one NL GM, "the best player in any deadline trade was Jermaine Dye. He has really changed that Oakland lineup. It's just too bad the unbalanced schedule came along, because the A's have to play within their division -- all teams of which are better than any AL East team other than the Yankees and Red Sox -- because if they were in the East and Boston was in the West, Oakland would finish 10 games ahead of Boston."

  • From June 20-Aug. 2, the Yanks went from four games back of the Red Sox to 4 games up.

  • Other GMs cannot believe that Dan Duquette got $1 million out of the Expos in the Ugueth Urbina deal. "That means Dan is paying about $400,000," says one NL GM. "Incredible."

  • Duquette was trying to get Jason Christiansen from the Cardinals for Seong Song if he would have failed in getting Urbina.

  • Looking back at the deal the Indians made sending David Justice to the Yankees last season, what Cleveland has to show for it now are Jake Westbrook, Ellis Burks, Milton Bradley and sandwich pick outfielder Mike Conroy. Not a bad use of the money they saved on Justice.

  • When Bradley gets to Cleveland, he will join C.C. Sabathia under the wing of Ellis Burks, but since changing agents to Aces, the Levinson Brothers, Bradley has made considerable progress dealing with attitudinal issues.

    "Milton is a terrific kid, and with the right people will blossom," says one Expos executive. "The Indians made a tremendous deal." Several other teams, including the Mets, Rockies and White Sox, tried to get in on Bradley.

  • Bradley's role model should be Garret Anderson, who has been dogged for years by a negative reputation that just now has been erased. "I signed right out of high school," says Anderson, "and I really didn't know how to play. I didn't know that you're supposed to run hard every time to first base. I admit it, I earned my reputation, and I have to work to earn a new reputation." He's done it.

    "For more than 2 months, no one on this team has played harder every inning of every game," says Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. "We post times to first base, and Garret is consistently our best and most consistent."

    Cedeno
    Cedeno

  • The Tigers declined to trade Roger Cedeno at the dealine even though he is a free agent at the end of the year. First, they didn't get any blowaway offers and second, they think they can sign him. They would have moved right-hander Chris Holt, lefty C.J. Nitkowski and first baseman Tony Clark, but the offers weren't good enough to make a deal.

    Once young right-hander Nate Cornejo makes it up to Detroit and joins the rotation along with Jeff Weaver, Steve Sparks, Jose Lima, Mark Redman, Adam Pettyjohn, et al, they think the pitching will stablize. And closer Matt Anderson on some nights looks flat-out scary because he throws so hard. As for Lima, he has found new life in Detroit.

  • People surrounding the Twins assure everyone that even though they can have Greg Vaughn for nothing on waivers, they are not interested.

    "Bobby Kielty has a chance to be a far better hitter against good pitching," says one Twins official.

    But if you were the Mets, would you deal Rey Ordonez for Vaughn just to get rid of Ordonez? Vaughn would then be a $4 million player because Tampa Bay would then eat Ordonez's contract. Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar has cleared $11 million off the books already, and by the time they're ready to start playing Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Rocco Baldelli, et al in 2003, they'll be down around the $20M mark.

  • The war between agents and the Commissioner's Office attempted regulation of signing bonuses keeps five of the six top picks unsigned, with no hope in sight. Teams are not jumping at high talent, lower round players.

    The Rangers haven't signed their first-round pick, Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira, and their next pick, fourth-rounder Houston Memorial High Sschool right-hander Josh Baker (Lance Berkman's brother in law), is headed to the University of Alabama since Texas refused to meet his $1.4 million request.

  • This is a great weekend for any of us who ever covered baseball with Ross Newhan of the L.A. Times as he goes into the Hall of Fame. There are few people who ever covered anything that did so as tenaciously, gracefully, thoughtfully and honestly as Newhan. Not only that, but how many scribes have a major league son like David? Congratulations to a great family.

    What a year on the Cape
    This has been a fascinating year in the Cape Cod League, which will begin its playoffs on Tuesday. There was more pitching than any summer in a decade, with 6-8 outstanding lefties.

    Two weeks ago, Colorado ran off with undrafted submariner Ryan Speier of Radford College, who set the league save record for Bourne and topped out at 92 mph from underneath. You can be sure he'll be in Coors quickly.

    There also may not have been anyone like Bobby Brownlie of Rutgers, who pitched for Falmouth in 2000 and likely will be the first pick in next June's draft. And there were more 90+ mph arms that appear headed to the big leagues than any year in memory.

    There was a lot of debate about the best prospect between Georgia Tech sophomore outfielder Matt Murton and North Carolina shortstop/second baseman Russ Adams. They're very different players, but very good. Tech and UNC each had a number of very good prospects, including catcher Tyler Parker (Tech) and UNC products, left-handed pitcher Daniel Moore and first baseman/third baseman Jeremy Cleveland.

    Top five positional prospects in the Cape Cod League
    1. Matt Murton, OF, (Wareham) (R/R) Georgia Tech, '04. Watch him hit and you think of Edgar Martinez. Disciplined, can run (4.5/40) and is a third or fourth-place hitter in the major leagues.

    2. Russ Adams, 2B/SS, (Orleans) (L/R) North Carolina, '03. Most athletic infielder in the league in years, a 4.1 runner, disciplined at the plate, soft hands, speed and has shown power potential. There are a lot of scouts who think he's the best prospect, period, because he's got so many tools and has great makeup.

    3. Bobby Malek, OF, (Chatham) (L/R) Michigan State, '03. Great arm, good mechanics, if power develops he's a skilled right fielder.

    4. Aaron Hill, 3B/2B, (Wareham) (R/R) LSU, '04.

    5. Jason Perry, 1B/OF, (Hyannis) (L/R) Georgia Tech, '03.

    Top five pitchers in the Cape Cod League
    1. Chris Leonard, LHP, (Wareham), Miami of Ohio, '03. Polished, three pitches, 87-91, outstanding curveball and can pitch in to right-handers.

    2. Matt Lynch, LHP, (Harwich), Florida State, '03.

    3. Joe Saunders, RHP, (Harwich), Virginia Tech, '03.

    4. Ben Crockett, RHP, (Wareham), Harvard, '02. Red Sox have his rights until he goes back to The Yard next month.

    5. Casey Shumaker, RHP, (Bourne), Jacksonville, '03. Pirates have rights until he goes back to school.

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  • Gammons: Angels on a wild ride

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