By Eric Neel
Page 2

I hate the trade deadline.

I hate:

  • GMs scurrying for scraps just to look busy.

  • Writers trying not to greet every weak rumor with a yawn.

  • Talk-radio fans geeked all out of proportion.

It's enough to make a man swear.

Swear out an oath, anyway.

And so it is on this day, July 29, 2005, and in this place, the desk in my home office, I hereby vow that …

I will not be fooled into thinking Danys Baez is the key to anyone's playoff push. I can see right through that funky-name-spelling smoke screen. I know the man walks five per nine now, in Tampa, when no one's even paying attention. And I know that number will climb like the great glass elevator shooting through the roof of the factory should he actually find himself on the hill in a ballpark where they play games that, you know, matter and stuff.

I will not consider a trade involving the Mets to be relevant to anyone outside of Queens, no matter what Alfonso Soriano's standing is on the fantasy player index.

Roger Clemens
The Rocket is 43, going on 24.

I will not let talk of A.J. Burnett and his "potential" distract me from appreciating the staggering depth and breadth of Roger Clemens' career record -- and, maybe more remarkably, his outrageously good 2005 season at age 42. Seriously, forget pitcher wins (maybe the most overrated statistical category in all of baseball), the man has a 1.46 ERA through 142 innings, and he has given up as many as three runs exactly once in 21 starts so far this season. What are the analogues for this? Who has ever been this good at this age? Miles Davis? Angie Dickinson? A bottle of Lafite-Rothschild? (Burnett, by the way, won't look so good in a hitter's park like Fenway or The Cell. Mark my words: The trade deadline is to rational baseball decisions as "beer goggles" are to respecting oneself in the morning. I will not be distracted.)

I will not understand it (cap and tax be damned) if the Yankees fail to make one last desperate attempt at a Ken Griffey Jr. deal. He's roping balls (two home runs in Dodger Stadium the last few days). He's suited to the porch. And he can still play some D. He's like the Strawberry hookup, only with a glove, and without the long-term treatment facility threat. Come on, Brian. Turn Chacon around, dress up Pavano or Wang and some greenback dollar bills. The Reds have been hoodwinked before.

I will not talk about Randy Winn when I could instead be talking about Matt Lawton, who, as Rodman did with 91 and Daryle Lamonica did with 3 (and as Josh Towers is trying to do with 7), is making a goofy number (50) look real good.

I will not wish Jose Mesa and his .286 BAA on my worst enemy. Which is to say, I have no desire to see him traded to the brain-dead yutz who green-lighted Coke's new "I'd like to teach the world to chill" campaign.

In short, I will not wait with bated breath for news this weekend. I will not obsess about the trade deadline.

Instead …

I will continue to enjoy the late summer in the East Bay, where we can't be far off now from "Billy Beane Haircut Night," and where cheers of "We got Harden, yes we do! We got Haren, how 'bout you?!" will soon be echoing from the Oakland hills to the banks of the Missouri in St. Louis.

I will love Mike Cameron's cockeyed hat, no matter what logo it might have on it.

I will sing the praises of men called Freel and Utley, men who play a couple of positions, steal a few bases, pack a little pop and have names suited for poetry. Oh, to have Franklin Pierce Adams back among the living now. Oh, to trade Pierce Brosnan for him, or even (for the Mariners fans in the house) Ryan Franklin.

Warren Spahn
Warren Spahn was the one over-40 star who measures up to Clemens

I will prop up Travis Hafner.

I will say a Mendozian prayer every night at bedtime for Cristian Guzman. Best line I've read of late (courtesy of Rich Lederer at, scoring major points for water-cooler-ready pith: "Cristian Guzman makes all pitchers look like Roger Clemens, and Clemens reduces all hitters into nothing more than a bunch of Guzmans." That is so right. And so wrong. Join with me. Get down on your knees. Ask for something on the Guz's behalf. Ask for Crash's seeing-eye grounders and ducksnorts. Ask for Roy's "Wonderboy." Ask for a shred of human dignity.

I will remember that Manny Ramirez is a surefire Hall of Famer, and I will, despite the glee with which so many others pile on, give him the benefit of the doubt. If he says he's unhappy, I believe him. If he says he needs a change, I respect that. After all, it doesn't seem like a stretch to imagine that maybe the facilities out behind the Monster aren't up to snuff. And surely we can all understand how that kind of thing can set a guy off.

I will, despite the fact that I still don't really believe in them, continue to root for the White Sox. And I should say, it's not even that I don't believe in them; it's that I don't know what to make of them. I'm like Steve Martin or Bill Murray in that old SNL skit. The White Sox are just flying up there in the sky and I'm down there on the ground, looking up, dumbfounded, going, "What is that thing? What the hell is that thing?!"

I will tuck a little something away for the Milwaukee Brewers of 2006.

I will try to care who wins the National League West, and I will try not to be embarrassed if it's the Dodgers.

I will continue to enjoy and appreciate the exploits of Cliff Lee, Jeremy Bonderman and John Patterson. Like Fountains of Wayne before "Stacy's Mom," and Barack Obama before "the speech," these are my nobody's-really-noticed-yet pleasures, my just-you-wait-and-see guys.

I will try, for the sake of my little girl, who doesn't like when Daddy uses mean words, not to use the word "hate" when talking, writing or thinking about the Yankees or Red Sox. I will not, however, be able to refrain from saying that I hate the trade deadline. And I will be punished for these outbursts.

She will send me to my room. Where, as a matter of fact, I will poke little pins in my Adrian Beltre sock doll. (It is the byproduct of campfire craft time at a Page 2 team-building retreat on the Yukon River earlier this summer. "Confront your fears," our guide said. "Create a representation of all that is holding you back.") And as the pins go in, I will shout, "Wake up! Wake up!" until eventually I lose my temper and scream, "I hate you, you miserable fantasy killer, I hate you! I hate you!" At which time my little girl will come into the room and take my doll away.

And even then, as I'm sitting on the floor, sobbing like … well, like a baby who has lost his doll, it will be more fun than talking about the trade deadline.

Eric Neel is a Page 2 columnist.

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