Friday, August 01, 2008

Names Trading Places

BY MY CALCULATIONS, it's about 20 minutes before Yanks take on the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, California, 90210, and ladies and gentlemen oh what a pitching matchup: Sid "The Squid" Ponson against Ervin "Evil Ways" Santana.

Yanks play Angels 9 more times this season, and if last night's blowout loss is any indication, that doesn't bode well for the Yankees. Plus, Yanks have a lot more road games left than home games. They've played 10 more games at home (34-25) so far than on the road (25-24). After this series with Angels, it's 3 games at Texas, 3 at Anaheim, followed by 3 at Minnesota, where you can bet Twins will be still be smarting from their 3-game sweep last week at Yankee Stadium.

By now you may have heard there were some moves made just before the trading deadline. In what is known in the business as a flurry of activity, a couple of players changed uniforms, which just may have some kind of impact on the rest of the baseball season.

Has there ever been a 24-hour period in the history of baseball when 3 surefire Hall of Famers were traded? If so I'd like to know about it. We saw Manny Ramirez exiled to L.A., Junior Griffey heading to the Windy City, and Pudge Rodriguez will now squat behind the plate for the Yankees, acquired in exchange for Kyle Farnsworth, who for most of his New York stay was an underachieving target of fan abuse.

I thought the Red Sox did as well as they could in getting back Jason Bay, a career .282 hitter who won't turn 30 until September. Trading Manny was like trading Allen Iverson for the 76ers: everyone knew the team didn't want the player anymore under any circumstances, so it's a matter of getting something of value in return, not getting greedy or shooting for the moon. I don't see how the Red Sox could have done better, and that's coming from a Yankee fan, admittedly one who's glad to see the all-time Yankee killer taking his cuts in another league. But Bay gives them a young outfielder to team with Ellsbury and Drew, and a right-swinging power-hitter like Bay aiming at the Green Monster can't be a bad thing.

The Angels, already the best team in baseball (68-40 overall, an astounding 37-19 on the road) and one that has shattered more than one recent postseason for the Yankees, getting Mark Texeira has to scare the rest of the AL. Can the best team in baseball be underrated even if everyone is saying they're the best team? That's the kind of paradox we're dealing with here. If I had to start a team, and I probably won't any time soon, I would choose the Angels' manager, Mike Scoscia. And it doesn't hurt to have all-time greats like Vlad Guerrero, who also flies under the radar despite being one of the great talents in baseball of the last quarter-century. That's right, I said it, and I'm standing behind it, at least for now.

The other New York team, the Metropolitans, stood pat, and who wouldn't with such a juggernaut. Omar Minaya is putting an awful lot of faith in guys like Fernando Tatis, Endy Chavez and Luis Castillo. And of course he should stand behind these players, because he's the guy who overpaid for them in the first place.

Yanks also picked up Victor Zambrano off the scrap heap, who I get a feeling is the last piece of this championship puzzle. But seriously, if the Yankees get anything from Zambrano, it's more than the Mets ever got from him, and that will be enough to ruffle the feathers of their paranoid fan base.

Speaking of birds and feathers, Paul Lo Duca was told his services would no longer be required by the Washington Nationals, and oh how far the mighty mouth has fallen. There's never been any question about Lo Duca's ability and his grittiness behind the plate, it's everything else that goes with it that wears out his welcome mat sooner rather than later.

I was hoping Manny would be sent to Florida, where the Mets would have to deal with him on a regular basis in their own division. That would have been sweet. My favorite "Manny Being Manny" moment from his Boston time is when he went out to leftfield with a water bottle in his back uniform pants pocket, then making a sliding catch and landing on it. That and throwing the 62-year-old equipment manager to the ground when he didn't get enough game tickets or something. Has one player ever had so many enablers in one city? That's modern pro sports for you, I guess, but the excuses for Manny among Boston fans and the legions of Red Sox lackeys in the sporting press were as sickening as they were predictable.
Jeff Karstens is already paying immediate dividends for new-look Pirates, cooling off the hot Cubs with 6 shutout innings this afternoon. Karstens, one of the players the Bucs got back in the Xavier Nady trade, has fought through major injury problems the last few seasons, but won't turn 26 years old until much later this season. Maybe Pirates knew what they were doing after all. This could be one of those rare deals that's good for both teams after all.

And that's it, girls and boys. Go watch your games, we'll pick all this up later.

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