Monday, August 01, 2005

All quiet on the (AL) eastern front

For once, I actually agree with John Kruk to some degree.

Yesterday was the non-waiver trading deadline in baseball. That means it was the last day to trade players without the necessity of them clearing waivers first. The waiver wire process allows teams to put claims on certain players, effectively blocking the competition from obtaining those players (read: Yankees blocking RedSawx and vice versa). Often, there are a number of BIG TRADES at the deadline. Not so this year.


First, the Reinsdorf Factor: no owner wants the backlash that Jerry Reinsdorf received when he had a fire sale of his WhiteSawx in 1997 -- trading top players left and right for cheap subpar vets and prospects -- despite trailing the Indians (who finished an underwhelming 86-75) by only 3 games at the waiver deadline. This year, only about six or seven teams are completely SOL in the playoff race, even though some others (Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Rangers, Tigers, Orioles) should start tooling up for next year. Thank the wild card for the ephemeral dreams of many and the trades of so few.

Second, lack of top talent available. With fewer teams trading, and only the D-Rays, Royals, Mariners, Reds, Pirates and Rockies really selling, there's less talent available. And what talent is available is not exactly Randy Johnson to the Astros (1998) level. After all, why do those teams suck? They have no players. Next question.

Third, Kruk is right IF the Yanks and RedSax suck less. Yesterday he said the trade deadline losers are the AL contenders other than the Yanks and Sawx because those two teams still set the standard for the league and everyone else has to catch them. Failing to make any significant additions means the others failed to step up to the Yanks/RedSax level. I agree with this if the Yanks get Pavano back at decent usefulness and Wright back at a level of stinking that is significantly lower than before his injury. Those recoveries would be like two deadling acquisitions for the Yanks b/c they've been without Wright since April and without a decent Pavano since May.

Other incisive thoughts: (1) Randy Johnson needs to throw 80-90% heat and relegate his slider to a show-me pitch. He's allowed 23 HR this year (18 last year), is only at a one K/IP ratio (usually he's around 1.2) and has an ERA over 4. Why? In large part because his slider has been subpar for most of the year -- flat and high, which makes hitting it for pro hitters (especially AL pros) the equivalent of Tee-ball. How did he get hurt yesterday? Hanging sliders.

(2) The Angels are still the best team in the AL right now, but they need a break. That 18-inning loss to the Jays Thursday wrecked their pitching this weekend against the Yanks. We'll see in the next couple of weeks whether that game against the Jays marks a turning point in the Angels' season.

(3) I've seen few teams merit the "paper tiger" epithet more than the White Sawx -- even last year's Yankees and Cardinals were better, as were the '01 Mariners. I've been waiting for the Palehose to crash and burn this year, but it seems like that won't happen until the playoffs. Get ready for a flameout that makes the '01 Mariners' ALCS loss to the Yanks (losing 4-1 in the ALCS to a team with 21 fewer wins -- the largest post-WWII regular season win deficit in a playoff series overcome by the winning team) look like a legendary battle -- think '04 Cardinals losing the WS level failure (or '00 Cardinals losing NLCS).

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