zaterdag, december 21, 2002

Atlanta's Collective Question: Johnny Who??
"Hey, Johnny Estrada isn't chopped liver,"
-----Phillies Larry Bowa

Maybe Johnny Estrada is not chopped liver but he ain't no freakin foie gras either. Yesterday, in what may be the biggest tragedy in Atlanta since Mark Barton bludgeoned his family to death and then calmly strolled into two Atlanta office buildings and in cold blood kill nine people before turning a gun on himself a few hours later, the Atlanta Braves further sabotaged their 2003 season by dumping Kevin Millwood, one of the National League's young stars (75-46 with 3.73 career ERA by age 28) in exchange for a guy who couldn't hit .300 in AAA Scranton last year, Johnny Estrada.

Even Braves GM John Schuerholz had to concede: "We did not initiate this to get Johnny Estrada. . . . We were unable to finalize anything else." Not exactly a rhapsodic endorsement. Schuerholz sought to blame it all on the "new era of baseball" and "the economics of the game," "We had no choice but to try and manage our payroll as best we could, and we had to trade Kevin Millwood to do that," Schuerholz said in a conference call. "It wasn't a pleasant or easy thing to do, but in doing it, we got a guy we have very high regard for as our catcher of the future. I'm not so sure when that future begins." Whenever that future begins, it doesn't look good. Thus have the Braves changed 60 percent of their rotation while getting slightly older and, on the record, demonstrably worse. (Glavine, Millwood and Moss were 48-25 last season with a 3.19 ERA. Ortiz, Byrd and Mike Hampton were 38-36 with a 4.45 ERA.). They've lost the two set-up men who made their bullpen baseball's best. They've done nothing to spruce up their shabby infield. They do, however, have Johnny Estrada. Back in Triple A in 2002, Estrada batted .279 with 11 homers and 67 RBIs and has an acknowledged weakness handling pitchers.

Not that this new development doesn't fill me with the sort of ebullient thrill that only watching your enemy expire before your very eyes could produce.

So now it looks as though the Phillies are a team to be reckoned with in our division. For the Phillies, this trade ranks up there with getting Steve Carlton in 1972 from the Cardinals for a mere Rick Wise. Carlton won 27 games for the last-place Phillies, while Wise went 16-16 for St. Louis. Wise spent one more season in the Redbird rotation while Carlton anchored the Phils staff for more than a dozen years, winning three Cy Young awards and setting strikeout records. Or even the big scam of 1992 when the Phillies got Curt Schilling from the Astros for very laughable price of Jason Grimsley. Grimsley never pitched for the Astros, moving on to Cleveland and later two more teams, winning a ML total 29 games through 2001. Schilling became the ace of the Phillies, helping them to the 1993 World Series. and despite three injury-marred campaigns in Philadelphia, Schilling won 101 games for the Phils in his nine seasons.

But c'mon these are the Phillies after all, losers of 14 out of the last 16 seasons. Getting Thome and David Bell and Millwood are going to improve them but they will still be "managed" by Larry Bowa, a career flounderer with a lifetime losing record as manager and a history of miscalculation and gracelessness. Bowa would have managed the 1927 Yankees into the second division.

As for our Mets, yesterday was a melange of good and bad news. I was sad to see Nakamura crawl like a coward back to the safety and stability of the Nippon baseball league but hey, at least now he can continue to watch daikaiju movies without those ridiculously overdubbed dialogues and won't have to listen to Dave O'Brien nickname him Norihiro "He's No Hero" Nakamura as he breaks Bobby Bonds' major-league record of 189 strikeouts in a season. "I have my own style and pride as a baseball player and I found the answer when I thought which club can make me express myself the best way," Nakamura told Japanese TV network Fuji last night. Head Cheerleader and General Manager of Stupid Moves Steve Phillips was nonplussed: "Despite Mr. Nakamura's decision, today was a productive day for the Mets' organization."

And hey, they signed Cliff "All-Disabled List" Floyd, who brings a dimension that the Mets have lacked in recent years: a run-producing outfielder who can hit with power, get on base and adequately defend his position, provided of course, he can stay healthy.

Not to be a killjoy but the Mets are still missing the entire left side of the infield and the prospects are not good to say the least. When Nakamura decided to stay and hide beneath a pile of geisha kimonos it left the Mets without any interesting options to fill the hole left by Alfonzo's departure. Not that Alfonzo was worth the absurd $26 million contract the Giants donated to him but really, Cliff Floyd or not, how excited can you possibly get about signing a sapless leper like Bill Mueller to man the hot corner? And worse still, after Mueller, the list of available bodies becomes even more lamentable. Don't try to sell me on wiff-machine Jose Hernandez by pointing out that he's available. Of course he's available. He strikes out more than a Branch Dividian at a Janet Reno convention. They say Desi Relaford is untendered and available. But Desi Relaford isn't the kind of hitter who makes pitchers sweat. And he's not even a regular third baseman. Then again, there's always Tiger-reject Chris Truby if you really want a laugh.

And if you think this is a nightmare scenario, start pondering which stiff we can stick in the shortstop vacancy.

Signing Cliff Floyd is a nice distraction. But with half the infield missing, no word on the Fat Man's off season progress with his diet and two-thirds of the starting outfield serving as inedible trade bait, the Mets are still going nowhere fast. Almost as fast as the Braves.

Geen opmerkingen: