Weekly Pepper - Week 18

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
August 4, 2008

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Gregory Pratt attended Saturday's Cubs-Pirates game, had a few dinners with friends over the course of the week, took in Tuesday's Peoria Chiefs-Kane County Cougars minor-league match-up, shook Ryne Sandberg's hand, met with professors as the trade deadline came and went, and celebrated his nineteenth birthday on Sunday. He is very happy.

Griffey -- The very first thing I did when I learned that Ken Griffey Jr. had been traded to the Chicago White Sox was buy two tickets to his first home-game at US Cellular Field against the Tigers. I am excited to see one of baseball's greatest players in my favorite team's uniform, but I do not believe that he is a significant addition. He is not a centerfielder, no matter how many times Ozzie Guillen writes him into the lineup there, nor is he a particularly good offensive ballplayer at this stage in his career. However, he is being brought in to shore up the bottom of the order, and he is very well-suited to do that.  He is a definite upgrade over Paul Konerko, who hits as if his hip just died and acts as if someone killed his dog.  The White Sox gave up nothing of value to pick up Griffey in exchange for a boost in the order and ticket sales. It isn't a bad deal, but it isn't good, either, and it might turn out to be worse than anyone can imagine for the pitching staff. Having watched every Sox game in 2006, I believe that they lost out on the division because Rob Mackowiak is completely incapable of making a play on a ball in centerfield, and I worry that this team, with its pitching staff returning to Earth, is going to suffer the same way. Of course, Griffey knows how to turn and run back on a ball, whereas Mack would turn and trip and dive forward while the ball dropped behind him, so it's a different situation, but Griffey does not have much left in his legs.

Manny -- Manny Ramirez was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Boston receiving Jason Bay in return while the Pirates got Brandon Moss, Andy Laroche, Craig Hansen, and Bryan Morris. I am amazed that the Red Sox managed to trade one of baseball's most fearsome hitters -- his reputation is greater than his production now, though he is still a high-quality hitter -- for someone who might actually be better-suited for their team and ballpark in Bay. I tend to downplay Boston's front office because of their significant financial advantages over most organizations, but there is no denying that they know how to build a team. Now, for a general note: Ramirez is an all-time great hitter and therefore a great player, but I would never want him on my team because everyone knows he is selfish (used broadly), and players often resent him for his erratic behavior. "Manny Being Manny" is occasionally amusing, and he is charming as a man-boy, but you can replace his production on an all-time team without having to deal with any of the headaches he causes. This is a good trade for the Dodgers, who needed the pop, and for the city of Los Angeles, which is more likely than not to shrug its shoulders when he does something ridiculous or outrageous and otherwise enjoy his bat, but the most good goes to the Red Sox who have found relief from Ramirez' nonsense and finally replaced him smoothly. Pittsburgh, incidentally, is doing a good job of quietly building for the future, as I see good things ahead for Morris and Laroche and decent things out of the other two ballplayers.

Pudge -- Ivan Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth, and I must say that I like the deal for New York. It is good to have a strong catcher and there might not be any greater defensively than Ivan Rodriguez, even at this age. He can't hit with Jorge Posada, but he is a valuable replacement behind the plate, and I hope that it can work out with a Wild Card playoff appearance for the Yankees.

Teixeira -- The rich get rich, huh? The Major League Baseball Players' Association must be thrilled by the possibility that Mark Teixeira will light up the postseason for the Angels and earn an extra million or two over the course of his next contract, and I know that Scott Boras' hurt pumps harder when he considers the possibility.  The Angels must be thrilled by the fact that they are now clearly the very best team in baseball, with a great chance to make the World Series again.  Braves fans must be excited to be getting back a cheap, young and high-quality improving ballplayer in Casey Kotchman, making their "rebuilding" job a little easier in the coming seasons. I just wish the Angels had gotten Vladimir Guerrero some protection while he was still in his prime, but this is good for everyone involved.

The Best -- The Seattle Mariners kept everyone except Arthur Rhodes -- who? -- through the trade deadline. They wanted to deal Jarrod Washburn to the Yankees but insisted on a quality prospect, and that was a non-starter for the Yankees, who replied: "if you want a good player, you have to take Kei Igawa back." That made me laugh.  In Living on the Black, Yankee players and management are seen ridiculing Igawa as a mediocre pitcher, and it can not be lost on people in baseball that Igawa is terrible and disrespected by his organization. So, for them to insist that he go anywhere in a trade is humorous, but not as bad as the Mariners' refusal to deal away deadweight. For all of the humor at Seattle's expense, their relative silence wasn't even the craziest trade/non-trade of the week; the Houston Astros dealt for Randy Wolf and Latroy Hawkins to shore up their ballclub down the stretch. What the hell was that all about? 

Mile-high Monday / Roy Oswalt -- I was really excited on Monday for what was going to be Jason Hirsh's first major-league start of the year, but I was bitterly disappointed when he was scratched at the last moment. He has been a hero of mine ever since he won a major-league baseball game with a broken leg last year, and I was eagerly anticipating his game. That's the thing about MLB.tv that I most enjoy: I can watch any game I want, anytime I want, and I look for good matchups whenever I am in a position to leave my desktop or laptop open, but I guess it wasn't to be. Instead of watching Hirsh, I watched Roy Oswalt's first game since coming off the disabled list and was very happy to see his continued domination against the Reds' ballclub, as well as his serviceability against the Mets. He was doing well for himself before he got hurt again, and I hope that he can get back to normal before the season is out.

The Greatest Birthday Present -- Greg Maddux beat the San Francisco Giants on my birthday, August third, for his 352nd career win. I hope that this two-game winning streak he's got going keeps going in the coming weeks. Maddux has been the gift that keeps on giving in my life. And on that note, he is on pace to be the only pitcher to have the most wins in a decade in two decades, especially as his nearest competitor -- Tim Hudson -- is undergoing Tommy John Surgery and will be out this season and next, thus eliminating him from consideration. While I wish the best for Tim Hudson, who is a fine pitcher and a personal favorite, I hope that Maddux winds up with the wins crown for the 2000s in addition to the 1990s.

Mike Hampton -- Hampton made his comeback last Saturday against the Phillies and followed it up on Thursday against the Cardinals. He has a whopping 10.00 ERA in those starts, but no one can ever accuse him of taking the easy way out by sitting around collecting paychecks after he got hurt. Hampton deserves some credit and admiration for working hard to return to the major leagues despite all of the frustrating injuries he has suffered over the years. And -- before anyone accuses me of going easy on him -- he deserves to play for the league minimum next year.

Chris Carpenter -- No one was happier to see Chris Carpenter pitch again this week than I, and he looked sharp in his game against the Braves. For as good of a sudden addition as Francisco Liriano is going to be in Minnesota, Carpenter will be almost as good for the Cardinals.

Jorge Campillo -- Has anyone been a bigger, more surprising success than Jorge Campillo has been this season? It won't last, as he isn't good enough to post a 2.76 ERA or a 70/21 K/BB ratio, but it has been fun to watch.

Rest in Peace, Skip -- Skip Caray died, and baseball is poorer for it. He and his family and my fellow fans of his have my deepest condolences. There are some broadcasters who draw us deeper into the game we love, and he was one of them for me.

History of the Week -- I am reading Al Stump's Cobb, and will have a review of that and a separate, distinct History of the Week for you next week. Thanks for waiting. While you do, consider whether or not television has been a positive development in western civilization.

Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at gregory@baseballevolution.com.