December 03, 2004

Good old-fashioned trade brewing



Ed Wade, Brian Cashman, Kenny Lofton and Felix Rodriguez, from left, ride in a horse-drawn sleigh to a mutual location to negotiate a trade and eat warm apple cobbler.

The proposed Kenny Lofton for Felix Rodriguez swap is the warm cider brewing on baseball’s hot stove this holiday season.

There’s something to be said about a good old-fashioned trade of two players, Lofton and Rodriguez, of equal salary, of equal skill at their positions, to fill equal needs on teams in opposite leagues.

There’s also something to be said, if the deal goes down, about Ed Wade. When Wade quickly re-upped on F-Rod soon after the season, I had in the back of my mind a notion that he’d be worth more later as trade bait. Believe it or not, Rodriguez was viewed by some out of town papers, the Baltimore Sun for example, as one of the premiere bullpen arms on the market.

So here’s to Ed Wade, and here’s to Brian Cashman, Kenny Lofton and Felix Rodriguez, and the entire Phillies and Yankees families for this (proposed) holly-jolly trade.

December 02, 2004

All quiet on the Pete Rose front



As the 2005 Hall of Fame ballot is announced, former Phillie Pete Rose is ineligible once again. As time runs out, why isn’t he getting the support he did last year?

Rose must gain reinstatement within the next year to appear on the 2006 ballot, the final year he would be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Remember this time last year, it seemed certain Rose would finally be reinstated since banishment on Aug. 23, 1989.

Baseball Prospectus reported in August of last year that Rose and MLB officials had reached an agreement that would allow him to return to baseball in 2004, that would include no admission of wrongdoing by Rose.

But in fact, Rose came forth with a personal admission to Commissioner Selig anyway, over a year before that, with the public admission happening just before the release of his book.

It must be that wretched book then, “My Prison Without Bars,” that awful memoir that only served to alienate him more from the baseball community. Think he’s still feeling strong? Peterose.com, which launched to coincide with the release of the book, hasn’t been updated since Jan. 7.

BPF take
Fifteen years is punishment enough and Rose should be reinstated in time for the 2006 ballot. Rose will be rewarded for being less visible and vocal since the book debacle, and my guess is Selig will make good on reinstatement within the next year.

December 01, 2004

The 2004 Gary Bennett report



News that former Phillies catcher Gary Bennett signed with the Washington Nationals Monday peaked my interest for the offensively-impaired, steady-headed, backstop.

Since being dealt in 2001 to the Mets, which sent Todd Pratt back to Philadelphia, the nine-year pro and former R-Phil has seen time with New York, Colorado, San Diego, Milwaukee and now Washington.

He’s been labeled a career backup, but in fact, he’s not, at least not lately. While his offensive steadily sucks, to the tune of .224 BA, .297 OBP and .329 SLG with the Brewers last year, aguably his worst season as a pro, over the last three season, he’s played in an average of 87 games - more games than ever.

In Washington, he’ll earn $750,000, $150,000 more than last season and is expected to back up Northampton, Pa. native Brian Schneider.

How many games will he start this season, and could he slide into yet another primary role if Schneider is dealt? It’s amazing longevity for a guy who produces almost no offense at all - 14 homers in nine seasons. It has to be something we can’t see or count.

"Bennett is exactly what the doctor ordered," GM Tony Siegle said in the online story. "His attitude, his makeup and his skills are just perfect for what we need."

Blog No. 1
The word “blog” tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year, according to a report on cnn.com. The official entry is "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks.” Blog was one of the most looked-up words on its Internet sites this year, the dictionary company reported.

I dig CNN’s file photo for this story. It looks like the computer Matthew Broderick used to inadvertently cause a nuclear standoff in the 1983 movie “War Games.”

November 30, 2004

Swisher in as R-Phils manager



Former Major League catcher Steve Swisher will become the Reading Phillies' 21st manager, replacing Greg Legg who will coach 2005 in Clearwater.

From a Reading Phillies news release - Swisher, 53, played for the Cubs, Cardinals and Padres during a nine-year MLB career. He was a first round draft pick of White Sox in 1973 but was traded to the Cubs late that year in a deal that sent Ron Santo to the Sox. He made his MLB debut in 1974 and was named to the National League All-Star team in 1976.

Swisher managed for 10 season in the Minor Leagues and coached for three in the Majors with the New York Mets.

Legg, who had managed Reading since 2002, will lead the Clearwater Threshers (A) next season. Rod Nichols, Reading's pitching coach since 2002, will be the Scranton Wilkes-Barre (AAA) Red Barons pitching coach
in 2005.

Additional changes in the Phillies development staff
Former Major League manager Gene Lamont will be taking over for Marc Bombard at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA). Chuck Compton, who served as Catching Coordinator in 2004, will replace Bill Dancy as Field Coordinator and Roly deArmas will replace Compton. Coordinators Don Long (hitting), Gorman Heimueller (pitching), Jerry Martin (outfield/baserunning) and Dave Owen (infield) will return to their posts from last season.

The minor league staffs for single-A Lakewood, single-A Batavia and the rookie-level Gulf Coast Phillies will be announced at a later date. The Scranton, Reading and Clearwater staffs are as follows:

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA, International League)
Manager: Gene Lamont
Coach: Sal Rende
Pitching coach: Rod Nichols
Athletic trainer: Brian Cammarota

Reading (AA, Eastern League)
Manager: Steve Swisher
Coach: John Morris
Pitching coach: Tom Filer
Athletic trainer: Joel Kennedy

Clearwater (A, Florida State League)
Manager: Greg Legg
Coach: Ken Dominguez
Pitching coach: Scott Lovekamp
Athletic trainer: Shawn Fcasni

Steve Swisher Playing Career: Former catcher batted and threw right handed ... Was the Chicago White Sox first round selection (21st overall) out of Ohio University in the 1973 draft ... Was traded to the Cubs with Ken Frailing, Steve Stone and Jim Kremmel for Ron Santo on December 11, 1973 ... Made his Major League debut with the Cubs on June 14, 1974 ... Was a National League All-Star in 1976 when the game was played at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium ... Traded to St. Louis with Jerry Morales and cash for Dave Rader and Hector Cruz on December 8, 1977 ... Went from St. Louis to San Diego as part of a 10 player trade that brought St. Louis Rollie Fingers on December 8, 1980 ... Played in 509 career Major League games and hit .216 (305-1414).

November 29, 2004

Eye on the Mets



Figuring out what the Mets are up to is a puzzling mess. Mike Piazza to the Angels in a three-team swap is just one brain-bending scenario.

Metsblog.com, a well-trafficed fan site, tries to sort through the jungle of gossip, which most recently includes the team making an offer for Pedro Martinez, reported this weekend on WFAN 660. In putting an offer on the table, GM Omar Minyana seems ready to outbid Boston and the Yankees for his services and sign him long-term.

As a Phillies fan, I’d be excited about Pedro. Mets fans, understandably, are not.

Few teams have signed higher-priced bums to long-term deals than the Mets, and there are a few of those on the market this winter. Name a player, burnout or not, and his name has been mentioned in rumored deal to the Mets: Sosa, Soriano, Sexson, the Big Three of the A’s – Mulder, Hudson and Zito – Pavano, Beltran, J.D. Drew, Mags, and the list goes on and on and on.

Just one of those pitchers, to join a rotation with Kris Benson who resigned, and a bargain-priced Al Leiter, who might resign, would place the Mets firmly back in the fray. A big-time outfielder the likes of Beltran, Drew or Mags, might put them in the driver’s seat. Remember, the Mets surged just before Atlanta when on their run, but collapsed, seemingly without reason. As a result, Art Howe is out, and Willie Randolph is in as the new skipper.

With injuries behind them, the Mets find themselves in the same situation as the Phillies: New managers, new staff and GMs firmly in the spotlight. Essentially, the Mets are also shopping for the same goods as the Phillies this winter: pitching and outfield. The Mets have bigger obstacles in the Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza contracts, however, the only thing standing in the way of a major offensive overhaul.

There’s no mathematical formula to figure out how the Mets will look on opening day, but as is stands, there could be 10 million variations. Many of the returning players are good ones, led by Rookie of the Year candidate David Wright. I like this guy a lot. He mastered the Eastern League and despite having only 263 ABs with the Mets, he hit 14 home runs, knocked in 40 runs, batted .293 and had a slugging average of .525.

They also have a talented catcher in Vance Wilson, who proved he can play every day, and unlimited potential in middle infield. Shortstop Kaz Matsui, who must improve his defense when he switches to 2B this year, didn't fair too poorly at the plate when it was all said and done. And Jose Reyes, who's back at SS, needs to get on base more to blast teams with his speed.

The Mets will be this winter’s fiercest competitor in the NL East, and may be the fiercest come opening day.