Posts Tagged ‘Hanley Ramirez’

The Big Dealers, Thus Far . . .

Now that Josh Beckett has won his first game as a Dodger, maybe it’s a good idea to see how those involved in the biggest deals—non-waiver trade deadline and waiver deadline period alike—have done since pulling those triggers. We’ll list them by the major players who moved:

Ichiro Suzuki—Since becoming a Yankee, Ichiro’s played 37 games, scored nine runs, collected 35 hits including six doubles and (count ’em) three home runs. He’s racked a .310 OBP—55 points below his career average. He’s also -0.2 wins above a replacement player as a Yankee. As for the Yankees, since Ichiro joined them 23 July the Yankees have won 19 and lost 18, including one four-game winning streak and one four-game losing streak. The Mariners since the trade? 22 wins, 14 losses, including two stupefying winning streaks of seven and eight. Not to mention, immediately after Ichiro changed clubhouses (the Yankees were in town to play the Mariners when the deal was done) the Mariners reeled off a nine-of-twelve winning string that included the aforesaid seven-game winning streak.

Thus far, overall: The Marines only seem like a better team without Ichiro, but it’s really still too soon to tell for dead last certain. The Yankees have enough other problems (injuries for the most part) that you can’t really say they’ve been worse with or because of him than they would have been without him.

Not quite, not yet . . .

Zack Greinke—He became, arguably, the pitching star of the non-waiver deadline period once Cole Hamels signed that delicious extension with the Phillies, the Dodgers and Red Sox couldn’t yet pull a trigger on Beckett (the Dodgers were interested), the Rangers and the Red Sox couldn’t pull likewise, and Ryan Dempster’s dance between Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Texas drove everyone to drink. He hasn’t exactly been a saviour for the Angels since the deal: he’s 3-2 with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP, with one less strikeout per nine and his strikeouts-to-walks rate cut in half on the strikeout side.

Thus far, overall: He hasn’t exactly pitched like a horror, but you note that through this writing his ERA as an Angel is a full run higher than his career rate, and he’s been more prone to the long ball as an Angel thus far than he was in Milwaukee before the deal.

Ryan Dempster—He finally went to the Rangers at the non-waiver deadline’s eleventh hour. And the timing was fortuitous for the Rangers, since Neftali Feliz went down for the season practically in the same minute. Dempster’s 33-inning scoreless streak probably inflated his worth as the deadline approached, but he was still pitching reasonably well enough to win when the Rangers finally landed him. Since the deal? Dempster got dumped by the Angels in his first Rangers start (eight earned runs); he beat the Red Sox in his next start in spite of three unearned runs, then he got waxed for another eight earned runs by the Yankees following that.

Thus far, overall: Dempster rehorsed after that Yankee spankee; he’s won three straight starts and shrunk his season’s ERA to 2.87 since. Still, as a Ranger overall since the deal he’s got a 4-1 won-lost record but a whopping 4.58 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. His strikeouts per nine as a Ranger are impressive at 8.7, and if he’s indeed rehorsing himself overall it’s going to count big enough for the Rangers as the stretch drive reaches white heat levels.

Shane Victorino—The change of scenery hasn’t done him as much good as the Dodgers hoped when they landed him from the Phillies. As a Dodger, Victorino is hitting .248 with a .308 OBP—well below what he was doing in Philadelphia before the deal, and he wasn’t quite looking like his former All-Star self. Since Victorino suited up for the Dodgers, they’ve been 15-14.

Thus far, overall: Victorino hasn’t necessarily hurt the Dodgers, but they haven’t really been a better a team with him. Which has to hurt considering the Dodgers did slip into first place in the NL West for a spell not long after acquiring Victorino but have clung to second place with a 4.5 game deficit behind the Giants—whom they’ll play in two more series, including a regular season-ender, yet to come this season.

Decent return thus far . . .

Jonathan Broxton—The Reds already had one of baseball’s best bullpens when they bagged the former Dodger closer from the Royals. As a Red, Broxton’s been hurt by three shaky outings in ten assignments, so don’t be alarmed by that 5.00 ERA or 1.44 WHIP since he put on Reds fatigues. He has two wins and five holds to show for setting up Arnoldis Chapman. The Reds are really getting a very nice return on him.

Thus far overall: The Reds are 9-1 in games in which Broxton has pitched. He’s no team or pen killer just yet. And unless the Cardinals or the Pirates find a little September magic, you can all but hand the NL Central to them.

Hanley Ramirez—He came to the Dodgers before they landed Victorino. He looked like a classic change of scenery guy, since he’d all but worn out his welcome in Miami. As a Dodger, he’s been better than he was as a Marlin before the trade: he’d had a mere .322 OBP with the Fish this season, but since becoming a Dodger he’s swollen it to a .344, not quite to his career level .373 but well enough on the way. He’s being more selective at the plate and rediscovering his consistent enough power, with nine bombs, 17 of his 39 Dodger hits going for extra bases, all in 36 games.

Thus far, overall: With Ramirez the Dodgers have been 18-18. Don’t blame Ramirez, this one’s pretty much a team effort.

Hunter Pence—The Giants landed him right around the non-waiver deadline. He’s played thirty games with them since, with a .292 OBP, a .362 SLG, and 37 runs produced in those thirty games. He’s 0.2 WAR as a Giant, too.

Thus far, overall: Melky Cabrera’s suspension put a big cloud over the Giants when he went down midway through August. Without him, the Giants are 10-5. Keep that pace up and they can only win the NL West, assuming the Dodgers can’t rehorse in September. Since Pence joined them, the Giants are 18-11, and their longest losing streak over that period has been two games. So while you can’t necessarily argue that Pence is that much of a help to the Giants, he certainly hasn’t hurt them. If you’re 10-5 since your best hitter (reputedly) goes down under suspension, and you’re 18-11 overall since you picked up a Hunter Pence, you’ve sure got a terrific team.

(Come to think of it: If you’re 10-5 without Cabrera, who was fool enough to get bagged for actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances, why on earth would you want to screw with a team makeup that gets you that kind of performance otherwise and let him back in during the postseason, when he’s eligible to return? The Giants know better than most organisations what the PED issue can do to you. Here’s a grand opportunity to make a very big statement about that matter. It would also help remove that little gray cloud hovering around the return of two-time actual or alleged PEDaler Guillermo Mota, too . . .)

Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto—I mention those three alone because Carl Crawford won’t be back from Tommy John surgery until early in 2013. Gonzalez got off to the absolute right start when he suited up for the Dodgers after that laughing-all-the-way cross country flight from Boston that Saturday, hitting the second pitch he saw as a Dodger into the right field seats, on a day the Dodgers battered Miami.

That three-run bomb to introduce himself to Los Angeles has been his highlight thus far . . .

Unfortunately, the Dodgers are 2-5 since The Big Deal. Beckett’s first start as a Dodger wasn’t terrible, and his masterpiece against the Diamondbacks yesterday was much needed. He’s only given up four earned runs as a Dodger, and three were against the Rockies in his first start, not to mention he seems to have rediscovered his strikeout pitches for now. However, his WHIP in his two Dodger starts as been 1.39, which seems to indicate on the evidence thus far that you can hit him but he may still find a way to beat you. Gonzalez has played in eight games as a Dodger and, following that crowd-pleasing opener, has hit a mere .182 with a .250 OBP, though he has taken three walks, stolen a base, scored three runs, and only five of his 27 outs have been strikeouts—he’s making contact, but not getting much for it yet. Punto has only thirteen plate appearances since joining the Dodgers and you probably shouldn’t expect a big show out of that just yet, especially for a utilityman.

Thus far, overall: You can’t hang the Dodgers’ latest slippage on the three ex-Red Sox alone, or even remotely, just yet. How they do in September, when the Dodgers will really need them the most, should tell you more.

From Melky’s Alley to Madison’s Avenue . . . For Now . . .

As has been pointed out several times already, sometimes cruelly, it isn’t as though the San Francisco Giants have been strangers to the tentacles of actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances even if you don’t mention the name of Bonds. Or even Jose Guillen. And with Melky Cabrera suspended, at a time when he was the Giants’ no questions asked best option in left field, we’re going to see what this year’s Giants are made of.

You can just about bet the ballpark that Cabrera never once pondered that while running his Web of deceit. It’s getting worse enough for Cabrera: one of his closest associated, Juan Nunez, has been barred from all major league clubhouses following the revelation that he, Nunez, helped set up a fake Website, promoting a fake supplement, in a bid to help explain Cabrera’s positive test for synthetic testosterone. And, Cabrera could stand to lose when he hits the free agency market this winter; his price could be lower by as much as $75 million thanks to his chicanery.

Well, the Giants are 3-2 without Cabrera. Assuming that’s their pace to come, it may not be enough to get them the National League West crown. It may not even be enough to secure them the second NL wild card. At this writing they share a 67-55 record with the Pittsburgh Pirates; the NL Central race at this writing seems to be making a case that at least one wild card comes from that division. Among the NL West teams it could be win the division or wait ’till next year. The Giants can’t afford to play at merely a  game above .500 for the rest of the season.

Madison’s Avenue—eight scoreless nudged the Giants back to the NL West top . . . for now . . .

Madison Bumgarner did his best Monday night to keep his Giants able to look forward to somewhat better. He squared off against Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ best, with the Dodgers entering a half game up on the Giants in the West. The Dodgers finished the game half a game behind the Giants, who had Bumgarner’s eight scoreless innings, including ten punchouts, to thank for being in any position to win, which they did, 2-1. This against Kershaw, a pitcher against whom prying even one run can be a chore comparable to driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco aboard a lawn mower when you have a mere six hours to get there.

But they shouldn’t have had to be that throttled even to try. The Giants overall were about a league-average offence before Cabrera got bagged. Without him, they might have become even more so and perhaps a dip or two below. Between them, Bumgarner and Kershaw combined for twenty punchouts on the night, while not a Giant or a Dodger reached base on ball four. Bumgarner may have been lucky that two runs was all he needed to work with.

Old-timers must have been mildly amused to watch the Giants scratching for runs like alley cats scratching for scraps or the 1960s Dodgers mounting—so the legends remain—a game-breaking threat just by having their leadoff hitter hit by a pitch. I’m not terribly convinced the Giants were laughing all that much Monday night. Their straits, so they felt, with their best hitter on the year going down over an act of abject stupidity, were dire enough that they took a page out of the 1960s Dodger legend.

Angel Pagan opened the game with a double into left center field. On-deck hitter Marco Scutaro plotted his course practically at the moment just before the ball hit the grass. “You have pitching like tonight, I don’t care if it’s the first inning. You have to score a run for our guy,” Scutaro told reporters after the game, mindful that it was easier to burgle the White House than to pry a run out of Kershaw. “It’s hard to predict in baseball. Some people don’t like to bunt early. But maybe that could be the difference. In the beginning, you never know.”

Especially when manager Bruce Bochy, thanks to Cabrera, found himself with two choices to play in left field: Gregor Blanco, in the throes of a .154 batting average for his previous month’s play; or, Justin Christian, who had all of 132 major league at-bats entering Monday night’s contest. “It’s a tough call between the two,” the manager said, and he wasn’t exactly trying to be a wise guy. “Decided to throw Blanco out there to see if we can get him going.”

Pablo Sandoval brought Pagan home with a sacrifice fly. In the sixth, Kung Fu Panda brought Pagan home with a clean single, though Pagan had to beat a tag by Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis to do it. The lone Dodger run came in the ninth, when Hanley Ramirez hit one out against San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo, compelling Bochy to bring in Javier Lopez to nail down the win post haste.

The last time the Giants faced losing a player thanks to actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances was two years ago. Jose Guillen, outfielder and human time bomb, was all but ordered by baseball government to be kept off the Giants’ postseason roster, while said government looked into what turned out to be a federal interception of fifty human growth hormone syringes to Guillen’s home.

That was then: The Giants went on to win the World Series, but then Guillen wasn’t exactly one of their bigger guns. It’s very even money as to whether he would have helped or hindered the Giants’ cause in the end. (It wasn’t the second time Guillen’s foolishness kept him out of a postseason; his ridiculous screamfest when Mike Scioscia tried to lift him for a faster pinch runner down the 2004 stretch—in a tight race that had two weeks of regular season to go—got him suspended for the rest of the season, then run out of Anaheim in a deal with the Washington Nationals.)

This is now: The Giants could make the postseason at minimum, but Cabrera was one of their bigger guns until he got bagged. They have forty more games to play before getting there, if they do; with the second wild card-inspired win-or-be-gone game factored in, in theory the Giants could be looking at Cabrera returning some time during the National League Championship Series. Assuming they don’t just keep him off the roster, as further payback for helping to turn their season into a bigger battle than it should have been.

That was then: The 2010 Giants reveled in their self-image as morons. (“I’m just trying to fit in with these morons. I have go a little over the top just to try to fit in. I’m probably very tame compared to this group.”—Aubrey Huff, infielder/outfielder and red thong wearer beneath his uniform.)

This is now: The 2012 Giants aren’t exactly reveling in any image, self or otherwise, of having harboured a moron.

From Melky's Alley to Madison's Avenue . . . For Now . . .

As has been pointed out several times already, sometimes cruelly, it isn’t as though the San Francisco Giants have been strangers to the tentacles of actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances even if you don’t mention the name of Bonds. Or even Jose Guillen. And with Melky Cabrera suspended, at a time when he was the Giants’ no questions asked best option in left field, we’re going to see what this year’s Giants are made of.

You can just about bet the ballpark that Cabrera never once pondered that while running his Web of deceit. It’s getting worse enough for Cabrera: one of his closest associated, Juan Nunez, has been barred from all major league clubhouses following the revelation that he, Nunez, helped set up a fake Website, promoting a fake supplement, in a bid to help explain Cabrera’s positive test for synthetic testosterone. And, Cabrera could stand to lose when he hits the free agency market this winter; his price could be lower by as much as $75 million thanks to his chicanery.

Well, the Giants are 3-2 without Cabrera. Assuming that’s their pace to come, it may not be enough to get them the National League West crown. It may not even be enough to secure them the second NL wild card. At this writing they share a 67-55 record with the Pittsburgh Pirates; the NL Central race at this writing seems to be making a case that at least one wild card comes from that division. Among the NL West teams it could be win the division or wait ’till next year. The Giants can’t afford to play at merely a  game above .500 for the rest of the season.

Madison’s Avenue—eight scoreless nudged the Giants back to the NL West top . . . for now . . .

Madison Bumgarner did his best Monday night to keep his Giants able to look forward to somewhat better. He squared off against Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ best, with the Dodgers entering a half game up on the Giants in the West. The Dodgers finished the game half a game behind the Giants, who had Bumgarner’s eight scoreless innings, including ten punchouts, to thank for being in any position to win, which they did, 2-1. This against Kershaw, a pitcher against whom prying even one run can be a chore comparable to driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco aboard a lawn mower when you have a mere six hours to get there.

But they shouldn’t have had to be that throttled even to try. The Giants overall were about a league-average offence before Cabrera got bagged. Without him, they might have become even more so and perhaps a dip or two below. Between them, Bumgarner and Kershaw combined for twenty punchouts on the night, while not a Giant or a Dodger reached base on ball four. Bumgarner may have been lucky that two runs was all he needed to work with.

Old-timers must have been mildly amused to watch the Giants scratching for runs like alley cats scratching for scraps or the 1960s Dodgers mounting—so the legends remain—a game-breaking threat just by having their leadoff hitter hit by a pitch. I’m not terribly convinced the Giants were laughing all that much Monday night. Their straits, so they felt, with their best hitter on the year going down over an act of abject stupidity, were dire enough that they took a page out of the 1960s Dodger legend.

Angel Pagan opened the game with a double into left center field. On-deck hitter Marco Scutaro plotted his course practically at the moment just before the ball hit the grass. “You have pitching like tonight, I don’t care if it’s the first inning. You have to score a run for our guy,” Scutaro told reporters after the game, mindful that it was easier to burgle the White House than to pry a run out of Kershaw. “It’s hard to predict in baseball. Some people don’t like to bunt early. But maybe that could be the difference. In the beginning, you never know.”

Especially when manager Bruce Bochy, thanks to Cabrera, found himself with two choices to play in left field: Gregor Blanco, in the throes of a .154 batting average for his previous month’s play; or, Justin Christian, who had all of 132 major league at-bats entering Monday night’s contest. “It’s a tough call between the two,” the manager said, and he wasn’t exactly trying to be a wise guy. “Decided to throw Blanco out there to see if we can get him going.”

Pablo Sandoval brought Pagan home with a sacrifice fly. In the sixth, Kung Fu Panda brought Pagan home with a clean single, though Pagan had to beat a tag by Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis to do it. The lone Dodger run came in the ninth, when Hanley Ramirez hit one out against San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo, compelling Bochy to bring in Javier Lopez to nail down the win post haste.

The last time the Giants faced losing a player thanks to actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances was two years ago. Jose Guillen, outfielder and human time bomb, was all but ordered by baseball government to be kept off the Giants’ postseason roster, while said government looked into what turned out to be a federal interception of fifty human growth hormone syringes to Guillen’s home.

That was then: The Giants went on to win the World Series, but then Guillen wasn’t exactly one of their bigger guns. It’s very even money as to whether he would have helped or hindered the Giants’ cause in the end. (It wasn’t the second time Guillen’s foolishness kept him out of a postseason; his ridiculous screamfest when Mike Scioscia tried to lift him for a faster pinch runner down the 2004 stretch—in a tight race that had two weeks of regular season to go—got him suspended for the rest of the season, then run out of Anaheim in a deal with the Washington Nationals.)

This is now: The Giants could make the postseason at minimum, but Cabrera was one of their bigger guns until he got bagged. They have forty more games to play before getting there, if they do; with the second wild card-inspired win-or-be-gone game factored in, in theory the Giants could be looking at Cabrera returning some time during the National League Championship Series. Assuming they don’t just keep him off the roster, as further payback for helping to turn their season into a bigger battle than it should have been.

That was then: The 2010 Giants reveled in their self-image as morons. (“I’m just trying to fit in with these morons. I have go a little over the top just to try to fit in. I’m probably very tame compared to this group.”—Aubrey Huff, infielder/outfielder and red thong wearer beneath his uniform.)

This is now: The 2012 Giants aren’t exactly reveling in any image, self or otherwise, of having harboured a moron.

Got Melk—Under Drug Testing Program, That Is

This is just what the San Francisco Giants don’t need, though it probably did the Washington Nationals—who just squared off against the Giants in San Francisco—a small favour: Melky Cabrera, the MVP of this year’s All-Star Game, suspended fifty games for a positive testosterone test.

The announcement came practically on the heels of the Giants announcing contract talks with Cabrera would go on hold until season’s end. Cabrera, of course, was enjoying a very respectable walk year, with a .906 OPS and a National League-leading 156 hits, 51 of which came in May alone (tying Randy Winn’s team record for any month, and breaking Willie Mays’ team record for May, since the Giants came to San Francisco in the first place), a significant factor in the Giants at this writing sitting tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.

Got melked by a positive testosterone test . . .

Cabrera’s suspension begins at once. If the Giants get to the postseason, those games will be included as part of Cabrera’s suspension. If they don’t, Cabrera will finish serving the sentence at the open of the 2013 regular season.

Give Cabrera credit for this much: He ducked nothing and manned up at once when handed his sentence. “My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organisation, and to the fans for letting them down,” he said in a formal statment.

The Giants landed Cabrera in the off-season in a swap that sent Jonathan Sanchez (P) to the Kansas City Royals. He signed a single-year deal with the Giants rather than go to salary arbitration.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

CONTINUING THE CUB SHUFFLE—Theo Epstein’s work on remaking/remodeling the Cubs continued Wednesday with the execution of Oneri Fleita as vice president of player personnel. “All of us with the Cubs owe Oneri a debt of gratitude for his tremendous service to the organization over many years. Oneri has impacted countless people here in a positive way, and we wish him well as he continues his career elsewhere,” said Epstein in a statement. Fleita had been in the Cubs’ organisation since 1995; he was actually given a four-year contract extension in 2011, before Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were brought aboard. The Cubs also canned manager of baseball information Chuck Wasserstrom, who’d been with the Cubs for 25 years; and, reassigned statistical analysis manager Ari Kaplan to become a consultant to owner Tom Ricketts.

THE BOSTON BRISTLE, CONTINUED—Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry says none of the players who wanted to meet with the brass in that July New York sit-down actually called for manager Bobby Valentine’s execution. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports—whose colleague, Jeff Passan, wrote the article that launched this week’s  hoo-ha over the meeting—argues that, whatever you do or don’t think about Valentine’s style vis a vis a rickety Red Sox clubhouse, Henry must tell one and all that Valentine’s his man through the end of his contract (it expires after 2013, specifically) at least, “that employees do not fire managers.”

Tell everyone this isn’t working because bad contracts and worse attitudes have fouled the place, but will not any longer. Tell them that it will be addressed this winter, that the talented [general manager Ben] Cherington is under orders to see to it, no matter the cost in discarded mistakes and malcontents. Now what? Tell them none of this will be tolerated any longer. 

That’s a pretty point. But what do you say about a manager who, yes, walked into a fragile enough situation to begin with—and after assorted Red Sox brass, perhaps unaware of what other assorted Red Sox brass thought, told assorted Red Sox players last winter that the divide-and-conquer Valentine wasn’t even a blip on their managerial radar—chose almost from the outset to inflame rather than inspire his players?

Will John Henry’s hammer drop on Bobby V., his rickety clubhouse, or both . . .?

It wasn’t the players who threw Kevin Youkilis under the proverbial bus right out of the chute, questioning his heart in hand with his physical condition, possibly as revenge for Youkilis, supposedly, being the one who dropped the proverbial dime on the chicken-and-beer contingency of last September. (Enough say that was the precise moment Valentine lost much of his clubhouse.)

It wasn’t the players who filled out the wrong lineup card against the Minnesota Twins shortly after the Youkilis yak—though it was one player (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia) who caught the blunder in time enough for its correction.

It wasn’t the players who made a starter out of setup man Daniel Bard only to learn the hard way Bard would be in over his head in that role.

It wasn’t the players who finked on now-traded Kelly Shoppach, who took his complaint about playing time to Valentine for a private discussion about it.

It wasn’t the players who took poor Will Middlebrooks’s “nice inning, kid” barb from Valentine public. (Though it may have been one player, post-Tommy John patient John Lackey, out for the season while he recuperates from the procedure, who took that remark to Henry privately. Emphasis on “privately.” Lackey may have his troubles otherwise, but he wasn’t looking to make a press pump out of it.)

It wasn’t the players who betrayed Clay Buchholz’s private request for an extra day’s rest and threw in a subtle implication that Buchholz’s heart, too, should be deemed suspect.

It wasn’t the players who decided Jon Lester absolutely needed to stay in, on a day he clearly didn’t have it, for an eleven-run beating from which no one could find anyone to step in for him before it got past a five-run first-inning flogging.

And it wasn’t the players who told the Boston Herald, ““I hear a lot of (players) say, ‘Why doesn’t anybody talk about this other team like that? Why don’t they talk about anyone else?’ I just say, ‘It’s just because this is who we are. We’re the Red Sox.’ And maybe it’s because of who I am, too. They have to understand, I’m here. There’s going to be a lot of bullets thrown my way, and they can become collateral damage.”

The Red Sox players aren’t quite innocent. But if Henry were to heed Brown and deputise Cherington to clean house, the housecleaning probably has to include the manager, too. If Valentine has a few too many of the wrong players to lead, high-priced or otherwise, a few too many of the right players (high-priced or otherwise) have the wrong manager to lead them. And what would make someone think that cleaning out the Red Sox clubhouse would give the divide-and-conquer Valentine a better shake at anything . . .  other than possibly blowing up a cleaner clubhouse, perhaps while shrugging that off as just a case of collateral damage from the “bullets” thrown his way?

Valentine has his talents as a manager. Unfortunately, they’re not suited for just any old place. And Boston, for better or worse, isn’t just any old place.

ABOUT THOSE TRADE-DEADLINE PICKUPS—In a word, says SweetSpot’s David Schoenfeld, they’ve been duds thus far, to a considerable extent:

Ryan Dempster—After all the hoopla about where he’d go (or want to go), before he finally consented to go to Texas, Dempster as a Ranger has been nuked for 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings in three starts, two of which saw him reached for eight runs each.

Anibal Sanchez—As a Tiger, he’s been a pussycat: 1-3, 7.97 ERA since going to Detroit, 19 runs in 20.1 innings, and by the way he got lit up Monday, too.

Zack Greinke—Until he beat the Indians Tuesday night, Greinke came off a five-walk game and the Angels hadn’t won in his previous three starts since joining them.

Hunter Pence—Struggling when the Phillies dealt him to the Giants in the first place, Pence through Tuesday had a .445 OPS.

Ichiro Suzuki—The good news: He’s been a better Yankee than Mariner this season. The bad news: He’s not exactly pushing the Empire Emeritus closer to the top.

Jonathan Broxton—In four innings with Cincinnati, he’s burped up four runs. Not to mention one loss and one blown save in one of his gigs.

The good news? Hanley Ramirez isn’t putting up a better OPS in Los Angeles than he did in Miami, but he has driven in eighteen runs since joining the Dodgers. Omar Infante (to the Tigers) and Shane Victorino (to the Dodgers) are doing well in their new environs. Chris Johnson also has eighteen ribs since joining the Diamondbacks. And Paul Maholm, not exactly the most glittering name on the non-waiver trade block, has allowed only three runs in his first two Atlanta starts, building himself to a total of eight runs in his previous eight starts.

The Proverbial Change-of-Scenery: Just What Hanley Needed?

The proverbial change of scenery scenario is almost as old as Fenway Park. A player thought to be a secured ingredient in a team’s fortunes proves less enough of that, for various reasons, that when the team decides to let him walk into free agency, or makes a nebulous attempt to re-sign him, or trades him away, the team can’t resist thinking that the old change of scenery will do the player and, perhaps, the team a huge favour.

It works in individual ways. Kevin Youkilis, for example, has enjoyed a healthy mini-renaissance with the Chicago White Sox, almost from the moment he was all but run out of Boston, following an early season dust-up over Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine publicly questioning his heart when his field production began to collapse, not to mention an injury or three that further sapped his numbers, if not his spirit. Now Hanley Ramirez has launched himself to a reasonably respectable beginning with the Los Angeles Dodgers, to whom he was traded a few days ago, after all but being run out of Miami.

New beginning? Ramirez hits what proves a game-winning two-run bomb against the Giants Friday night . . .

Maybe the worst kept secret in baseball has been that Ramirez had become less than the glittering superstar he once looked to be, in hand with a disposition that could be described, charitably, as less than chipper. “Ramirez, for all his talent, was a player of diminishing production over the past few years, ultimately not up to the role of being the focal point around which a team could be built,” writes the Miami Herald‘s Greg Cote. “He had eroded from a budding superstar to a falling star. He was too often selfish and temperamental—his attitude well-reflected recently when he sliced his hand on the blade of a dugout fan he punched in anger, then suffered an infection because he failed to take his antibiotics.”

Among the Marlins themselves, who learned of the deal practically when they awoke Wednesday (the deal was done in the wee small hours), the reaction was rather well mixed. Jose Reyes, whom the Marlins signed to big money over the winter, told reporters it was like losing a brother, but another unnamed Marlin said Ramirez “pulled Reyes down with him.” Yet another Marlin who asked for anonymity told the Herald there were smiles enough, because a player coddled unreasonably was gone at last.

“They created a monster from a very good baseball player—gave him so much slack to do whatever the [expletive] he wanted because he was performing,’’ this player told the paper. “You can push some things aside when you’re hitting .340 with 40 home runs. You say ‘He’s a [jerk], but I can deal with it . . . But when you’re not playing and you’re trying to be that same [jerk], it starts rubbing people the wrong way.’’

Catcher John Buck showed a slightly different perspective. “That’s kind of what I heard when I got here—that he was a bad teammate,’’ he told the Herald. “But from the time I got here until now I can honestly say he became a better teammate without a doubt. When he left he was giving hugs to guys, and from what I hear it might not have happened in the past. It’s real easy to jump on the guy and say we got rid of the problem. That’s unfair to him. It wasn’t Hanley’s fault—the lack of him being a vocal leader or a cool guy to some guys in here — that we are losing. It’s ridiculous to put it on him. It’s on all of us.”

But not all the Marlins got themselves benched for non-hustling, as happened to Ramirez on more than one occasion. Fredi Gonzalez, who now manages the Atlanta Braves, may or may not have lost the same job with the Fish after he benched Ramirez for non-hustle in 2010. On the other hand, Gonzalez’s successor, Edwin Rodriguez, resigned last June after a losing streak abetted by Ramirez’s sluggish return following a back problem. Ramirez spoke warmly enough when Jack McKeon came out of retirement to manage the team the rest of 2011, but one of McKeon’s first acts back in the pilot’s chair was to bench Ramirez for a combination of non-hustle and being late for a team meeting.

And not all Marlins, as yet another player unwilling to attach his name to the comment, would have gotten away with Ramirez’s apparently overdoing his clubhouse music while under-doing any disappointment in the team’s losing and even treating team staff and assistants “like crap. You couldn’t pop off back at him or lay him on his [butt] for it. What’s going to happen? He’s going to stay here and I’m going to be gone.”

Wore out his welcome in New York, became useful player after . . .

That’s hardly a new story in the game, either. New York Mets fans may still remember dubious trades the club made in the latter 1980s and early 1990s, many involving players who were still more than useful but less than enraptured by phenom-turned-struggler Gregg Jefferies. Only when Jefferies had isolated himself in the clubhouse completely, while his production looked as though it would never live up to his former phenom billing, did the Mets move him onward. Only when Jefferies was away from his first organisation (and, perhaps, out of the New York glare, where every flaw is magnified and every shortcoming overanalysed), and from the furies that knobbled him, did he make himself into a useful major league player, slowly shedding his image as a spoiled brat, until injuries ground him down and out.

Buffeted in Philadelphia, he thrived awhile when he left . . .

The 1960s Philadelphia Phillies often swapped players who tangled with talented but troubled Dick Allen, who was seared by racism but badly mishandled his desperation to escape. Abetted by antics that would humble him to remember decades later, Allen finally got his wish at the end of 1969. He didn’t quite overcome his furies until after his baseball life ended, but Allen did remain a useful and often awe-inspiring player for awhile after leaving Philadelphia (he has a statistical Hall of Fame case, in fact), especially when—almost single-handledly—he yanked the 1972 Chicago White Sox into pennant contention, earning an MVP for his trouble, too.

Ramirez helped the Dodgers sweep the San Francisco Giants over the weekend, indicating a fine opening to his change-of-scenery scenario. His two-run bomb in the tenth inning Friday night provided the victory margin. If he made a fielding error during the set, it was a hustling error. He even looked more patient at the plate than he ever looked as a Marlin. Ramirez himself credits Dodger hitting instructor Manny Mota. He played, in other words, like anything but the guy about whom the Herald cited team officials and coashes as saying “he’s simply not a winner.”

Maybe he thinks he needed the change more than anyone else thought he did? Maybe Ramirez thought the Marlins and their too-frequent administrative chaos equaled non-winners? He hasn’t said anything yet, so far as is known at this writing. But maybe these Dodgers and their becalmed manager don’t mind non-vocal leadership so long as it’s leadership at all.

Hamels Stays Put, Hanley Does L.A.

Hamels.

Cole Hamels isn’t going anywhere. Not by the non-waiver trade deadline, not as a free agent after the season, not for six years. Just as reported widely enough the last few days, the Phillies landed the lefthander for a six-year, $144 million contract extension which includes a 2019 vesting option and a limited no-trade clause.

The deal makes Hamel the proud owner of the second-most lucrative deal for a pitcher in the Show, just ahead of Johan Santana (Mets) and behind CC Sabathia (Yankees). But the bottom line really came down to Hamels wanting to stay where he knew a fan base loved him and to emulate his boyhood hero, Tony Gwynn, and play his entire career for the same club if he could.

Ramirez.

Hanley Ramirez, on the other hand, has gone somewhere. Specifically, to the Dodgers, who acquired the Marlins’ testy infielder (along with pitcher Randy Choate) for rookie pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor league reliever Scott McGough. The Hanley-Being-Manny talk has begun in earnest, comparing a pair of outsize talents brought to Los Angeles in spite of their clubhouse-poison reputations. For the Dodgers, this deal might be worth it if a) Ramirez can regroup himself and provide a key bat and field presence down the stretch, and b) the agreeable atmosphere developed by manager Don Mattingly has an effect on him other than helping him revamp and re-enhance his hitting.

For the Marlins, whose apparent fire sale is less like their notorious past ones and more a straight-up rebuild (though with their owner you kind of have to assume there’s a worst in there, somewhere), they must be hoping Eovaldi becomes the number-three starter most see his potential as being. They must also be hoping McGough has more potential than a classic heat-and-slider reliever who can strike out the world when he’s not walking it. In Choate, the Dodgers get a classic lefthander-to-lefthander reliever who can shut down portside hitting but is at the mercy of righthanded hitters.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

BROKEN-ROD—Alex Rodriguez will be lost a month or two after he suffered a broken hand from a Felix Rodriguez pitch Tuesday night. King Felix lost his customary control and caught A-Rod at a time when his bat was continuing to re-heat. The Yankees—who’ve survived critical injuries to post baseball’s best record at this writing—are said to be looking at several options, including and (possibly) especially San Diego third baseman Chase Headley, who could bring the Padres a small load of solid prospects they can rebuild around while giving the Yankees a secure third base presence if A-Rod is heading more toward designated-hitting soon enough. Headley is locked up in a deal through 2014, and he may find the new Yankee Stadium a nicer hitting fit than the canyon known as Petco Park.

If the Padres don’t want to move Headley, the Yankees could be looking at such third base help as Scott Rolen (Cincinnati, though the Reds may not want to move him while Joey Votto’s on the DL and Rolen still has value for the Reds in the NL Central, but his injury history may cause the Yankees to think twice) or Marco Scutaro (though he’s more a shortstop, he does have third base experience and had a decent season for Boston last year).

SITUATION UPDATE: The Yankees say they have no intention of trading for a stand-in for A-Rod, with Eric Chavez stepping up to fill in.

Roberts.

TAT-MAN TRADED—Designated for assignment Tuesday (making room for John McDonald), a Ray Wednesday. The Diamondbacks traded Ryan “Tat-Man” Roberts—a fan favourite for his hustle, but a bouncer from minors to majors several seasons—to the Rays for minor league second baseman Tyler Bortnick. The deal sends Roberts from one race to another and gives the Rays a solid enough piece in Evan Longoria’s absence. Meanwhile, the Rays designated veteran Hideki Matsui—once a Yankee great (and the 2009 World Series MVP), now a fading star following an excellent career—for assignment to make room for the incoming Roberts.

SAFE AT HOME—The mother of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. is safe after she was found unharmed in her car following an abduction in which a man forced her into the car from her Aberdeen, Maryland home Tuesday morning. Vi Ripken (74) was found early Wednesday morning and gave police a description of her abductor.

The Trade Winds, Continued, and Other Sobrieties

Don’t look for Justin Upton to move at the non-waiver trade deadline . . . or any other time this season, say the Arizona Diamondbacks. “Close to a 100 percent chance nothing happens,” as team president Derrick Hall phrases it.

Upton.

Among the clubs thought to be interested in landing the talented outfielder—who hit 31 bombs, landed an .898 OPS, and placed fourth in the National League’s MVP voting in 2011 but broke slow out of the proverbial box this season—were the Toronto Blue Jays, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Atlanta Braves, the Detroit Tigers, and the Texas Rangers. For his part, Upton has a no-trade clause that lists the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Cleveland Indians as destinations he can block.

Hall insists there’s no urgency to make any deal.

We’re in no hurry to move this guy—nor do we think we need to. Everybody in this organization is open for discussion and conversation, including Justin Upton. If people call, we’re going to listen. We’ve had a lot of people call, and we’ve said, ‘No, thank you’ to all of them. That hasn’t changed.

Dempster.

Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, is saying no, thank you to a possible deal to the Braves right now. Or, to anyone else just yet. The Chicago Cubs righthander—whose scoreless innings streak made him one of the National League’s hottest pitchers for a good period—says he doesn’t want to move, if at all, without first weighing the entire picture:

I want to look everything over first before I make any decisions and I have time to do that. There’s a week before the trading deadline. That’s where I stand on it.

The Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers were two teams known to have had eyes for Dempster, at least for the coming stretch drives.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

Sanchez.

TIGERS GO FISHING—And land Anibal Sanchez (RHP) and Omar Infante (2B) in a swap for Jacob Turner (RHP) and including minor league competitive-balance picks, in a deal said to underline the Tigers’ hankering to win now. For Infante, it’s a homecoming: he played with the Tigers from 2002-07 before the Tigers swapped him as part of the Miguel Cabrera deal. The change of scenery may benefit Sanchez as well, since he has talent but has had trouble staying healthy. The Fish may not come out too badly in this deal, either, if Turner—who’s expected to go to Triple A for a spell—can horse the talent that has him well rated. The Tigers and the Marlins traded draft lottery picks, the Tigers getting a pick between rounds one and two next year and the Marlins getting one between rounds two and three.

This may only be the beginning, from the Marlins’ standpoint—Fox Sports is reporting the Fish may be opening a major fire sale, though with a different twist. They’ve been there before, most notoriously after winning the 1997 World Series, but this time the team seems to be admitting their all-in-on-payroll strategy of last winter didn’t work so well, either, in their case, and are looking now just to reshuffle a badly underachieving team. Infielder Hanley Ramirez is thought to be the Marlin most likely to go next (they tried to deal him to Boston last week; the Dodgers and the Athletics are thought to be interested), while Josh Johnson seems to be on the Los Angeles Angels’ radar. (The Angels had a scout watching Johnson work a magnificent start Monday; the Marlins, for their part, had a scout  in Anaheim, possibly watching Peter Bourjos.)

Duda.

DOWN WITH DUDA—Struggling New York Mets outfielder/first baseman Lucas Duda is going down to the Buffalo (AAA) farm to straighten out his batting stroke and his fielding positioning, after spending the season shuffling around the field and losing something from his swing. The plan is to let Duda play his normal positions at Buffalo (left field, first base) in a bid to fix himself.

Beat it!

BEAT IT!—Duda is going to have company going to Buffalo: relief pitcher Pedro Beato, who once looked like the Mets’ setup man of the future, is going to accompany him. Beato earned the demotion by torching the Mets—after getting a bases-loaded force out—when he relieved Tim Byrdak in the tenth Monday and the Washington Nationals jumped all over him for a bases loaded single (Bryce Harper, who’d cleared the fence early in the game), a three-run double (Ryan Zimmerman), a two-run homer (Michael Morse), and the first six-run extra inning the Mets had surrendered in their entire history. Beato’s implosion ruined a second straight turn of spotless relief prior by the Mets’ troubled bullpen. Meanwhile, closer Frank Francisco was given a cortisone shot in his troublesome knee in a continuing bid to get him back to shore up the pen, and prospect Matt Harvey—whose callup looked in doubt awhile after he was lit up pitching for Buffalo Saturday night—will join the Mets in time to square off against the Diamondbacks come Thursday.

Kendall—better than you thought?

GOODBYE—Says veteran catcher and three-time All-Star Jason Kendall, calling it a career just a week after he signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals organisation. Once thought to be a formidable catcher, Kendall was weakened by injuries over the years and missed the last month of 2010 and all of last season with shoulder surgery. Kendall spent his career with the Royals (2010), the Milwaukee Brewers (2008-09), the Cubs (2007), the Oakland Athletics (2005-07), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1996-2004), where he enjoyed his prime and made his three All-Star teams. Kendall retires as a fair-hitting catcher with a solid (.366) lifetime on-base percentage and difficulty striking out (he averaged 53 punchouts per 162 games), 38.3 wins above a replacement player (WAR), though he was about an average defencive catcher.

Believe it or not, Kendall registers a 108 on the Hall of Fame batting monitor devised by Bill James (the average Hall of Famer registers 100) and 38 percent of the Jamesian Hall of Fame batting standards. It won’t quite get him into Cooperstown, of course, but I bet you were surprised to remember he was as good as he was for most of his fifteen major league seasons.

At least one Kansas City teammate thinks Kendall was Hall of Fame caliber where it really mattered. Tweeted Billy Butler: [Kendall] was old school and played the game right & all while being a great dad.

OOPS!—One of the pieces the Red Sox took from the White Sox in their desperation to rid themselves of Kevin Youkilis has moved on. The Olde Towne Team sent Brent Lillibridge (who’s played every position on the field except pitcher or catcher, incidentally) to the Cleveland Indians for minor league pitcher Jose de la Torre. The Red Sox may yet get the better end of this deal: de la Torre was 8-1 with a 2.91 ERA in 34 games between AA and AAA before the deal.