No deal

Trade Aaron Rowand?

For who? For what?

Though he’s in the last year of his contract, has a reputation for being one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, and is having the best year of his career at the plate, Rowand’s name still persists in all of the trade banter relating to the Phillies in their push to add an arm to the thin pitching corps.

Rowand, needless to say, has heard the talk and was asked about it after he won last night’s game with a two-out, eighth inning solo home run and, frankly, he isn’t too concerned. If the Phillies are going to remain in the playoff race all the way up to the July 31 non-waivers trading deadline, it doesn’t make sense to deal away Rowand.

Why? Well, there’s the matter of his defense. When he first joined the Phillies Rowand went gap-to-gap as well as any centerfielder I had ever seen for the team. Of course he’s being compared to Doug Glanville, Marlon Byrd and Kenny Lofton, but the fact is Rowand can go get it. Plus, he has the scars to prove it.

There’s also the matter of his hitting and is place in the Phillies’ lineup. Because he hits fifth and offers “protection” for slugger Ryan Howard, Rowand is that much more important to the team’s playoff chances. Of course it doesn’t hurt that he’s ninth in the National League in batting average (.330) and on-base percentage (.400) and is on pace to drive in close to 100 runs.

Those numbers make it difficult for the opposition to pitch around Howard.

Still, the trade talk persists despite the Phillies maintaining that Rowand isn’t going anywhere as long as the team is in the race. Rowand doesn’t expect to go anywhere either.

“I expect to be here this season. If they end up trading me by the deadline it will be a surprise to me because I haven’t heard anything. Right now, I feel like I’m a part of this team and this team is the one I hopefully get to end the season with and play the postseason with. All of that stuff that is going to go on is going to go on in the off-season. It’s not going to be something that’s done during the regular season. I can tell you that right now.

“I’m concentrating on these guys right now. I’m concentrating on trying to win.”

Next year, though, is a different story.

***
Nobody asked but Antonio Alfonseca has done a pretty good job filling in for Tom Gordon/Brett Myers the last couple of months.

***
Stage 16 of the Tour de France is closing in on the final 10 kilometers of today’s final mountain stage and I just don’t feel like waiting until the end to summarize it. That’s a damn shame because this really should have been the most telling and dramatic day of the race where the champion is finally revealed in a beautiful sport in a race that is way more exciting than a football game.

The Tour de France is a lot like the Super Bowl except for instead of a bye week and a week of media hype, it’s 23 straight days of racing over unforgiving terrain. So yeah, today should have been The Day.

Instead, well, yeah…

It seems that the riders are a little peeved over what’s going on their sport as well. A bunch of riders staged a little protest this morning by standing still at the starting line when the stage began. A few riders started the race in earnest, namely Tour leader and accused doper Michael Rasmussen.

Could you imagine this happening in baseball? Suppose a pitcher refused to throw a pitch when Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi or any other admitted doper came to the plate. Better yet, why haven’t the rank and file members of the MLBPA staged a protest of some type?

Still, a full day after digesting the news regarding Vinokourov and the Astana team and the alleged positive test for injecting someone else’s blood, it’s still very difficult to wrap my head around it. The UCI – the cycling union – is clearly hell bent on destroying its sport and its riders’ reputations. The lab used by the Tour is – to be fair – really, really bad.

As for Vinokourov, if he did dope, what was he thinking? Didn’t he know that it wasn’t just his reputation and career at stake? Doesn’t he know that unlike other sports cycling doesn’t protect its dopers?

Regardless, it’s all very amazing. Imagine, as a frame of reference, that Alex Rodriguez tested positive in a doping test and the New York Yankees immediately cancelled their remaining games… that’s what happened yesterday with Vinokourov and Astana.

Anyway, Mayo, Leipheimer, Rasmussen and Contador are duking it out up the final climb of this year’s Tour. As long as Rasmussen doesn’t win, it’s OK.

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