And since we’re talking about bold trades…

Werth Since we like to be progressive and forward thinking here, and since we’ve been discussing wacky trade ideas over the last couple of days, maybe it’s time to discuss a topic that a lot of folks aren’t keen on talking about.

Yeah, leave it to me to be a buzz kill. Seeing as we’re in the midst of one of the two greatest eras in Phillies baseball history, it makes sense to want to sit back and enjoy the ride. After all, baring a major catastrophe the Phillies are going back to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row this October. That’s significant considering the franchise has more losses than any pro team in this hemisphere.

But citing that progressive, forward thinking and general manager who views his job as one in which he has to keep the team competitive even after the stars of this bunch have moved on (and the fact that he traded Cliff Lee in order to rebuild the farm), it just might be the time to do something extreme.

And by extreme I mean trade Jayson Werth.

Look, I know he’s a popular player, who very well might be coming into his prime and slated for a big season. Then again, Werth also has completed just one season where he didn’t have to share playing time with anyone, or spend time recovering from an injury. Of course he bashed 36 homers, had 99 RBIs and went to the All-Star Game in that one season, but that’s kind of beside the point.

There are a few interesting variables that make trading Werth now seem not so foolish. The biggest reason to do, of course, is his contract. Werth is in the final year of his contract and will be paid a salary of $7 million this season. This year, if he posts numbers even remotely close to the stats he produced in 2009 then he could command a pretty hefty deal as a free agent. Considering that Werth already has a World Series ring and had to wait until he was 29 until he played more than 102 games in a season, he might want to cash in.

One of the topics that were most on the minds of the fans and the scribes last winter was Werth’s potential affordability. Working under an obvious salary cap, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to get very creative in order to re-sign Werth to a deal greater than the $7 million he’s getting in 2010.

But Amaro has options. In fact, he has a 22-year-old star in the making that was just sent back to the minors after going 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs in a Grapefruit League game against star Justin Verlander and the Tigers. Oh yes, Domonic Brown has the type of talent that can make folks forget about Jayson Werth very quickly.

Though he hit .417 in his first big league camp, Brown was slated to spend the season at Triple-A in 2010. The guy needs to get his at-bats more than he needs to be sitting on the bench watching Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Werth play. Still, if there is an injury or a slump expect the Phillies to get a police escort to get Brown down the Turnpike from Allentown.

Dom_brown Of course the fear is rushing the kid, who very well could match the speed and power numbers of a young Darryl Strawberry or Reggie Jackson. Hey, there was a reason why the Phillies didn’t get Roy Halladay in July at the deadline and that reason was Dom Brown.

Conversely, the Phillies are notorious for making their top prospects sit in the minors longer than they should. Chase Utley didn’t stop looking over his shoulder until Placido Polanco was traded in 2005 and manager Larry Bowa, against his will, was forced to send him back to Triple-A in 2004 so Doug Glanville could take the last bench spot.

When he wasn’t being mentioned in trade talks with whatever pitcher Pittsburgh felt like trading away at the moment, Ryan Howard had to wait for Jim Thome to get injured before he got a legit shot in the big leagues. Yet when that day finally came, Howard was closing in on his 26th birthday.

There’s no way Brown is going to be in the minors when he’s 25. Shoot, there’s probably not much chance that he’ll be in the minors when he’s 24, either. I imagine if Brown was in any other organization that hadn’t been to the World Series two years in a row or had three outfielders in last summer’s All-Star Game, he might already be playing in the Majors.

So here’s the idea: since Amaro said he traded Cliff Lee was to replenish the minor league system that saw seven of its top 10 players traded, maybe Werth could be dealt for a prospect or two. Of course if he leaves via free agency and is labeled as Type A, the Phillies will get a compensatory draft pick(s), which will help. If Werth is gone for 2011 and Ibanez is headed for his last year on his deal, the Phillies are going to need some reinforcements in order to remain competitive.

At least in the meantime, Brown is nearly ready to take over and he’ll cost perhaps $10 million less than Werth.

Family history repeating itself?

Drabeks Selected in the 11th round of the 1983 draft, Doug Drabek was the property of four different organizations before his son Kyle was born in 1987. In fact, Doug’s rights were held by the Twins, White Sox and Yankees before he made his Major League debut.

So it’s kind of interesting that the son of the 1990 NL Cy Young Award winner and first-round draft pick of the Phillies in 2006 is in such an interesting spot. Kyle’s dad was once the proverbial player-to-be-named-later. No one ever coveted Doug Drabek as a minor leaguer until he actually got to the big leagues and proved he could pitch.

And pitch he did.

From 1988 to 1993, Doug tossed at least 219 innings and averaged 245 innings per season, counting the playoffs. He also never missed a start during that six-year span, won 71 games and finished in the top 5 in the Cy Young balloting three times.

The older Drabek was The Horse of the rotation that Charlie Manuel always talks about. He was the type of pitcher that gave the manager, pitching coach and bullpen a break every five days.

Now here’s where it gets interesting – when Doug Drabek was his son’s age (21), he was dealt from the White Sox to the Yankees organization and got a promotion from Single-A to Double-A. The following year (1985), Drabek spent the entire year in Double-A before starting ’86 in Triple-A for a handful of games.

At age 24, Doug Drabek was in the big leagues for good. For six years of his 12-season career he was one of the best pitchers in the National League, though hardly a Hall of Famer. After he signed a big free-agent deal with the Astros, Drabek won just 42 more games in the big leagues and by 1998, the career was over.

He was just 35.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Roy Halladay pitches until he is 35. That means he has three more years to go, which, if history (the Phillies, family and natural development) is an indicator, three years should be the time when Kyle Drabek is in the big leagues for good.

That is if he stays healthy long enough to make it to the big leagues.

Comparisons between father and son are inevitable. Why not … it’s easy. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, they say, and besides, Doug Drabek was a really good pitcher until the end. However, it seems as if the only thing the Drabeks have in common when it comes to pitching is that they both are right-handed and have the same last name.

Otherwise, Doug Drabek was crafty. He struck out a bit more than five hitters (5.7) per nine innings in the Majors and had roughly the same ratio (5.4) in the minors. Doug was efficient as a pitcher. He threw a sinker and made the most of his pitches. Even when he was racking up more 250 innings per season, Doug never averaged more than 109 pitches per game.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com This season Kyle Drabek has 118 strikeouts in 122 innings. He’s has a big fastball which he used to rack up 74 whiffs in 61 2/3 inning in his first crack at advanced Single-A for Clearwater. More importantly, the injury issues seem to be behind the 21-year-old and he made the transition to Double-A rather seamlessly.

In other words, the kid knows how to pitch. So much so that Manuel didn’t compare him to his dad, but to another hard-throwing right-hander…

Try Tom Seaver.

“It'd be tough for me to trade Drabek,” Manuel said. “I like Drabek because he's strong in his legs and his hips and he's a drop-and-drive kind of pitcher. I'm not a pitching coach but I like his mechanics and I like where he comes from and he's a strong-bodied kid, like a Tom Seaver type or a Bartolo Colon, and he's got that kind of stuff. And he's young, and I think he has a big upside to him.”

But Roy Halladay… name three pitchers in the big leagues that are better than him. If Manuel wants The Horse, there he is. In fact, Halladay could get traded to the National League tomorrow and still likely get votes for the AL Cy Young Award. If Halladay were to join the Phillies and spend the remainder of his contract in Philly, a three-peat is not an unreasonable thought.

So here it is – what should the Phillies do?

• Bank on a can’t-miss kid with the pedigree and big right arm.

• Go for the short-term glory because titles come twice in 126 years in these parts.

Certainly they are tough questions and one that might keep general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. awake at night. But is there a wrong answer? Is this a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t situation?

Anyone have a crystal ball?

Glorious Bastardo

image from fingerfood.typepad.com We love big-league debuts. Better yet, we really love comparing the debuts of Phillies pitchers over the recent past. So with Antonio Francisco Bastardo (how fun is it to say that name?) set to make his big-league debut tonight in San Diego against Jake Peavy, what better excuse to dig up the digits from some of the more notable opening nights for some Phillies starting pitchers.

More interestingly, it’s kind of ironic that Bastardo, the 23-year-old lefty, is facing Peavy in his debut – what with all the trade talk and all. Who knows, maybe the pitchers of tonight’s game will be traded for one another.

Crazier things have happened, right?

Nevertheless, here are a few of the more notable debuts of Phillies draft picks:

Kyle Kendrick vs. White Sox on June 13, 2007: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K for a ND

Scott Mathieson vs. Devil Rays on June 17, 2006: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K for Loss

Cole Hamels vs. Reds on May 12, 2006: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 7 K for ND

Gavin Floyd vs. Mets on Sept. 3, 2004: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 K for Win

Brett Myers at Cubs on July 24, 2002: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K for Win

Brandon Duckworth vs. Padres on Aug., 7, 2001: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K for Win

David Coggin at Expos on June 23, 2000: 6 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 4 K for Win

Randy Wolf vs. Blue Jays on June 11, 1999: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K for Win

Carlton Loewer vs. Cubs on June 14, 1998: 9 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K for Win

Counting down to the deadline

WASHINGTON – We’re back here in The District and man is it ever steamy. It’s just flat-out hot and humid, which kind of makes sense seeing as they built the city on top of a swamp.

Generally, swamps are warm. I try to avoid them.

But I don’t try to avoid Washington, D.C. Despite the unpleasant weather and the oppressive humidity, it’s far and away the best city in the NL East. There is just so much to do and so much going on that it isn’t hard to believe that folks stay away from Nationals’ games in droves.

Word around the campfire is that a few members of the Phillies traveling party took in the Spy Museum this afternoon.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Spy Museum… I haven’t been there yet. A few months ago, my four-year old and I hit the National Museum of Natural History, followed by lunch at Old Ebbitt’s and then a full afternoon in the National Air & Space Museum.

It was a nice touristy afternoon for this self-described native that we’re sure to repeat as soon as possible.

Anyway, here’s a fun fact about our nation’s history: Back when the Continental Congress was figuring out where to locate the permanent capital, a little down in Pennsylvania called Wright’s Ferry decided to lobby for the gig. Figuring its location along the banks of the mighty Susquehanna River that separates York and Lancaster counties was perfectly located and easy for delegates from the other colonies, Wright’s Ferry challenged for the privilege to be capital.

First things first… Wright’s Ferry had to do something about its name. It needed something catchy or something that befit a burgeoning nation. Therefore, in 1789 Wright’s Ferry changed its name to Columbia.

Perfect, huh? With a name like Columbia, how could the little town on the western edge of Lancaster County go wrong?

Location? Check.

Infrastructure? Check.

People of influence on its side like George Washington? Check.

Name? Done, done, done and done.

Nevertheless, southern states Maryland and Virginia carved out a rectangle of unwanted swamp land along the Anacostia and Potomac rivers not too far from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Next thing the folks in Columbia, Pa. knew the District of Columbia had edged it out by one vote and the rest is history.

Some influence that George Washington had, huh?

Anyway, since it had the name and the location, Columbia attempted to become the capital of Pennsylvania. Again, it had the location, the name but maybe not the influential supporters. Instead, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania went with the more centrally located Harrisburg to be the seat of its government.

Since then, Columbia became most well known for burning down the bridge connecting it to Wrightsville in York County (called the Wright’s Ferry bridge – picture above) to ward off the approaching Confederate Army in 1864. As a result of this act, the Confederates and Union armies got together in Gettysburg for one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

And perhaps once again, Columbia missed out on centuries worth of historical fame.

***
Otherwise, all is quiet here in The District as the trading deadline looms. Oh sure, the rumors are flying around like crazy with all sorts of interesting names. Suffice it to say, those names belong to left-handed relief pitchers.

But rumors are the domain of the weak-willed who cannot find the truth. If we can be called anything it must be that we are seekers of truth here at the little web site that could (be ignored).

Therefore, we will arrogantly tell you, the reader, to go elsewhere to learn about Ron Mahay, John Grabow, Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson, Jack Taschner, Brian Fuentes, George Sherrill or anyone else.

I’m not saying anything.

But I will say that Shane Victorino had a good time joking about his chances of sticking with the Phillies past the July 31 trading deadline. As the digital clock in the clubhouse here at the soon-to-be named Exxon (Nationals) Park rolled over to 5 p.m., Victorno shouted that he had 47 hours to go until the deadline.

The clock is ticking.

That’s OK, we’ll take him

The trading deadline came and went without too much fanfare for the Phillies, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t make a little bit of noise. Aside from adding Tadahito Iguchi last weekend to replace Chase Utley, as well as starting pitcher Kyle Lohse to bolster the starting rotation, general manager Pat Gillick traded with Seattle for reliever Julio Mateo for minor leaguer Jesus Merchan.

For the interim the Phillies have sent Mateo to Double-A Reading until he’s needed with the Phillies. So how come the Phillies just don’t send Mateo to Triple-A Ottawa to face more capable hitters before returning to the Majors?

Besides, Mateo can’t go to Canada because he is waiting to go to court on Sept. 4 for his third-degree domestic assault charge in which the story in The Associated Press describing the arrest noted that Mateo’s wife needed five stitches on her mouth. In other words, the law is keeping close tabs on the new Phillie.

Needless to say some web sites and others in the media had a little fun at the Phillies’ expense in discussing the move for Mateo. On Deadspin, the crème de la crème of sports blogs, the headline was, “The Phillies got another wife beater to hang out with Brett Myers.” Sure, it’s a little inaccurate, but the point is duly noted. The Phillies didn’t exactly go out and get a model citizen.

It’s doubtful that Mateo will have any influence at all with the current Phillies, though. After all, the strongest personalities in the clubhouse are also solid guys. Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are names one will never see in the police blotter. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels has grown up a lot since his brawl outside of a bar in Florida before the 2005 season.

Here’s the interesting part about Mateo and perhaps shows a difference between the Mariners and the Phillies. Though the reliever was 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in nine appearances this season for Seattle, team general manager Bill Bavasi suspended Mateo for 10 days without pay following his arrest in Manhattan in May. Moreover, Bavasi said there was no way that Mateo would ever pitch for the Mariners again following that incident aggressively looked to trade him.

Even though Mateo pitched well in Triple-A, Bavasi stuck to his guns.

“Our approach with him was that it would be better for us and for him if he broke back in elsewhere. And he didn’t fight that idea,” Bavasi said, while declining to detail what led the Mariners to conclude that. “It was collaborative effort to get him a new home.”

Meanwhile, Brett Myers was allowed to pitch for the Phillies only hours after being let out of the lockup following his arrest for a domestic incident in Boston in June of 2006. It was only after a loud public outcry that Myers was allowed to take a “leave of absence” from the Phillies.

Mateo, who turns 30 on Thursday, is 18-12 with two saves and a 3.68 ERA in 219 games over six seasons in Seattle. He had a 0.79 ERA in 24 games at Triple-A Tacoma, allowing just three earned runs in 34 1-3 innings. Opponents batted just .200 against him. Those numbers indicate that he is a pretty good pitcher – perhaps even just as good or better than Myers.

Nevertheless, the Mariners weren’t interested in having a player heading back to court for a domestic abuse charge on their roster… regardless of how good his numbers were.

“We treat it seriously,” Gillick said, according to AP. “We’re very aware of the situation.”

But apparently it isn’t a serious enough issue to pass on the trade. After all, the Phillies don’t have to go to Canada at all this season.

***
The injuries continue to mount for the Phillies. Along with Utley’s hand and Ryan Madson’s case of Brett Myers 2 1/2 –month-shoulder-strainitis, Michael Bourn is out after injuring his ankle tripping over the bullpen mound that is on the field along the first-base side at Wrigley, while Shane Victorino had a slight tear of his calf muscle.

According to the Phillies, Victorino’s injury is less severe than Bourn’s sprained left ankle, but as someone who deals with chronic calf problems let me tell you that I don’t necessarily agree. For one thing the calf muscle is the engine that serves as the anchor of the leg muscles. It is from the calf that the hamstring and the Achilles get their power. Any athlete who runs knows that all calf injuries are serious. I’m certainly no doctor but I’ll be very surprised if Madson and Victorino make it back before the end of August.

***
Jemele Hill of ESPN.com wrote a story in which she wondered what American professional sports would look like if they had a drug testing policy like cycling. Hill writes:

Had the NFL had the same rigorous testing as cycling, the Carolina Panthers might have showed up for Super Bowl XXXVIII a little shorthanded. As it turned out, several Panthers reportedly used performance-enhancing drugs during the 2003 season, and two of them allegedly had prescriptions for steroids filled right before they appeared in the Super Bowl. And while we can make all the jokes we want about Floyd Landis, last year’s Tour champion, the most glorified record in American sports is on the verge of being shattered by a man with numerous ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Tour officials already don’t recognize Landis as the champion and are pushing the United States Anti-Doping Agency to strip Landis of the title. Bud Selig wishes he had such an option with Barry Bonds.

And:

What Americans would never, ever want to do is what cycling officials did. We would never want to let a band of doping experts loose on American athletes. We are far too comfortable being entertained by dirty athletes to want to see any real cleansing take place.

Just imagine if the same vigilant testers used in cycling set up shop in American pro sports leagues. How many times would we read about American athletes being busted for performance-enhancing drugs on the ESPN crawl?

That’s an uncomfortable discussion. That’s why despite the blustering and grandstanding with all the major sports leagues on Capitol Hill, they would be unlikely to sanction a universal system that would require random testing of pro athlete.

Amen.

Meanwhile, two more riders are implicated in doping scandals. Basque Iban Mayo failed a test for EPO (there’s a test for EPO?!) and Tour de France champ Alberto Contador as been linked to doping by a German doctor.

The best would-be cycling writer in the U.S., Bob Ford, offered this one in today’s Inquirer.

Wheeling and dealing

Despite telling everyone that they were sure if there would be any players on the trade market to deal for, the Phillies went out and added a little bit of depth to their waifishly thin rotation.

Just as a few of those rumors and rumblings and grumblings indicated, the Phillies snagged right-hander Kyle Lohse from the Cincinnati Reds for Double-A left Matt Maloney. From a quick gloss over it looks as if the Phillies didn’t really give up much to get a veteran pitcher who has been to the playoffs three times, but general manager Pat Gillick told the gang in Chicago that he wasn’t too jazzed about dealing away Maloney.

“We’re not happy about that. We liked the Double-A pitcher. But you have to give up something to get something,” Gillick said. “As I said, he’s got experience and he takes his turn and he’s been in the postseason with Minnesota. With Madson going down, we needed somebody to pick up the slack and give us a little more depth in our pitching staff.”

Incidentally, both Lohse and the newly acquired second baseman Tadahito Iguchi both can be free agents at the end of the season. However, in the long-term outlook for both players in Philadelphia, Gillick is living in the now.

“We’re concentrating on 2007 not about 2008,” he said.

That, of course, is a far cry from last year on this date when Gillick traded away Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, David Bell and Rheal Cormier and proclaimed the team was two years away.

At any rate Gillick made the trip with the team and is working on trying to add a reliever though says it will difficult to do so. In the meantime the Phillies have to subtract a player from the roster when Lohse arrives. My bet is that Clay Condrey gets designated for assignment and J.D. Durbin is shifted to the bullpen.

We’ll burn that bridge when we cross it

It will be interesting to see what the Phillies do with their bench when Jayson Werth is ready to return. Interesting, I guess, in what it means for Chris Coste. Coste, of course, is owner of the best story going on in baseball and has contributed greatly not only to the Phillies’ playoff run last year, but also to this year’s charge as well.

Yet for whatever reason the Phillies’ brass – namely general manager Pat Gillick and his assistant Ruben Amaro – don’t seem to like Coste. Why? Good question. Maybe it’s because he sticks at it when everyone else would have quit a long time ago. Or maybe Amaro prefers players from big-time college programs that make it to the Majors on reputation and bounce around for nearly a decade and post less than mediocre numbers?

Whatever the reason, another trip back to the minors doesn’t seem fair for Coste. In his last four games last week Coste went 3-for-6 with a homer and seven RBIs. In July, Coste is hitting .343 in 13 games.

Conversely, Rod Barajas, the backup catcher who came in as a backstop to handle the bulk of the work for $3 million, hasn’t had a hit in more than two weeks and is 3-for-16 this month.

Sounds like manager Charlie Manuel has more confidence in a minor-league lifer making the league minimum as opposed to a guy making big, free-agent money. Worse, the Phillies have a .332 career hitter and they might not want him.

Either way it seems as if Coste is like ice cream and what weirdo doesn’t like ice cream?

***
With the non-waiver trading deadline set for tomorrow at 4 p.m., perhaps the Phillies will deal Coste for some pitching. At least then he would be going to a team that actually wants him. More importantly, the Phillies really, really need pitching with Ryan Madson headed for the disabled list and big holes in the starting rotation.

So far all we have are rumors – and it looks like I added to it by invoking Coste’s name – and nothing concrete. The rumor mill seems to be a cottage industry in the sports reporting business these days. Everyone loves reading about things that may or might not be happening or even true for some reason and there are a lot of people out there who have made careers about spreading disinformation.

It’s information, but it’s not really information. Like junk food… you know, what Ken Rosenthal does…

Wait, was that my out loud voice again?

Anyway, rumors bore me, especially when it’s so easy to find out facts and truth. But then again I’m a really bad sports fan so there you go.

I’ll give you this, though – call it a secret of the trade: if you read one of those rumors where it’s prefaced with the phrase, “sources say,” it’s a load of crap. The so-called “source” is probably a guy hanging around the press box or something.

Man, do those sources like to talk and boy or boy do they ever come in handy.

***
The Phillies head to Chicago for four days to face the surging Cubs at Wrigley Field tonight. The consensus around the press box is that Chicago is the favorite stop on the circuit and Wrigley, despite its not-so modern amenities, is everyone’s favorite ballpark.

Perhaps Chicago is best described as, “kind of like New York, but clean.”

I think of it like Japan where they take all of the good ideas from everyone else and make it look nicer. In Chicago they did it with pizza, too. New York pizza is far superior to the Chicago style, but they made it just a tad more interesting in The Windy City.

Either way, it will be a fun-filled four days for the scribes before heading off to Milwaukee for the weekend.

***
The Tour de France finally (and mercifully) came to a close yesterday with Alberto Contador called the winner and his Discovery Channel teammate and American Levi Leipheimer 31 seconds behind in third place.

(If anyone remembers — and who wouldn’t? — I predicted a Leipheimer victory in the Tour over Vinokourov and Sastre.)

Certainly it appears as if the real drama in cycling will occur between now and the next Tour de France as the cycling union, anti-doping agencies and Amaury Sports Organization (the company that owns both the Tour de France and the newspaper, L’Equipe) pick at the carcass of the sport to gain total control.

It’s not going to be pretty.

Either way, the telecast of the Tour ended in a rather apropos manner yesterday when Lance Armstrong, with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen in Paris, departed the air and seemingly took the video along with him.

Yeah, that’s right, the last miles of the Tour were coming to a head and no one in the United States could see it.

Meanwhile it’s worth noting that Armstrong is in Paris celebrating with his Discovery Channel team and Floyd Landis is in Vail, Colo. preparing for the big race in the Leadville 100 on Aug. 11.

That race, friends, is going to be the highlight of cycling in 2007.

***
Needless to say, Armstrong’s appearance on the telecast of yesterday’s final day of the Tour was interesting. Perhaps the comment most intriguing (to me) was when Lance was asked what he missed the most about professional cycling. He told Liggett and Sherwen that he missed being “super fit” and the training lifestyle, which he compared to being monastic in that all one did was ride, eat and sleep. But he didn’t miss racing, which makes sense to me… training like hell is a blast, but the pressure of competing can be a drag sometimes. I imagine the pressure for Armstrong was pretty intense.

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.

Buying or selling?

As we enter the last week of June, thoughts typically turn to things like training for a fall marathon, the summer road racing circuit and the Tour de France (me); or the big Fourth of July picnic, the family vacation and which players from the local team will make the All-Star Game (normal people).

But the start of July also means selling and buying in the chic parlance for certain baseball clubs. In that regard, are the Phillies selling, buying or both? Even though they enter the homestand against the Reds and the hated New York Mets just three games off the pace in the NL East, it seems like a fair question.

Clearly the Phillies need pitching help and that fact has nothing to do with the statistics or anything else. It has to do with other types of numbers, such as the Phillies only have three starting pitchers with any real Major League experience and that glut in the rotation that once saw Jon Lieber and Brett Myers moved to the bullpen is gone.

It’s funny how that happens.

Nevertheless, the Phillies are facing a crucial portion of their schedule with Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick holding down spots in the rotation. With 13 games in 13 days and just one day off between now and the All-Star Break, the Phillies can probably get by with one of their arms in the minors, but chances are that won’t get them to the playoffs.

That means if the Phillies are serious about breaking the streak of Octobers spent at home, a trade should be in the offing.

But there are a lot of other teams looking for the same type of pitching as the Phillies, too. The Mets, for instance, are said to be looking to add an arm or two and will spend what it takes to do so – after all, simply making the playoffs is not an accomplishment for the Mets.

The Red Sox and Yankees will probably be foraging for some pitching as well, which means that if the Phillies want someone, say, like Mark Buehrle, it will cost them.

Maybe it will cost them something like Aaron Rowand.

Trading Rowand for pitching help didn’t seem like that huge of a deal at the beginning of the season, but now things have changed. For one thing it’s hard to say what type of pitcher Rowand could get for the Phillies, and for another thing, the centerfielder is the only right-handed hitting threat the team has.

If only they could trade Pat Burrell for something like reimbursement on the transportation to get him out of town…

While Rowand has rated at the top of the list amongst National League outfielders in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS, Burrell has been simply horrible. In 71 games Burrell is hitting .205 and is on pace to hit just 18 homers with 69 RBIs and to strike out 111 times. Since the start of May, Burrell is 21-for-133 (.158) with 13 extra-base hits and 31 strikeouts.

Worse, against lefties the right-handed Burrell is hitting just .155, so why Charlie Manuel continues to put him in the lineup is simply foolhardy.

Aside from the $13.25 million salary for this season, Burrell’s nearly non-existent production could end up costing the Phillies someone valuable like Aaron Rowand.

***
If you’re looking for the Phillies to go after Rangers’ reliever Eric Gagne to shore up the bullpen, stop right now. According to published reports, the Phillies are one a handful of teams on Gagne’s do-not-trade list.

***
Our current obsession, Floyd Landis, kicks off his book tour tomorrow with an appearance on the CBS Morning Show and Late Night with David Letterman. From there Floyd stays in Manhattan for a reading/signing at the Bryant Park Reading Room along with one-time CSN.com columnist John Eustice on June 27.

Also on the 27th, Floyd hits Ridgewood, N.J. before going to Huntington, N.Y. on the 28th.

Then comes the big stop… Lancaster!

There is a reason Led Zeppelin never came to Lancaster and it has nothing to do with the fact there wasn’t a venue big enough to accommodate them…

***
Speaking of the Tour, if I was pressed right now I’d predict Alexandre Vinokourov will win, but don’t sleep on Montana’s Levi Leipheimer.

In the need of relief

After looking at the names above the lockers in the Phillies’ clubhouse on Friday night it’s obvious that the team really needs another reliever or two. Because of the roster moves made on Friday where Jon Lieber and Freddy Garcia were placed on the disabled list retroactive to March 23, it seems very likely that Zach Segovia, the second-round draft pick from 2002 who missed all of 2004 recovering from Tommy John surgery, will make the Opening Day roster despite never having pitched above Double-A.

Of course there are a lot of successful big league pitchers who never pitched in Triple-A and Segovia could be one of them based on his solid numbers in 2006. But is Segovia a pitcher on a playoff-bound team in 2007? Maybe he is though it seems evident that the Phillies’ brass would rather have a complimentary arm or two.

As Ruben Amaro Jr. said while standing in the middle of a veritable rugby-esque scrum of baseball scribes, “The fact we’re going to have Opening Day on Monday for us doesn’t mean we’re going to stop working. We’re going to continue to try and improve our club. We feel comfortable with what we have right now and actually, the bullpen has thrown very well lately. They get a chance to hold down their jobs.”

Meanwhile, here’s what the authors of the Baseball Prospectus 2007 yearbook say about the Blue Jays’ Francisco Rosario, the reliever reported to be the subject of trade talks:

Once considered a high-upside guy, Francisco Rosario has had his share of arm troubles and has gotten older without the upside coming around, but he could be salvaged as a decent arm out of the bullpen if he maintains the uptick in control he experienced with Syracuse last year.

More observations and notes
Cole Hamels gave up four home runs to the Red Sox on Friday night, but he didn’t look all that bad. The telling at-bat was when the lefty had Manny Ramirez in a 0-2 hole, seemingly had him struck out on a 1-2 curve before giving up a 3-2 homer that sailed over the right-field fence like a waffle ball gently clearing a hedge in a suburban yard.

Afterwards, Hamels said he was just working on some stuff.

“I’m just throwing pitches on counts that I normally wouldn’t,” Hamels said, noting that he threw 20-plus pitches in each of the first two innings. “I think along the lines of throwing fastballs in fastball hitters’ counts, which is just something that will help me in the long run.”

***
This is the fourth season for Citizens Bank Park, which is one year more than the amount of time I spent covering games at the Vet… how did that happen? Regarding the Bank, I’ve received a number of e-mails from readers suggesting I post reviews of the cheese steaks and other concessions at the park. I assume these suggestions are serious so I’ll just start by noting that I’m one of those annoying vegetarians that leans toward the organic side of dining. That said, I was informed that Rick’s Steaks, the cheese steakery located on Ashburn Alley now serves something they call a “veggie” cheese steak, which I assume is not a steak at all. Besides, all vegetarians want to eat food that almost tastes like dead animal carcasses. I assume my sarcasm font works…

Nevertheless, I will walk out to Rick’s and give it a try at some point and tell everyone all about it.

***
I just heard Gary Matthews work with Harry and Wheels for the first time…

***
If more evidence of the Philadelphia print media was needed, it seemed to be proven this week in its relative neglect of Ted Leo’s arrival in town to kick off his much-heralded tour of the U.S. and Europe. I say much-heralded based on the almost ridiculous amount of coverage for a performer of Leo’s ilk and political stance. Outlets like NPR produced long interviews and even presented a web cast of his show in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night, while the The New York Times, Washington Post, New York Observer, and The Onion AV Club (just to name a few) have offered glowing a full reports on the new album and tour.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia – hometown of sumptuously tufted drummer Chris Wilson – there are crickets. Actually, that’s not true or even fair. There were six or seven paragraphs in two of the town’s papers, which includes all the local shoppers and “alternative” weeklies.

Anyway, here’s the MP3 of the NPR show at the 9:30 Club in D.C. Sounded like it was a good time.

More: NPR Interview
More: A.V. Club

Winds of change?

At first it looked like nothing more than a Tasters Choice moment between a couple of guys hanging around the batting cages at the ol’ ballpark in Dunedin. Better yet, just a couple of old pros – one a legend in the game after decades of leading all of his teams to the playoffs and the other a younger innovator who subscribes to the modern methods – talking shop and kicking around a few ideas before the start of a new season.

But with Pat Gillick work something that occurs like breathing. Sure, it might look like he’s simply standing there by himself and staring off into the bright Florida sunshine while the seabirds swoop and swoon overhead, but he’s really working. Just standing there like that he’s doing about 20 things that the casual observer would never notice.

J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and Gillick’s pal on that day last week around the batting cages in Dunedin, knows this. He’s heard the stories and knows the legend of Pat Gillick. After all, he’s the measuring stick for all who go to work for Blue Jays.

Be that as it is, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a BBWAA card holder to realize that there are some trade winds swirling around the Phillies’ camp in Clearwater. Perhaps all it takes is a quick glance at the Phillies’ roster and the box scores from Grapefruit League action to know that the team needs some help getting people out. And with the season set to begin in a little more than three weeks, Gillick needs to get his pitching staff together.

According to published reports, Aaron Rowand and Jon Lieber are the names the Phillies are floating out there, though losing Rowand for relief pitching leaves the team with a big hole in the outfield. A deal in which Lieber went to the Jays for outfielder Alex Rios had surfaced, but Ricciardi rejected it… with impugnity.

From Peter Gammons:

Right now Geoff Geary (7-1, 2.96), Antonio Alfonseca, Ryan Madson and Matt Smith comprise Gordon’s supporting cast. No, says Manuel, Myers is not going to the bullpen, but they have been looking at other relievers, including San Diego’s Scott Linebrink. One rumor in the scouts’ section would have sent Jon Lieber to Toronto, Alex Rios to the Padres and Linebrink to Philadelphia, but the Toronto folks shot that down. They say when they were approached about Rios, they asked for Myers, and have no interest in swapping a potential All-Star outfielder for Lieber.

From Buster Olney:

About some of the trade stuff going on so far: The Phillies-Jays talks regarding pitching Jon Lieber and outfielder Alex Rios are completely dead. “They (the Jays) aren’t trading Rios for Lieber,” one talent evaluator said flatly.

However, heard some rumblings about a possible fit between the Rangers and Phillies involving Lieber, and as Joe Cowley wrote Friday, the Phillies are talking with the White Sox about Aaron Rowand.

Something is gonna happen.

Rowand deal off

There were a few (published) rumors coming from San Diego that indicated the Phillies and Padres were talking about a deal that was to include centerfielder Aaron Rowand for the Padres’ reliever Scott Linebrink. Apparently, those talks have flamed out.

Interestingly, I asked a couple of people with the Phillies about the rumored deal and they had no idea what I was talking about.

Go figure.

Trading Burrell is linchpin to big winter

Pat Gillick and the Phillies are like an airplane loaded with passengers but still sitting at the gate. Everything has been checked and double-checked, everyone’s seatbelt is fastened and luggage is safely stowed in the overhead compartment.

All Gillick needs to is the OK from the control tower and he’s set for take off.

Kind of.

When the free-agency period begins on Nov. 12, Gillick and the Phillies are expected to woo Washington Nationals’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano, likely the biggest name on the winter market. On the strength of his 40-40 season in 2006 (46 homers and 41 stolen bases), the Phillies are said to be prepared to offer Soriano $80 million over five seasons, and then plunk him down in the middle of the batting order between lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The thought is that Soriano can both provide protection for the sluggers as well as fortify a lineup that has scored more runs than any National League team over the past two seasons.

“We could use some depth in the middle of the order,” Gillick said.

Even without Soriano the Phillies are formidable offensively. Howard, one of the top two MVP candidates on the strength of his 58-homer season in 2006, is the anchor of the murderer’s row that featured four players that swatted at least 25 homers and drove in 83 runs. Besides that, Gillick and manager Charlie Manuel are both very high on Shane Victorino, a young outfielder who appeared in 153 games in many roles last season.

Offense? Yeah, the Phillies have that.

So why do they feel the need to make it better with Soriano instead of pursuing a starter to fill out the rotation or a set-up man for closer Tom Gordon? After all, Manuel told said that he would prefer to have a backend reliever who has experience as a closer to fill out the bullpen. That’s where free agents Joe Borowski and David Weathers enter the picture. According to published reports and sources, the Phillies have eyed the relievers as possible set-up men for 2007.

On top of that, Gillick said that he wants to re-sign free agent starter Randy Wolf to round out the rotation that features lefties Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, as well as Jon Lieber and Brett Myers. Gillick says he’s hopeful that the Phillies can work out a deal with Wolf.

“Hopeful, but not optimistic,” the GM said.

“This is the first opportunity he’s ever had for free agency so I think he wants to kick the tires and see if the grass is greener.”

The grass may be greener, but for how long? The mood around the media luncheon in Citizen Bank Park’s Hall of Fame Club overlooking the pastoral and eerily quiet ball diamond was that the Phillies weren’t simply going to make bids for players, cross their fingers and hope they get their man. Nope, Gillick and the gang emitted an aura that they were in control of the situation and were confident that they will add the bat into the middle of the lineup, get that fifth starter, and find a suitable set-up man or two to anchor the bullpen.

Really? The Phillies? Didn’t they once describe themselves as a small-market team not so long ago?

“I think our ownership and CEO are pretty practical. Anything we bring to them that makes sense, not only for the short term, but the long term, I don’t think they’ll be reluctant to make the move,” Gillick said. “But it has to make sense. If you have to make a commitment you have to figure that player is going to figure for you for whatever time you’re obligated. If you have to give somebody four years and you only get three years, that’s one thing. But if you give somebody four years and you only get one, that’s a different story.”

So the hot-stove is heating up for the Phillies. Signing Soriano should be a piece of cake, right? Five years without a no-trade clause should do it?

“You can’t ever be sure,” Gillick said. “But when you make these decisions, are you going to be in love with this guy a year from now as much as you’re in love with him right now? That’s a decision you’re going to have to make. I don’t know a lot of people that I want to be in love with for five years.”

Like Pat Burrell for instance. Gillick didn’t come right out and say that he was trying to find a suitable deal for the maligned left fielder and the Phillies this winter, but he didn’t deny it either. The same goes for Manuel who when asked about Burrell had a resigned tenor of someone who knew something was coming, but didn’t want to come right out and say it.

“What hurt Pat the most was that when we got to the seventh or eighth inning we had to get him out of the game,” Manuel said without the best poker face. “If he didn’t have the foot issues he might have had a season like he did two years ago.

“I haven’t ruled out the fact that he’s still on our club. I’ve always stood with Pat. He lost some at-bats [because of his foot].”

But Burrell holds all of the cards – at least all of the good ones. He also might hold the Phillies winter progress – or lack therof – in his hands. Sure, the Phillies seem to forging ahead as if they can sign all of the players they want and keep Burrell if he doesn’t agree to be moved, but the reality is the left fielder needs to go if the team is going to fulfill their off-season objectives.

Where or when that occurs is anyone’s guess.

More pitching
If the Phillies are not able to re-sign Wolf, Gillick says the fifth starter will likely come from outside the organization.

“We’ve got to get another starter, and I don’t see that starter coming out of our organization. It’ll have to come from outside,” Gillick said. “We’ve got some things to attend to from the starting standpoint and from the bullpen standpoint.”

Nonetheless, Gillick says he is much happier with the state of the rotation now than he was last year.

“This year we’ll open with Hamels and Moyer instead of (Gavin) Floyd and (Ryan Madson),” he said.

Manuel agrees with the GM noting that the rotation at the end of the season was the “best we’ve had in two years.”

Other luncheon notes
If the season were to end today, Ken Mandel’s fantasy football team would be in the playoffs. This is despite the fact that Phillies.com writer’s club has the least amount of points in the scribes football league.

On the outside and looking in is yours truly, who is running away with the points title but is just 4-4-1.

“We have to do better and I’ll take full responsibility,” I said in a release issued by the team.

  • A few writers were steamed that the availability with Charlie Manuel was held up by a TV reporter who wanted to talk to the manager about professional wrestling. Never mind the fact that the channel usually devotes a little less than 180 seconds to sports coverage every night.

    Or that no one watches that channel.

    Nevertheless, I’d like to know the skipper’s thoughts on the Junkyard Dog or Jimmy “Super Fly” Snuka. If the segment gets on YouTube, please send me the link.

  • Blast from the past II

    Note: In our continuing “Blast from the past” series, here’s the story from July 29, 2002 when ALCS MVP was traded to the Phillies. As everyone remembers, there was another player or two involved in that deal, which makes the story a lot longer. This one is a beast, so clear your schedule and order in if you want to attempt to delve through.

    ‘I’ve Died and Gone to Heaven… ‘ Phillies Deal ‘Excited’ Scott Rolen to St. Louis
    After months of speculation, tons of rumors and lots of innuendo, the Phillies have finally traded Scott Rolen. Once viewed as the rightful heir to Mike Schmidt’s throne at third base and as the cornerstone of a franchise on the way up, Rolen left town after an acrimonious season-and-a-half where the luster was chipped away from the city’s one-time golden boy.

    And Rolen, as stated in an interview with ESPN.com’s Peter Gammons, could not be happier about the trade.

    “I felt,” he said to Gammons upon hearing the news about the trade on Monday night, “as if I’d died and gone to heaven. I’m so excited that I can’t wait to get on the plane (Tuesday morning) and get to Florida to join the Cardinals.”

    For Rolen, Triple-A reliever Doug Nickle and an undisclosed amount of cash, the Phillies have obtained infielder Placido Polanco, lefthanded pitcher Bud Smith and reliever Mike Timlin, general manager Ed Wade announced in a spare conference room in the bowels of Veterans Stadium on Monday.

    But more than receiving three players in return for the game’s best defensive third baseman, the Phillies have ended a once-happy marriage that seemed destined to end with a ceremony in Cooperstown and his No. 17 hung on a commemorative disc beyond the outfield wall.

    Instead, it ended in a soap-operatic mess filled with more whispered back-biting than an episode of Dynasty. With the dust finally clearing, the Phillies have lost their best player and receive a lefthanded pitcher in Smith who threw a Major League no-hitter last Sept. 3 but is still only in Triple-A, a one-time closer in Timlin who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season and might again be dealt before the season ends and an infielder in Polanco who is more akin to line-drive hitting Marlon Anderson than the powerful Rolen.

    And it marks the second time since 2000 that the Phillies have lost a player worth the price of a season ticket. Almost two years to the day, Wade dealt Curt Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Travis Lee, Vicente Padilla, Omar Daal and Nelson Figueroa. Since the deal, Schilling has won a ring and composed a 45-14 record.

    Once Spring Training was in full swing, Wade knew Rolen was not going to be a Phillie in 2003.

    “I knew in Spring Training that we had a zero chance to get anything done,” Wade said.

    In brokering the deal, Wade admits that the Phillies are giving up a lot, but he’s more interested in the players the team has now opposed to the players they once had.

    “We did not replace Scott Rolen with an All-Star, Gold Glove third baseman, but we did replace him with a very good baseball player, and we got some other guys who should help us,” Wade said.

    In adding Rolen, Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty believes his club has added the piece of the puzzle needed to finish off the rest of the NL Central. With a five-game lead over the second-place Cincinnati Reds, Rolen not only picks up a lot of ground in the standings, but also seems slated for his first-ever appearance in the playoffs. This fact should satisfy Rolen, who said during a cantankerous press conference at the beginning of spring training that the Philles were not committed to winning.

    “We are very pleased and excited to add Scott Rolen to our lineup,” Jocketty said in a statement. “He is an All-Star, a proven run producer and an excellent defensive player.”

    In a quickly assembled press conference in which only Wade spoke, the GM broke down his side of the negotiations and relayed Rolen’s feelings about the deal. After returning to Philadelphia from Atlanta where Rolen belted a home run in a victory over the Braves (wearing a throwback, powder-blue Phils uniform, no less) on Sunday, the new Red Bird was trying to figure out how to get to Miami where he will make his debut against the Marlins on Tuesday.

    “He said he appreciated the opportunity and the organization and wondered where he goes from here and how he gets there,” Wade said. “He was fairly single-minded in getting his gear and getting on an airplane and making sure that he was with the Cardinals in Florida in time for the game [Tuesday].”

    Like Rolen’s last season in Philadelphia, Wade said the negotiations with the Cardinals were quite tempestuous with each club making concessions. According to Wade, trade talks between the Cardinals and Phillies broke down without a deal at 11 p.m. in Sunday night and that as of Monday afternoon, the Phils were currently negotiating a deal with an unnamed team until the Cardinals jumped back into the fray.

    “We were one phone call away from Scott not being a Cardinal and going somewhere else,” said Wade.

    The Phillies’ GM faced the prospect of getting nothing for his star if Rolen stayed in Philadelphia. If the new basic agreement between players and owners includes a redesign of the the First-Year Player Draft, it’s possible that it will eliminate compensatory draft picks for teams that lose free agents.

    “At some point you have to say the deal that sits in front of me is good enough that it outweighs gambling that something better is going to be out there 48 hours from now,” said Wade. “The players were right.”

    According to Wade, the deal was finalized at 5 p.m. on Monday and was announced officially at 6:30 p.m. With Monday being an off day in the National League, all players will be with their respective teams by Tuesday. Smith will report to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will start either on Wednesday or Thursday.

    Still, Wade says the deal occurred because the Phillies were very aggressive. Some teams, he claims, “moved out of the process because of the ebb and flow of the labor situation.” He categorized the Cardinals as one of those teams as well as six others that he claims he was talking to.

    Rolen had been the subject of trade rumors after deciding not to negotiate on a multi-year extension that Wade categorized on Monday as a “lifetime deal.” The Phillies report that they were anticipating giving Rolen a 10-year contract extension last November that could’ve been worth up to $140 million. Rolen ended up signing an $8.6 million, one-year deal in January that kept him and the Phillies away from an arbitration hearing, but made it clear he wanted to become a free agent after this season. That decision forced the Phillies to make a move or risk losing him for nothing.

    “I regret the outcome,” Wade said. “We were very serious about the offer we made and when that didn’t work out we tried to get him to sign a two-year guaranteed contract with player options. We regret the outcome but don’t regret the way we approached him.”

    In reality, the Phillies never offered the 10-years and $140 million they keep touting. Instead, it the guaranteed portion of the offer was six years, $72 million. The deal stretched to 10 years and to $140 million only if one included all the options and incentives and buy-outs in the package, all structured in the club’s behalf.

    Surely it’s not a deal to sneeze at, but nowhere close to the “lifetime” contract Wade and his minions keep throwing out there.

    Art of the Deal
    Rolen did not sign an extension with the Cardinals, so he remains eligible for free agency. However, when rumors reached fervor on Saturday, Rolen said he would be interested in signing a contract extension with the Cardinals.

    About signing, potentially, with the Cardinals, Rolen said on Saturday that the Red Birds were one of the teams he would consider.

    “We all know that is a situation I’d be willing to talk about,” Rolen said on Saturday.

    On Monday, he was a lot less ambiguous with his comments as told to Gammons. Growing up in Jasper, Ind., Rolen says he went to two parks as a kid — St. Louis and Cincinnati.

    “I was there at Busch with my dad, sitting in the stands wherever we could get a seat, watching Ozzie Smith,” Rolen said. “It may be the best place to play in the game, and it’s the place I always dreamed of playing.

    “As I said, I’ve gone to heaven.”

    And dropping him in the middle of the Cardinals’ powerful lineup looks like hell for opposing pitchers. When the Cardinals come to the Vet on Aug. 16 for a three-game set, Rolen should bat fifth in a lineup that looks something like this:

    Fernando Vina, 2b
    Edgar Renteria, ss
    Jim Edmonds, cf
    Albert Pujols, lf
    Rolen, 3b
    J.D. Drew, rf
    Tino Martinez, 1b
    Mike Matheny, c

    Signing potential free agents hasn’t been a problem for the Cardinals, who play in front of well-mannered fans in a baseball-crazy city. In the last five years, the Cardinals traded for potential free agents Jim Edmonds and Mark McGwire and convinced them to stay in St. Louis long-term.

    However, while Wade says there were numerous suitors all clamoring for Rolen’s services, ComcastSportsNet.com sources indicate otherwise. According to one well-placed baseball executive, if a deal with the Cardinals wasn’t consummated, Rolen would still be wearing the red-and-white Phillie pinstripes.

    “I really searched for another team that was interested and I couldn’t find one,” the source says. “The Phillies were trying to create a market for Rolen that didn’t exist.”

    Originally, rumors circled that the Phillies were going to receive Double-A prospect Jimmy Journell, who is rated as the Cardinals’ top up-and-comer by Baseball America. However, a source says that Journell was never part of any deal. Instead, the source says, the Cardinals were not going to make a deal with the Phillies unless Timlin — a free agent when the season ends — was included in the deal.

    But Wade says it was Smith who was the “deal buster.”

    “He was the key part of the deal,” Wade said.

    Like the other rumors, it was reported that a deal with another club would not occur if the Phillies had to pay the remainder of Rolen’s contract or if he couldn’t work out a contract extension with an interested club.

    Not at all true.

    “I wish I kept a list of all the misinformation,” Wade said.

    The Players
    Polanco, 26, is hitting .284 with five homers and 27 RBIs. He batted .307 last season and .316 in his first full year, in 2000. Wade said he’d play third base and bat second in the Phillies’ lineup against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.

    Polanco is a slick fielder who plays three infield positions and leads third basemen in fielding chances. However, he has played too many games at short and second to qualify for the league lead. A prototypical contact hitter, Polanco has struck out just 26 times in 92 games this season.

    Smith, who pitched a no-hitter in his rookie season last year, was sent to Triple-A Memphis on July 20 after going 1-5 with a 6.94 ERA in 11 appearances, including 10 starts. The 22-year-old lefthander was 6-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 16 games last year.

    In his last outing in the big leagues on July 19, Smith allowed eight runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Pirates.

    Smith is best compared to Randy Wolf.

    “He’s a surplus prospect,” Wade said.

    Timlin is 1-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 42 appearances and is holding righties to a .197 average. The 36-year-old righthander is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $5.25 million this season. In 1996 he saved 31 games for the Toronto Blue Jays and has saved 114 games during his 11-year Major League career. However, this season he has blown two saves working primarily in middle relief.

    Timlin won two World Series’ with the Blue Jays and appeared in two games of the 1993 series against the Phillies.

    Nickle, 27, was 3-5 with a 2.97 ERA and seven saves in 34 games — one of them a start — at Scranton this season. He appeared in four games — 4 1/3 innings pitched — for the Phillies this season and has made 10 career major-league appearances.

    Glory Days
    When Scott Rolen came to Philadelphia as a fresh-faced 21-year old, he was too good to be true. He played hard, possessed Midwestern, homespun values and spoke about fair play and hard work. If he was going to do something, he said, he was going to do it all out and to win.

    Philadelphia fans immediately latched onto the quiet kid from Jasper, Ind.

    After winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1997, Rolen signed a four-year, $10 million deal with the idea that he was going to be a Phillie for life. In fact, Rolen signed for far less than he could have gotten because he believed the Phillies were on the right path and he was enamored with the idea that he was going to be like his kindred spirit, Mike Schmidt, and spend his entire career in Philadelphia.

    But all those losing seasons caught up with Rolen. So too did the firing of mild-mannered manager Terry Francona, who is a close friend of Rolen’s. Meanwhile, Rolen’s quiet nature in a city full of loud and sometimes abrasive sports fans, wore thin on both sides. Sensitive and thoughtful, Rolen chose to do his talking on the field or in the clubhouse — nowhere else. Philly fans wanted their rough-and-tumble athletes’ personas to translate to a give-and-take relationship with the city that Rolen was not willing to have. His family (and his dogs, Enis and Emma) came first and nothing else was a close second.

    When prodigal son and fan-favorite Larry Bowa was hired as the team’s skipper, many speculated when he and his sensitive third baseman would clash. It didn’t take long.

    In June of 2001 during a series against Tampa Bay, Bowa told the Philadelphia Daily News that Rolen’s recent futility at the plate was “killing us.” Rolen took the criticism not as constructive but intended to embarrass him and had it out with the manager before a game against the Devil Rays.

    “I came in here with the intent of kicking your ass,” Rolen reportedly told Bowa as he walked into the manager’s office that day.

    Their relationship remained strained ever since and the soap opera began in earnest.

    Later that year, Phillies executive assistant and manager of the hard-boiled manager of 1980 World Championship team, Dallas Green, told a radio station that Rolen was OK with being a “so-so” player and that his personality would not allow him to be a great player.

    After the season, Rolen summed up the 2001 campaign as the worst he ever went through and cited Bowa and Green as the main culprits in his dissatisfaction. His ire manifested itself during an edgy press conference to kick off spring training.

    There, Rolen held a press conference to explain why he opted for free agency questioning what he thought was the team’s commitment to winning.

    “Philadelphia is the [fourth-largest] market in the game, and I feel that for the last however long, the organization has not acted like it,” Rolen said in February. “There’s a lack of commitment to what I think is right.”

    Rolen pointed out that the Phillies, who entered the season with a payroll around $60 million that ranks in the bottom third of all Major League franchises, were notorious for allowing players of star quality walk away when their contracts are about to expire. It happened two seasons ago with Curt Schilling and he wasn’t so sure it was going to stop now, he said.

    “Part of my whole problem is that I look around and see Bobby Abreu, I see Pat Burrell, I see Doug Glanville and Mike Lieberthal and this is the core that’s been talked about for three or four years,” Rolen said then. “These are unbelievable ballplayers. But three years from now, when everybody becomes a free agent or arbitration-eligible and it’s time to re-sign everybody, I want to turn around and see Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell and Doug Glanville and Mike Lieberthal. To me, what history shows, I will not be able to do that.”

    Not unless they are playing for the Cardinals.

    What followed over the next six weeks were a few public discussions with Bowa and a miserable slump in May and June that turned his .284 April into a .240 average by the end of May. In June, an unnamed teammate reportedly called Rolen a “cancer” and that his status was a distraction to the team.

    However, things haven’t been all bad for Rolen this season. He started in his first-ever All-Star Game and is on pace to drive in over 100 runs for the second year in a row and third time of his career and belt 25 homers for the fifth season in a row.

    But the constant circus around his future was starting to drain him, he told Gammons.

    “I think I must have been asked more questions than the rest of the team combined,” Rolen said. “It was crazy. In spring training, all the way back to the winter, it was that way. Before the All-Star break, I know I was a little down. I shouldn’t have been, but having people leaning on both my shoulders all the time drained me.

    “People would tell me that I needed to be more selfish, to play for numbers. But that’s not the way I know how to play. I’m not good at playing for numbers, I’m not good at playing for myself. To go from last place to first is more than I ever could have dreamed.”

    The Future
    Even with Polanco in the fold, Wade says the Phillies go into the offseason in a position they haven’t been familiar with in almost a decade.

    “We go into the offseason for the first time in nine years potentially looking for a third baseman,” Wade said.

    For now, Wade says his concern is to build for the future and not look into the past that saw superstars Curt Schilling and now Rolen leave amidst acrimony.

    “I don’t think we did anything to necessarily make the player unhappy,” Wade said. “We’re always trying to do things the right way. We’re always trying to make our players comfortable. We’re always trying to compensate them fairly. We’re always trying to bring teammates around that they are comfortable playing with and gives us a better chance of winning.”

    He certainly has given Rolen that chance now … problem is, it isn’t in Philadelphia.

    E-mail John R. Finger

    Blast from the past

    Note: Watching Jeff Suppan win the MVP of the NLCS made me remember the 2003 season when the veteran right-hander almost became a Phillie. Upon some digging through the archives, I unearthed this story from July 31, 2003 about why Suppan ended up in Boston, and then ultimately St. Louis. Anyway, here’s a little trip down amnesia lane.

    Wade Stands Pat as Trade Deadline Passes
    As the trade deadline passed with nary a whisper, general manager Ed Wade sauntered from the batting cage to the Phillies’ dugout like a fifth grader asked to come to the board and figure out a math problem in front of the whole class. Sure, he absolutely knows the answer, but he isn’t too jazzed about showing everyone his logic.

    On Thursday, before the game against the Dodgers at the Vet, Wade had to explain how he thought the Phillies were better by not pulling the trigger on a rumored deal with the Pirates in which starter Jeff Suppan would have come to Philadelphia. Instead, Suppan ended up with the Red Sox, while highly coveted starter Sidney Ponson — who the Phillies never showed an interest in — went from the Orioles to the Giants.

    Meanwhile, Wade stuck to his guns. During the past two days, the general manager told reporters that he believed his club was good enough to go to the playoffs without making a deal. With 55 games left in the season, we’ll all get a chance to see if Wade’s logic fits.

    “We assessed our needs and said, ‘we like our pitching. We’re second in the league in pitching. Our bullpen is second. We went out and added [Mike] Williams because we wanted to add strength to strength and another experienced arm,'” Wade said. “We have the third best record in the league, sixth best record in baseball, second leading ERA, third in defense.”

    However, it does seem as if Suppan would make the Phillies’ rotation better. The right-hander is 10-7 with a 3.57 ERA this season, with three complete games and two shutouts during an ongoing five-game winning streak. He shut out St. Louis, 3-0, on Monday.

    Had Wade been able to pull of the deal, Suppan would have supplanted Thursday night’s starter Brandon Duckworth in the rotation. With a 3-5 record and a 5.16 ERA, Duckworth’s season has been a parade of setbacks and bad outings. Once a promising prospect that flashed stretches of brilliance during his three seasons in the big leagues, Duckworth is obviously the weak link of the team’s staff.

    Nonetheless, by not making a deal to acquire another starter Wade has given the maligned right-hander a vote of confidence.

    “I think that Brandon is the kind of guy that if other teams had him, he wouldn’t be the fifth starter,” Wade explained. “He wouldn’t be the guy that gets skipped in the rotation because of off days. Obviously, we need him to step up and pitch like he did in his last start and that would be more than enough for us.”

    Wade says the Phillies and the Pirates had been talking since the beginning of the week, but the talks broke off Thursday morning. He also said that Yankees GM Brian Cashman called and offered third baseman Robin Ventura to the Phillies late Wednesday night, but the offer was nothing more than a cursory one.

    The same can be said for a rumored deal that would have sent Brian Giles from the Pirates to the Phillies. Ultimately, the asking price was too much and the Pirates had other places they could shop.

    “[Pittsburgh GM David Littlefield] indicated that they had another deal that made more sense,” Wade said. “People that we were talking to said they had alternatives. It was never just a one-on-one situation where we were the perfect fit.”

    The problem, it seems, was the asking price. Wade was not willing to part with stud prospects Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels, or Triple-A pitcher Ryan Madson. According to reports, it would have taken Madson and another minor leaguer to get Suppan, and Wade as well as manager Larry Bowa acknowledge that several teams had called about a deal involving the studs.

    “Some teams don’t even ask [about Floyd and Hamels] because they know we’ll say no,” Wade said. “Untouchable is a very strong word, but in the circumstance in which we were dealing here, we weren’t going to move them.

    “We think that Ryan Madson is going to be a major-league starter for a long time and he’s very close. You also have to project time tables of when they’re going to arrive and he’s very close.”

    Said Bowa on Floyd and Hamels: “I don’t like to use the word untouchable, but it would have been stupid to trade those two guys.”

    In the clubhouse, Bowa relaxed and joked with reporters while watching the up-to-the-minute deals teams were making around the league. Periodically, Bowa would announce how much time was left before the deadline and was quick to point out that he was not disappointed his GM failed to make a move.

    “It’s not like someone said, ‘hey, you are going to get Joe Schmoe and it’s 90 percent going to happen.’ And I was all pumped up and Eddie came in and said it didn’t go through,” Bowa said. “There were never any false pretenses. Eddie has been straight and honest.”

    Regardless, public outcry has been that the Phillies needed to make a move before the stretch run. Some suggest that if Wade had been able to make a deal, it would have had invigorated the fans and maybe the players.

    “I’m sure that sentiment exists. That sentiment may exist with some players in the clubhouse. It’s human nature to want to be the best you can be. It’s human nature to want the club to turn out to be the ’27 Yankees. [But] you can’t operate like that,” Wade said. “With all due respect to the fans or anybody else, I think we pay as much attention to the composition of our club as anybody.”

    Not that anyone else will ever get to see.

    Injury update
    After straining his groin running the bases in the first inning of Wednesday night’s victory over the Dodgers, Jim Thome sat out of Thursday’s game. He said he was available to pinch hit and should be back in the lineup on Friday.

    Meanwhile, David Bell took batting practice for the first time since going on the disabled list with an injured back on July 12.

    Reliever Rheal Cormier was unavailable to pitch Wednesday night because of back spasms. He reports that he feels “fine.”

    Other notes
    Hector Mercado cleared waivers after being designated for assignment on July 21 when the Phillies acquired Mike Williams. He has accepted an assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and has 72 hours to report.

    Bowa taped a segment for ESPN’s “Hot Seat” before Thursday’s game. The minute-long appearance features sports figures answering quick questions. Bowa says he was asked to give the first impression that came to his mind when he heard certain names. To “Tug McGraw,” Bowa responded with “flake.” To “Scott Rolen,” Bowa said “the best defensive third baseman I have ever seen.”

    Insert your own comment here.

    E-mail John R. Finger

    Play me and trade me

    As this week’s baseball trading deadline passed with all the subtlety of a hammer pounding a nail, it quite fascinating to think of the notion of the trade. Actually, it’s quite baffling to think of it. No, not the trade that sent the Phillies best hitter and hottest pitcher to the New York Yankees for four minor leaguers with very limited potential. That’s a different story that will be discussed for years. For this it’s the actual concept of the trade that’s weird.

    Think of it – an employee for a company is just shipped off without warning to another totally different company. Sure, they’re in the same business, but it doesn’t really seem fair.

    Does it?

    For instance, I doubt that there is any chance that someone in your company’s accounting department is going to come into the office tomorrow morning with a yellow post-it stuck to the computer with the message, “Come see me” from the boss scrawled on it. And it’s doubtful that the scene that happens quite often in pro sports will be played out when the Accounting guy shows up at the door of the boss’s office.

    “You wanted to see me, boss?”

    “Yeah, Bob, come on in and sit down. Close the door behind you, too, please.”

    “Sure thing… what is it, boss?”

    “Well, this isn’t going to be easy because, as you know, we really like your work around here, and your jokes were knocking everyone out at the company’s summer luau last month. We just really like having you around, and that’s not because you are having a great season with the company softball team, either. It’s more than that… ”

    “So what is it, boss?”

    “Well, as you know we’re a little short staffed in the marketing department. We just really need some extra help down there with all the vacations coming up and the fiscal year ending. Anyway, I don’t want to drag this out so I have to put it straight – we’ve traded you to a medical supply company in Duluth. Now I know what you’re thinking and I want you to know that we didn’t want to do this. But they really needed a top-notch accountant and they’re a really good company. I think you’ll fit in well there and really help them out.”

    Yes, people in certain industries get transferred from place to place all the time. It’s also more than common for military professionals to bounce around the globe from base to base, packing and re-packing the family for the next home, school so they can make a new set of friends only to re-start the process all over again in a few years.

    Actually, I have a close friend who requested his “trade” within his company. He did it not once, but several times, going from Boston to Washington, D.C., to Toronto and then back to Boston where he eventually left as a free agent to go to another firm. During all of this my friend said the most important thing he learned was to make sure he emptied the trash can before the movers came to pack everything up and ship it to another city.

    “If you have trash in Boston, it’s going to show up in the same trash can in Washington,” he said.

    The funniest thing about trades in pro sports is how non-chalant the athletes are about being told they were being sent somewhere else to work. Oh sure, they act surprised and talk about the friends they made and the good times with their former employer, but there is always one phrase every pro jock uses when discussing their trade to a new team. In fact, every former Phillie used it on the way out the door this past week:

    “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business… ” said David Bell on his way to Milwaukee last Friday.

    “It’s part of the business… ” said Bobby Abreu as he headed to New York to join the Yankees.

    “I wanted to stay here but it’s part of the business…” added Cory Lidle as he joined Abreu on the way to the Bronx.

    “I enjoyed my time here. I wish it could’ve included a playoff run, but it’s part of the business… ” added Rheal Cormier as he left Philadelphia for Cincinnati.

    Where’s Crash Davis when you need him? And there’s one aspect of the sporting life that most people are glad hasn’t gone mainstream.

    Play me and trade me

    As this week’s baseball trading deadline passed with all the subtlety of a hammer pounding a nail, it quite fascinating to think of the notion of the trade. Actually, it’s quite baffling to think of it. No, not the trade that sent the Phillies best hitter and hottest pitcher to the New York Yankees for four minor leaguers with very limited potential. That’s a different story that will be discussed for years. For this it’s the actual concept of the trade that’s weird.

    Think of it – an employee for a company is just shipped off without warning to another totally different company. Sure, they’re in the same business, but it doesn’t really seem fair.

    Does it?

    For instance, I doubt that there is any chance that someone in your company’s accounting department is going to come into the office tomorrow morning with a yellow post-it stuck to the computer with the message, “Come see me” from the boss scrawled on it. And it’s doubtful that the scene that happens quite often in pro sports will be played out when the Accounting guy shows up at the door of the boss’s office.

    “You wanted to see me, boss?”

    “Yeah, Bob, come on in and sit down. Close the door behind you, too, please.”

    “Sure thing… what is it, boss?”

    “Well, this isn’t going to be easy because, as you know, we really like your work around here, and your jokes were knocking everyone out at the company’s summer luau last month. We just really like having you around, and that’s not because you are having a great season with the company softball team, either. It’s more than that… ”

    “So what is it, boss?”

    “Well, as you know we’re a little short staffed in the marketing department. We just really need some extra help down there with all the vacations coming up and the fiscal year ending. Anyway, I don’t want to drag this out so I have to put it straight – we’ve traded you to a medical supply company in Duluth. Now I know what you’re thinking and I want you to know that we didn’t want to do this. But they really needed a top-notch accountant and they’re a really good company. I think you’ll fit in well there and really help them out.”

    Yes, people in certain industries get transferred from place to place all the time. It’s also more than common for military professionals to bounce around the globe from base to base, packing and re-packing the family for the next home, school so they can make a new set of friends only to re-start the process all over again in a few years.

    Actually, I have a close friend who requested his “trade” within his company. He did it not once, but several times, going from Boston to Washington, D.C., to Toronto and then back to Boston where he eventually left as a free agent to go to another firm. During all of this my friend said the most important thing he learned was to make sure he emptied the trash can before the movers came to pack everything up and ship it to another city.

    “If you have trash in Boston, it’s going to show up in the same trash can in Washington,” he said.

    The funniest thing about trades in pro sports is how non-chalant the athletes are about being told they were being sent somewhere else to work. Oh sure, they act surprised and talk about the friends they made and the good times with their former employer, but there is always one phrase every pro jock uses when discussing their trade to a new team. In fact, every former Phillie used it on the way out the door this past week:

    “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business… ” said David Bell on his way to Milwaukee last Friday.

    “It’s part of the business… ” said Bobby Abreu as he headed to New York to join the Yankees.

    “I wanted to stay here but it’s part of the business…” added Cory Lidle as he joined Abreu on the way to the Bronx.

    “I enjoyed my time here. I wish it could’ve included a playoff run, but it’s part of the business… ” added Rheal Cormier as he left Philadelphia for Cincinnati.

    Where’s Crash Davis when you need him? And there’s one aspect of the sporting life that most people are glad hasn’t gone mainstream.

    Deadline day

    Obviously, Sunday was a really busy day with the trade of Bobby Abreu and the speculation that there will be one, maybe two more today. That means the thoughts on steroids and doping will have to wait until later this week. There’s just too much going on in regard to dismantling the Phillies.

    Anyway, it’s a shame that Abreu’s end came the way it did because the stats show that he would have re-written the franchise’s record books. It’s also a shame that a certain segment of the fan base just didn’t get it or understand modern baseball.

    Oh well. Abreu is gone now and the Phillies are a far worse team. Sure, the Phillies save a lot of money, but it’s not as if they are going to use it to land a big-time free agent. It’s more like they can use some of that money to help pay another team to take on someone like Pat Burrell.

    It’s also a shame that money is more important than talent.

    In that regard, expect more deals today. Rheal Cormier is likely on the way out, though as a 5-and-10 man he can veto any deal. There are also renewed rumblings that Jon Lieber might not make today’s scheduled start even though general manager Pat Gillick said there was nothing going on in regard to the pitcher as of 5 p.m. yesterday.

    But something changed between 5 p.m. and the end of yesterday’s second game. Tuesday’s probable pitcher Scott Mathieson was in the clubhouse just hanging out when he was asked about his next outing when he let it slip that he was told to “be ready to go tomorrow… ”

    In other words, Mathieson was pulled out of Sunday’s start at Triple-A to be in Philadelphia to stand at alert.

    As an aside, the Phillies clubhouse has a decidedly different look about it now. It’s hard not to look around at the spots once occupied by Jim Thome, Billy Wagner, David Bell and Bobby Abreu and wonder, “who are these guys.” It will be much more different next season when Mike Lieberthal, Randy Wolf and maybe Pat Burrell are gone.

    As far as Wolf goes, it was really cool to see him back on the field after 13 tough months of rehab. Just getting back out there is achievement enough and the lefty deserves all the kudos he gets. With guys like Wolfie, Thome, Rolen and Doug Glanville, it’s hard to be objective.

    Now here’s a theory: expect another year with Charlie Manuel… more later

    Since you’ve been gone

    I spent most of today playing catch up with what has been happening with the Phillies as well as on the East Coast and this is what I learned:

  • Humidity is an awful, awful thing. Yes, we were lucky enough to miss the horrible heat that tour through the area last week, but going from highs of 17 percent humidity — with temperatures never going higher than 85 –to this is very difficult. It just makes everything feel so heavy and malodorous.Moreover, when people say it is much more difficult training for a marathon in humidity than at altitude, they are correct. Sure, today’s 14-miler was performed nearly 2-minutes per mile faster than what I was able to do in Colorado where we were between 7,500 to 8,200 feet, but I felt like I was walking in a furnace here. Worse, now I’m paying for it with a case of heat cramps.

    Fun.

  • You know how they say people on the East are in more of a hurry, aren’t as friendly, and suffer fools less? It’s true. Next to the humidity, the biggest difference I notice when I return to our coast is the vibe emanating from the people like the heat off the macadam. Sadly to say, I kind of enjoy the rush and rudeness.
  • No one is sure whether or not the Phillies are “buyers” or “sellers,” using the popular parlance of the times. Needless to say, the results from this weekend’s four-game series against the Braves should clear that up nicely for GM Pat Gillick and his minions.Along those lines, whether the Phils are adding or subtracting, Bobby Abreu and/or Pat Burrell appear likely to finish the season with another team. That’s more so the case with Abreu than Burrell based on what the ballscribes are writing these days.

    Like rumors and innuendo? Here’s some fun stuff from ESPN’s Rumor Central:

    Shea Hillenbrand
    ESPN.com and Scouts Inc.’s Keith Law reports that the Angels have no interest in acquiring Hillenbrand, who was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

    ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney reports the Giants, however, are interested in Hillenbrand. The Toronto Sun, meanwhile, reports several other teams are in the mix to get Hillenbrand. Included in the list are the Brewers, Twins, Phillies, Dodgers and Padres.

    “We’re confident that we will be able to move him,” Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said in a report in the Sun. “We’ll play it all out and try to get the best deal we can.”

    Bobby Abreu
    While the Mets are interested in acquiring Bobby Abreu, the New York Post reports outfield prospect Lastings Milledge will not be moved as part of any trade for the Phillies’ right fielder.

    The paper reports that people close to Mets GM Omar Minaya say the only player Milledge would be traded for right now is Marlins left-hander Dontrelle Willis, but he isn’t currently available.

    The Detroit News reports that the Tigers are no longer looking to acquire Abreu, and instead are keying in on making a trade for Alfonso Soriano.

    Any teams interested in Abreu, meanwhile, must be prepared to pay a hefty price, reports ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. Not only is Abreu owed $15 million in 2007, but he also has a complete no-trade clause. So any new team would likely need to pay for 2007, pay his $16M salary for 2008 and give him a contract extension in order for Abreu to waive his no-trade clause.

    ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports that the Phillies are also looking for an impact player and another player in exchange for Abreu.

    Rodrigo Lopez
    The Orioles have discussed trading Lopez to the Phillies for one of their outfielders, either Bobby Abreu or Pat Burrell, according to the Baltimore Sun.

    Sources told the Sun that the Phillies would be willing to take Lopez and a mid-level prospect if the O’s would pay a large portion of the contract for Burrell or Abreu. One official, though, called the deal “unlikely.”

    Meanwhile, the Orioles are talking to other teams about Lopez, including Arizona, St. Louis, San Diego, Texas and the Yankees.

    Buster Olney wrote that the future of the Phillies is contingent upon how Gillick’s decisions of the next 10 days. Olney wrote:

    Does Gillick, along with other Phillies executives, believe Abreu is worth one-sixth of the team’s payroll?

    Maybe they’ll determine that Abreu, with his gaudy on-base percentage and his speed, is worth the cash. Or maybe they’ll determine they’ll be better off making sure they dump his contract now and ensure they can spend money currently allocated for Abreu on other players.

    Whatever happens, the next 10 days should be pretty interesting.

  • More on the trade

    For my money – what there is of it – Buster Olney is the best baseball writer in the world right now. Oh sure, there might be other guys who are more analytical in regard to the Baseball Prospectus-type of writing that all of the kids are talking about, but numbers and statistics always left me cold. Baseball is about stories, and Olney is really quite interesting.

    Yes, I lean toward the “Moneyball” theory in putting together a team, but at the same time I take more stock out of what an old scout or storyteller can teach me about the game than anything some guy with an MBA can show me on an Excel spreadsheet.

    Besides, last summer former Inquirer writer Jayson Stark told me how hard Olney worked on his daily dispatches for ESPN after I had revealed to Stark how much I enjoyed his colleague’s work.

    Gushing and name dropping aside, Olney had an interesting perspective on the Phillies’ deal for David Dellucci.

    Here’s an interesting excerpt from Buster’s ESPN blog:

    Phillies GM Pat Gillick knows Dellucci from his days as GM of the Orioles, and I don’t think he’d be picking him up knowing that David would only be pinch-hitter type. There’s more mad scientist in Gillick than any general manager I’ve covered; he always thinking two or three moves ahead, and he won’t always tell you what he’s doing. You have to think, on the face of it, that the acquisition of Dellucci is merely the first domino to fall.

    Olney wonders if Pat Burrell is more hurt than anyone is letting on, or if there will be future deal involving Bobby Abreu. Nevertheless, it’s pretty fair to say that Gillick has been bold in putting together this year’s team… well, maybe he’s not bold per se, maybe we’re just not used to such proactive behavior.

    It’s 4:51 a.m., do you know where your new fifth outfielder is?

    Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick pulled off a late-night trade for the left-handed hitting, fifth-outfielder he coveted in the early hours of Sunday morning. For promising right-handed pitcher Rob Tejeda, and minor-leaguer Jake Blalock the Phils picked up David Dellucci from the Texas Rangers.

    In other words, Gillick dealt Vicente Padilla, Blalock and Tejeda to Texas for Dellucci.

    Dellucci is a 32-year-old, .259 hitter who spent the past two years with the Rangers, and has also spent time with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Orioles. Last Season Dellucci had a career-high 29 homers and 128 games.

    In 2001, Dellucci was a pinch-hitter for the World Champion Diamondbacks.

    According to the UPI, the Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels, said:

    “It was hard trading David. He’s been with us for two years. He has a strong relationship with the players and the community. He was pretty shocked.”

    According to the UPI, the teams had been working on the deal for nearly a week.

    With Dellucci in the fold, that means the Chris Coste/Tomas Perez era in Philadelphia has ended… at least for now.