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Deep thoughts

Casserole, Millwood, Tejada, WBC and your e-mails

Posted: Wednesday January 4, 2006 12:34AM; Updated: Friday January 6, 2006 2:39PM
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Miguel Tejada
You're better than that, Miggy. Everybody knows there's no crying in baseball.
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It's a slow week in the baseball universe (I know I'm tempting a Manny-Tejada and Sox-Mets-Orioles-Hiroshima Carp blockbuster trade announcement with that proclamation), so I'm going to catch up with some offseason mail, sitting in the bottom of the E-Bag for way too long.

First, though, here are five ponderings that I haven't been able to put to rest, much like that gawdawful green bean casserole I had around Christmas Eve (whoever came up with the idea that canned mushroom soup makes for a festive dish, anyway?) ...

• What's wrong with "Happy Holidays," people? Even if it's just Christmas and New Year's, doesn't having two red days on the calendar make it plural, and doesn't that justify "Holidays?" And what's wrong with saying "Holidays" anyway, just to be considerate when others celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah? I'm with all of you that think renaming a Christmas tree a "Holiday" tree is absurd. But "Happy Holidays?" It's inclusive, and there's nothing wrong with that.

• Oh yeah. Baseball. As for the aforementioned Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada trade rumors, if I'm Baltimore (and, at times, I've felt a little crabby), I'm not letting Tejada go to Boston for anything less than Ramirez, a good starting pitcher and a replacement at shortstop that can start. Absolute minimum. It's just not worth it otherwise. On another note, as much as I admire Tejada's workmanship, I (like Stephen Cannella) am a little disappointed in all the whining. Not that it isn't justified. The Orioles have been incompetent and pathetic for years, and it gets frustrating. But, Miggy, as a team leader being paid like one, you have to rise above it.

• I like Kevin Millwood. He's got the stuff to pitch in either league and the personality to pitch with any team. If he can be to the Rangers' staff what he was to the Indians' -- a cool-headed, dry-humored, hard-working, dogged pro -- the Rangers are a legitimate threat in the American League West. Their starting pitching (with Adam Eaton and Vicente Padilla) is markedly better.

• I also don't see how any Red Sox fan can say -- and I've had these exact e-mails -- that Boston is better off without Johnny Damon. Maybe he was too expensive (OK, he was). Maybe the Yankees will regret signing him for four years (very possibly, they will). But the Sox have lost a decent center fielder, a very good leadoff man and a media magnet who takes a lot of heat off other players. That's going to be way hard to replace.

• Let me go on record here: I think the World Baseball Classic, eventually, will be big. Much bigger in places like Japan, Korea and the Dominican Republic, of course, than in the U.S. But it will be huge, with tons of fan interest worldwide, plenty of excitement among players, lots of national pride and all that. It'll be a moneymaker, too. But as leery players backpedal, the situation with the Cuban team threatens to undercut competition and Major League Baseball teams scramble to protect their million-dollar assets, the WBC is going to be sketchy this year. It'll still be interesting. But this first year will have its rough spots.

All right, let's jump into that E-Bag, shall we ...

I still can't believe the money the Jays gave to [closer B.J.] Ryan. Why don't teams see what the A's did with [Huston] Street, drafting a proven college closer, and do the same?
-- Paul Macaluso, Longview, Texas

Not that easy, Paul, finding the Huston Streets of the college world. The Braves thought they had one when they drafted Joey Devine of North Carolina State last year -- and maybe they do -- but Devine's first efforts were not good. He gave up late-game grand slams in his first two outings in August, and allowed the 18th-inning homer to Houston's Chris Burke in the clinching Game 4 of the Division Series between the Braves and Astros. The Braves don't sound like they want to lay all that on Devine's young shoulders just yet, so they're still looking for a closer. As are a lot of other teams. Which is why Ryan got what he did.

Thank you for recognizing that the Blue Jays had no choice but to overpay for free agents to come to a city that (let's face it) is still tough to attract high-profile players. It not only tells the Yanks and Red Sox that we're coming after them, but tells the fans that they're committed to winning again. Hopefully it doesn't backfire ;)
-- Jason, Toronto

Jason, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi is never going to get into the bargain hunter's club after the offseason he's going through. But he did what he felt he had to do to get the players he thought he had to have. In short, he did what many other GMs with money have been doing for years.

I've watched with embarrassment as the hometown Blue Jays have been the cheapest team in baseball for the past seven years. Doing the "moneyball" thing, while all along I said you have to spend money to make money (draw fans). Now I've watched the Jays spend over $100 million on arguably the most over-hyped inexperienced or so-so performing free agents [Ryan and A.J. Burnett]. This team is a farce. They're a joke. Seven years of saving their pennies so they can blow it all stupidly in two weeks. The whole thing makes me sit back and laugh.
-- Jeff, Toronto

As I said, these moves are big-time gambles for Ricciardi and the Jays. But at least they're in the game again. If the Jays make the postseason again in '06 or '07, and some of the players they have signed or traded for, including Ryan, Burnett, Troy Glaus, etc., play well, then Ricciardi is a genius. If not, he's just another GM, the Jays are back to struggling and you, Jeff, still will be laughing.

As a lifelong Jays fan (back-to-back World Series titles in my lifetime, take that Red Sox Nation), I can only use one word to describe these signings -- necessary. Sure the Jays overpaid for the two arms, but we're talking about convincing players to come to a new country (albeit a nicer, safer, cleaner, friendlier country). [Plus,] it's more fun to roll the dice yourself than to watch your buddy throw all day.
-- Mark, London, Ontario

I'm with you, Mark. And let me take this opportunity to say something about you baseball fans north of the U.S. border. Maybe it's just me, or some quirk in my e-mail, or the fact that SI.com may be extremely popular up there ... but you guys are intense. Sure, the Red Sox and Yankees fans write in, and some fans of the Braves and Cardinals, and the Dodgers and Mariners. Maybe there are even more of them. But when it comes to ripping me, or defending/criticizing your team, or taking shots at others, or just weighing in on the state of the game, Canadian fans can always be counted on. It was that way with the Expos' fans, too. And all that's a good thing.