GMs on hot seat (cont.)
Not so Chipper
Chipper Jones suffered severe back pain while dressing in the visitor's clubhouse at Shea Stadium on Saturday. And while talking to me. Since dressing usually isn't debilitating, I admit to feeling a little guilty.
My very brief interview with Jones ended when he stopped talking and started wincing. When he did resume talking, all he could do was mouth a few words to summon a trainer. Pretty soon, Jones -- one of the National League's best hitters but also among its most brittle stars -- took his grimacing into the trainers' room.
It's been that kind of year for the Braves, who are going to need copious amounts of courage just to get through the season, never mind beat the Mets and Phillies in the NL East. Atlanta started to become a trendy pick late this spring, but one scout from a National League team says, "They just have too many holes.''
Indeed, the Braves have issues, and most of them have absolutely nothing to do with me. John Smoltz said his shoulder wasn't feeling right after a 6-3 defeat to the Mets on Sunday in which he only touched 90 mph. Smoltz, who started the year on the disabled list with shoulder trouble, said he planned to be re-examined in the next day or two. Tim Hudson isn't said to be hurt but he surely wasn't himself either Saturday; he lasted only three innings and never threw harder than 91 mph.
The Braves' bad weekend only compounds their rotation woes. Mike Hampton suffered a "strained pec'' while warming up for his first schedule start and hasn't been heard from since. And Tom Glavine, as game a player as you'll ever find, is on the disabled list for the first time in his career, with a hamstring strain, though he's expecting to return Tuesday.
According to one dissenting scout, "The Braves have the best pitching in their division.'' Though if half the rotation's hurting, they don't.
Around the Majors
The Mets aren't exactly on fire, either. And one scout said, "With Johan Santana now a Met, and Jimmy Rollins on the disabled list, the Mets should have a six-game lead.'' They don't.
Carlos Delgado has worried his bosses with his dreadful start. However, his $16-million salary will mean the Mets probably won't quickly look to replace him. Delgado probably also bought himself additional time with a two-homer game Sunday vs. the Braves. Delgado has been the target of boos early this year, and he repaid the fans by disdaining a curtain call offering after his second home run.
Maybe the Orioles should have tried harder to complete a trade for Brian Roberts to the Cubs. Among players the Cubs offered at one time or other, Ronny Cedeno is batting .364, Sean Marshall has a 1.80 ERA, Sean Gallagher has a 2-1 record and 1.93 ERA at Triple-A Iowa, and Donnie Veal is 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA at Double-A Tennessee.
Hard as it is to believe, Barry Zito is even worse now that the season has started than he was in spring training. At 0-6 with a 7.81 ERA, he would be a liability no matter what he made, never mind that he's working under a $126-million contract.
I'm not sure who's hurt C.C. Sabathia's free-agent case for a $100-million contract more, Sabathia with his own 1-4 record and 7.88 ERA, or Zito. I think it may be Zito.
The main difference between Zito and Matt Morris right now is the size of the contract. Relatively speaking, $10 million was a small swallow for the Pirates. As it turned out, the Giants' trade of Morris was their best trade in years.
Lance Berkman's big start (eight homers, 18 extra-base hits, .711 slugging percentage) is a major change from 2007, when he hit just two homers in April and had a .337 slugging percentage. Last year he didn't hit his eight home run until June 7 and didn't get his 18th extra base until June 27.
Best wishes to umpire Kerwin Danley, who suffered a broken jaw when he was hit by a Brad Penny fastball Saturday night. Danley was said to be resting comfortably at his mom's house in L.A. after the unintentional beaning hospitalized him.