Let the Pedro bidding begin; is change coming to Washington?
No Nationals disgrace ... not this week, anyway
Just when folks were starting to draw comparisons between the 1962 Mets and the current Washington Nationals, the Nationals jumped up and put on an excellent three-day display in the Bronx, limiting the Yankees to three runs and taking two of three from the storied $200-million team.
While the Nationals are unquestionably baseball's worst team, the comparisons with the Amazins were a bit premature. They aren't that bad. Yankees announcer Michael Kay said on air at the end of the series that the Yankees "inexplicably and inexcusably'' lost two out of three. But the Nationals did show a few things. Or, at least, more than the '62 Mets.
Cristian Guzman is a decent two-way, big-league shortstop. Anderson Hernandez is excellent defensively at second. The bullpen is better with veterans such as Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez and Mike MacDougal. And, more important, the Nationals will not threaten the '62 Mets' record 120 defeats. There, I said it.
Meanwhile, they are a team that's threatening to stay in the news, and here are some things going on:
1. Nearly everyone's available in trade, meaning everyone except Zimmerman and Zimmermann (Ryan and Jordan). One issue other teams have expressed is that the Nationals are said to be seeking to hit a grand slam with trades. "They want a dollar and a quarter for a dollar," one competing GM complained. To be fair, this is a common complaint of all contending teams, and there have been few trades thus far (Nate McLouth was dealt to Atlanta; Jake Peavy rejected a trade to the White Sox). In any case, that complaining GM excused the Nationals' interim GM, Mike Rizzo, and said Rizzo has practically no choice but to proceed this way since he is in an unusual tryout situation. In response, Nationals president Stan Kasten said by phone that all the proposals and counterproposals run through him, and he hasn't noticed anything that would lead him to believe Rizzo's suggestions are generally unrealistic or out of the ordinary.
2. A full-time, full-fledged GM will be named sometime this season. Kasten wouldn't say who, but I have to think Rizzo has an excellent chance to be the guy. My impression is the Nationals-owning Lerners like Rizzo and they'll do the right thing by giving him the job.
3. Manny Acta's still not secure for the season, but he may be safe for a little while. His Nationals bosses wanted to see more fight, and they certainly saw it from Acta's team over the past few days. I am not sure if the Yankees series saved him, but that's the way it seems today. Kasten wouldn't comment on anything related to the manager, including whether the New York series might be his last "Acta." (Sorry for the bad pun.)
Minaya seeking hitting help
Competing GMs say Mets GM Omar Minaya is out looking for offense now. But it's not an easy chore.
While the Mets' biggest issues may be their defense and baserunning, those issues can't be fixed through trades. We'll see if the offensive issue can be. Their production at the corners has been close to the worst in baseball. So that's what Minaya's looking into.
With Carlos Delgado expected back by the end of August, they'd optimally like to find an offensive player who can play both first base and the outfield so they could use him at either spot now, then switch him to the outfield once Delgado returns. These four come to mind: Brad Hawpe, Adam Dunn, Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa.
They could all fit the Mets, but there are problems for each. Hawpe's Rockies, far from out of it, are the hottest team in baseball. While Dunn and Huff have played the outfield and first base, they are less than stellar at both spots. And in the case of DeRosa, the Indians, who haven't given up yet, are said to be asking a premium.
Rangers are penniless, but they do have prospects
The Rangers are looking at starting and relief options. They have looked into Brad Penny, though one person familiar with their thinking calls a deal for Brad Penny "unlikely.'' Huston Street and other relievers are among the targets.
Although, Texas' quest for pitching help may be hindered by its inability to take any extra salary. For them to take a high-salaried veteran, they will have to get the trading team to pay the salary or take back a big salary.
The way to accomplish that would be to give up a top prospect or prospects. The Dodgers managed to do that last year, acquiring Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez without adding to their payroll. In the case of Blake, they surrendered top catching prospect Carlos Santana. Texas does have excellent prospects, so this isn't impossible.
The reason Texas can't increase its payroll is related to owner Tom Hicks' current financial travails. He took on a lot of debt, according to people familiar with the situation, and also took a bath on his purchase of the Liverpool soccer team. These are the reasons Hicks has the team up for sale.
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