Sidney Ponson ranks among the American League leaders in wins (14), complete games (four) and innings pitched (141). AP
By Dan George, SI.com
First of all, a disclaimer. Most of the players mentioned below will end up going absolutely nowhere.
When it comes to making trades, there's always a lot more talk than action. It's a baseball tradition. Kind of like Bud Selig's perplexing habit of trying to fix things that are perfectly functional.
Nevertheless, the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and we would be remiss if we didn't mention some of the most likely candidates to change teams by the end of the week.
Topping the list is Orioles right-hander Sidney Ponson, 27, who is having a career year (14-5, 3.64 ERA) just in time to become a free agent after the end of this season. The O's would like to re-sign Sir Sid, but he's already turned down a three-year, $15 million offer, so they may make a move. Of those interested, the Braves have the most talent to offer.
In a perfect world, the Rangers would get rid of veteran Juan Gonzalez just as they did Carl Everett and Ruben Sierra, but Juan Gone's bad leg and pending free agency is going to make that tough. Outfielder Trot Nixon's name invariably comes up in Red Sox trade rumors, while the Indians' plethora of young outfielders and Milton Bradley's questionable attitude have made the former Expos prospect available.
In the infield, Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell is officially off the trading block, but don't be surprised if the Reds, in the wake of firing his dad as manager, also send All-Star third baseman Aaron Boone packing.
Ultimately, as we said, most of these guys will probably stay right where they are. In today's game, trades are as much about contracts and salary as they are about players, and that can make dealing difficult.
The other thing is that the July 31 trade deadline ain't what it used to be. Teams can still make deals in August after the players in question clear waivers. Teams used to block rivals from making August trades by claiming such players off waivers, but the Padres getting stuck with injured reliever Randy Myers' $12.25 million contract in 1998 has made that practice decidedly less popular.
Add the fact that as August progresses, more teams will learn whether they're in or out of the playoff hunt -- and thus whether they should add or dump veteran talent -- and you end up with the likelihood that there will be more trades after the trade deadline than before.
Yes, as a matter of fact, it is a funny game.
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Atlanta Braves Ballplayers really are different from you and me. Gary Sheffield recently lost 10 pounds in two weeks –- without trying. "I thought it was called 'Hotlanta' because of the women," he said. "I didn't know it was called 'Hotlanta' because of the heat. I got it confused."
San Francisco Giants Eddie Murray's Hall of Fame induction reminded some Giants fans that his brother, Rich, played briefly at Candlestick Park –- as did Mark Leiter (Al Leiter's brother), Heity Cruz (Jose Cruz Sr.'s brother) and Randy Moffit (Billie Jean King's brother). Oh ... brother.
New York Yankees When they took the field against the Indians a few days back, their starting lineup totaled $82.8 million in salary. The Tribe checked in at $2.75 million. The Yanks won 7-4.completing a four-game sweep. This may be what Bud Selig is talking about.
Seattle Mariners They've given up a mere 17 unearned runs all season, thanks to a major league-low 38 errors. Nearly a third of those –- 11 -- have been committed by shortstop Carlos Guillen, who must feel just awful.
Boston Red Sox Mary Jo Ray attended her first game at Fenway Park last week ... at the age of 108. But here's the really weird thing: That means she's been alive for five Red Sox World Series titles.
Oakland Athletics Just days after receiving a two-year contract extension worth $5 million, Scott Hatteberg hit two home runs Sunday in a 10-1 win over the Angels. Well ... I guess we know how this column could get a lot better, don't we?
Philadelphia Phillies On Dollar Hot Dog Day at Veterans Stadium on July 22, they sold 43,000 tube steaks. With an official attendance of 37,164, that's an average of, uh, hmmm –- It was my understanding there would be no math.
Kansas City Royals Carlos Beltran stole a home run from Seattle's Dan Wilson to preserve a 2-1 lead on July 19, giving us a reason to quote reliever Curtis Leskanic: "I've been to two hog killings and a county fair, and I haven't seen anything like what Beltran did tonight."
Houston Astros They have baseball's best first half-second half differential from 1997 through 2002, says the Elias Sports Bureau -- 266-256 (.510) in the first half, 266-181 (.596) in the second half. Since the All-Star break this season? They're 7-4. That's the signpost up ahead ...
Arizona Diamondbacks They're 10-18 this season when Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson are both active, 24-12 when they are both on the disabled list, 22-19 when at least one of them is sidelined. And 56-49 when the sun rises in the east.
Florida Marlins Reliever Tim Spooneybarger, sent packing by the Braves after a tiff with Leo Mazzone, is now mad at Jack McKeon for questioning the extent of his arm injury. "Do I listen to [the doctor]," said Spooneybarger, "or do I listen to [McKeon], who probably has two months left in his career?" He may not be the only one.
St. Louis Cardinals They haven't gotten a victory all season from a left-handed starter. The only other time since 1900 that's happened was 1972. The Cards won 75 games and finished fourth that year. And Nixon was re-elected.
Los Angeles Dodgers Rickey Henderson went 4-for-10 after they signed him from the independent league Newark Bears, but the 44-year-old outfielder is just 1-for-18 since. Anyone noticed that the world's greatest leadoff man hasn't hit over .233 since 1999?
Toronto Blue Jays Thursday night's rain delay at SkyDome lasted 26 minutes, the longest in the club's history at the retractable roof stadium. But the longest delay overall took place Aug. 27, 1990 -- when swarms of bugs halted a game. Yes, for 35 minutes the infield flies ruled.
Montreal Expos Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero recently returned from a seven-week absence caused by a herniated disc, but the real pain was in Frank Robinson's back. While Guerrero was out, the Expos went 19-32.
Chicago Cubs Kenny Lofton had some advice upon joining the team last week: "Tell [Sammy] Sosa to take the right-field line. Tell Moises Alou to take the other line. I'll take the rest. Just stay out of my way." At least he didn't speak in the third person.
Anaheim Angels An 18-game winner last season, Jarrod Washburn, gave up a career-high 10 runs against the Rangers last week and is 8-10 with a 4.92 ERA overall. Sounds like someone could use a little dose of Coors Field.
Minnesota Twins A former Metrodome superintendent says he used to adjust the ventilation system during the late innings of close games in an effort to help Twins hits carry farther. Now we know why Lonnie Smith stayed put on second in Game 7 of the '91 Series -– there was a headwind.
Baltimore Orioles The bad news is that David Segui may be out for the season with a wrist injury. The good news is that he was able to get his regular room at Baltimore's Union Memorial Hospital.
Pittsburgh Pirates Owner Kevin McClatchy says he's lost $30 million since PNC Park opened in 2001. Whew! Just think if he'd actually had to pay for most of it, too.
Cincinnati Reds Bob Boone is out as manager, Jim Bowden is out as general manager. The rampant rejoicing in Cincinnati is tempered only by the sad knowledge that Mike Brown still runs the Bengals.
Cleveland Indians Ellis Burks picked up another hit last week –- even though he's been on the DL since June 10 with a bad elbow. MLB overturned an official scorer who credited third baseman Shea Hillenbrand with an error on Burks' chopper in a May 24 game. "That was a first for me," Burks said.
New York Mets Bob Murphy, who has broadcast more than 6,000 Mets games since the team's inception in 1962, says he'll retire after the season, finally giving up his attempt to outlast Jesse Orosco.
Milwaukee Brewers After losing 7-2 to the Pirates on July 18, Glendon Rusch said, "It just wasn't my night to win." Rusch knows those nights when he sees them. He entered Monday night's start with a 1-12 record and 7.50 ERA.
Texas Rangers Veteran right-hander John Thomson, 4-1 with a 4.02 ERA in his last five starts, has been the team's steadiest starter in recent weeks. Which, of course, makes him a prime candidate to traded.
San Diego Padres Not too long after being hit on the back of his head by a batting practice line drive, reliever Rod Beck was working on a crossword puzzle in the clubhouse. "There's already some good of this," he said. "I just got a couple I couldn't get before."
Tampa Bay Devil Rays After being doused with beer by fans in both Wrigley Field and US Cellular Field this season, Rocco Baldelli demonstrated a grudging admiration for Chicago fans. "I don't know how you can throw beer at someone that [well]," he said.
Detroit Tigers According to the Detroit News, Wal-Mart is considering vacant Tiger Stadium as a possible location for a discount store. A moment of silence, please.