Mets followers had to be thrilled with the moves general manager Steve Phillips made to upgrade New York's bullpen and outfield—in addition to pitchers Chuck McElroy and Billy Taylor he also acquired centerfielder Darryl Hamilton and his .303 average from Colorado—but for the most part they're alone among fans who were counting on 11th-hour moves to bolster their teams for the stretch run. Most clubs that needed help, usually pitching, weren't able to get it, and this year's trading deadline will be remembered more for the transactions that didn't happen than for the ones that did. Nine deals were struck, and 27 players changed uniforms in the hours preceding the midnight deadline, but none of the transactions included such seemingly certain-to-be-dealt players as Angels lefty Chuck Finley, Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros or Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte. Most surprising were the teams who had obvious needs and money to spend but failed to pull the trigger:
•Indians. Their deal for Finley fell apart by 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, when Cleveland general manager John Hart refused to meet Anaheim's asking price of infielder Enrique Wilson and three minor leaguers, including two of Cleveland's top pitching prospects, starter Willie Martinez and reliever David Riske, both righthanders. The Indians, who have gone 7-10 since the All-Star break, lack a lefthander in their rotation—a shortcoming that is particularly ominous for the postseason, especially if the Tribe meets up with the Yankees. Cleveland desperately needed Finley and his proven record as a Yankee killer (16-9 lifetime mark).
•Braves. Atlanta did grab catcher Greg Myers from the Padres five days before the deadline to sub for Javy Lopez, who reinjured his right knee on July 24 and is out for the year, and got the Cubs' Jose Hernandez (.272, 15 homers) at the deadline to add some pop and middle-infield depth. But the Braves still lack a leadoff hitter: Manager Bobby Cox has taken a serious look at four players in that spot, and through Sunday Atlanta's leadoff hitters had combined for a .235 average and a .310 on-base percentage. As for Atlanta's pitching woes, lefthander Terry Mulholland, acquired from the Cubs, will be hard-pressed to make up for the loss of southpaw Odalis Perez (torn ligament in his left elbow; out for the year), nor will he be sufficient if righthander John Smoltz should go on the disabled list for the third time this season with a sore elbow.
•Rangers. For the first time in his five years with Texas, general manager Doug Melvin failed to make a deal in July—an unfortunate turn of events, because, with an American League-worst 5.92 starters' ERA, the Rangers desperately needed to upgrade their pitching. Melvin chased Finley, Angels righthander Omar Olivares and Cardinals lefty Darren Oliver, but was unwilling to part with any top prospects or members of his bullpen, which is second in the league in ERA (3.80). Melvin may end up wishing he had if his shaky rotation blows up in October.
Staying in the Wild-Card Hunt
The Athletics showed their first signs of life since the early 1990s by landing righthander Kevin Appier (9-9 with a 4.87 ERA and a $4.8 million salary this year) from the Royals for three young pitchers. That deal wrapped up a pitching overhaul by general manager Billy Beane, who also sent Billy Taylor to the Mets for righthanders Jason Isringhausen and Greg McMichael. Earlier in the week Beane had plucked Omar Olivares from the Angels and two weeks ago he unloaded disgruntled lefthander Kenny Rogers on the Mets. Two years ago "we lost 97 games, and last year was about trying to be competitive," said Beane, who also picked up infielder Randy Velarde in the Olivares deal. "It's important for the club to experience this."
Beane's maneuverings mean that Oakland, which already had the American League's third-best starters' ERA (470), will attack their 3½-game deficit in the wildcard race with an impressive rotation of Appier, Olivares, standout rookie Tim Hudson and righties Jimmy Haynes and Gil Heredia. However, the loss of Taylor, who had blown three of his last six save opportunities but still ranked fourth in the league with 26, means 42-year-old Doug Jones (5 for 9 in save chances through Sunday) will be counted on to close. "We lost a guy who saved 26 games, so there's no question we took a hit," said Beane. "But you can't make a perfect club with 22 million bucks."