Last fall several teams went shopping for power hitters, and the Dodgers and Padres made the biggest splashes by acquiring first basemen Eddie Murray and Jack Clark, respectively. Now it looks as if the Red Sox made the best deal by grabbing first baseman Nick Esasky and reliever Rob Murphy from the Reds in a deal involving first baseman Todd Benzinger. Here's a comparison of Esasky's stats with those of Clark and Murray, through Sunday:
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Esasky is also far and away the best fielder of the trio; Murray sometimes plays like a human mattress, and Clark is mediocre at best.
Esasky's former manager, Pete Rose, couldn't stand him because he is quiet and unemotional, like Kevin McReynolds. But Red Sox manager Joe Morgan says of Esasky, "No one has had more big hits for us this year." Murphy adds, "When you're with him, you realize Nick always plays hard."
One problem for the Red Sox: Esasky can become a free agent at the end of the season, and he may be the most productive power hitter on the market. If second baseman Marty Barrett can get a two-year, $2.2 million deal, and catcher Rich Gedman a one-year, $1.15 million pact, imagine what Esasky will be worth.
Last week the Cardinals were considering trading catcher Tony Pena to the Red Sox and calling up Triple A prospect Todd Zeile from Louisville to take his place. But the Expos blocked the deal by claiming Pe�a on waivers, thereby forcing the Cards to withdraw him from the waiver list and make him unavailable for trades. This kind of maneuver seems to be on the upswing recently. Last August the Athletics claimed Seattle pitcher Mike Moore to prevent the Mariners from making a deal with the Twins. And last week Oakland did it again, claiming Tiger pitcher Frank Tanana to keep him from being picked up by a contender in the American League West.
Pe�a can become a free agent at the end of the season, and the Red Sox, who are desperate for a solid catcher, say they're willing to sign him to a two-year contract. "We have some good young catchers, but they're a couple of years away," says Boston general manager Lou Gorman. Indeed, all four of their best catching prospects are playing for Class A teams: Pedro Matilla (Gulf Coast League), Eric Wedge ( Elmira), John Flaherty ( Winter Haven) and Craig ( Lynchburg).
Cub manager Don Zimmer has decided to go with a four-man rotation down the stretch because, as he puts it, "We just can't survive getting two or three innings out of our fifth man [Paul Kilgus or Scott Sanderson]." Now that Les Lancaster has proven himself as a closer, Zimmer is confident the Cub bullpen, led by Mitch Williams, is strong enough to survive the move. Since being called up from Triple A on June 24, Lancaster is 3-0, with four saves and a 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances.... St. Louis outfielder Vince Coleman was involved in two bizarre incidents on July 29. First he batted away a pickoff throw that had gotten away from Expo first baseman Andres Galarraga, and was called out for interference. Five innings later Coleman grabbed at second baseman Damaso Garcia's jersey in an attempt to break up a double play. Coleman is one of the National League umpires' most unfavorite players because of his constant complaints about strike calls. If outfielder Willie McGee hadn't gotten injured, it's likely Coleman would have been traded long ago.... Yankee owner George Steinbrenner is at it again. Last week he called a New York writer to vent his dissatisfaction with manager Dallas Green and the coaching staff. Steinbrenner said that he wants former Yankee skipper Lou Piniella back next year, a move Piniella wants no part of.... On July 30 the Reds re-signed 36-year-old outfielder Dave Collins, who had been released by Cincinnati in June and had been unable to hook up with another club. Explaining the move, general manager Murray Cook said, "We consider these extraordinary circumstances."