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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Smell That Smell: Angels 3, Dodgers 1

Fire Jim Tracy has gone directly into a homicidal berzerker kinda rage; his ucased eloquence transcends my own, and I applaud his apoplectic apprehension of the Dodgers' situation. I do disagree with him on specific points, though; Lackey has had a number of good games since his abysmal April 17 start against the A's, in which he served up seven earned runs. To presume he's a nobody pitcher is to forget he actually did pitch the seventh game of the World Series three years ago, and shows signs once more of revisiting that kind of ability. And as far as Gagné pitching to Erstad and DaVanon, well, has either of those two managed to show they're actual major-league quality hitters? I don't think so.

Choi Hoon's Hee Seop

Choi's cri du coeur

So the Dodgers mailed it in, and even Jim Tracy can't stand watching the results of his decisions anymore. So, Tracy called a team meeting now that the club is in third place and three and a half games back of the Padres. But is the problem the team, really? It is and it isn't; I've lately been a bit more critical -- okay, a lot more critical -- of Tracy's in-game moves. Tracy can't get J.D. Drew's bat in working order, he can't get Jeff Kent out of his extended funk, but at the same time, if Drew isn't producing, why isn't he being dropped down the batting order -- and by extension, why isn't Choi being moved up? For that matter, why isn't Choi starting to see more lefties? Things are bad, yes -- so shake things up. Give Choi a chance to succeed.

Further evidence that Tracy might be coming down with selective Alzheimers came via dodgers.com by way of a Ken Gurnick article in which Tracy declared Jeff Weaver "fine" despite a noticeable velocity drop, possibly caused by shoulder tightness. If he is injured, he is injured; the last thing the Dodgers need is another Hideo Nomo incident, as last year when Nomo was ineffective from start to finish, yet kept getting starts despite it. Putting Weaver out there may not be a 100% Tracy decision, but to the extent he covers it up, he puts himself in the position of being team apologist.

For the Angels, the win masked a lot of flaws, including more lousy baserunning and a general inability to hit up and down the lineup. The real possibility of Benjie Molina batting cleanup looms, what with Steve Finley, the team's other putative power threat, still continuing his early-season struggles. Things get so dire with the news of Vlad's transfer to the 15-day DL that Buster Olney, author of the laughable "productive out" stat, now applies his old-school thinking, such as it is, and suggests that the Angels must make a trade if they want to win the division:

If this is a long-term injury, the Angels are in a good position to make a deal to look for a possible replacement in the lineup. Owner Arte Moreno is aggressive and willing to spend money, and the team's farm system is considered among the best in baseball; they've got prospects to deal.

The list of possible trade targets could include Mike Sweeney of Kansas City and Aubrey Huff of Tampa Bay, and less likely, Ken Griffey Jr. Sweeney makes the most sense, because he could play first or DH, with Erstad switching to the outfield. The bet here is that Angels GM Bill Stoneman will have Royals GM Allard Baird on speed dial the rest of the weekend.

I'll take that bet, Buster. On July 30, 2003, with the former World Champions a pathetic 40-39 and in third place in the AL West (11.5 games behind Seattle), here's the big trades Stoneman made:
Anaheim Angels traded Scott Schoeneweis and Doug Nickle to Chicago White Sox in exchange for Gary Glover, Scott Dunn and Tim Bittner.
(Also in MLB.com.) Stoneman also released the useless Kevin Appier, but that's not a trade, which is exactly my point; Stoneman doesn't make trades. For better or worse, it's just his nature to avoid it. Now, to the extent that somebody like an Allard Baird can get snookered (Mark Teahen is a nice little player, sure, but hardly adequate compensation for Carlos Beltran), it might make sense, but Stoneman's history precludes significant trades, especially considering the kinds of players Olney is looking at.

But for the sake of amusement -- why else are you reading this? -- let's assume Olney is onto something, Vlad spends the rest of the season largely ineffective or on the DL, and Stoneman actually considers making one of these trades. Taking the last one first, it's plain that .253/.341/.361 (2 HR) Aubrey Huff is stuck in a serious slump; he's been a 20-30 HR guy previously, and the calendar is running down for the Rays to either long-term him or trade him. His poor production this year in a park whose factors are startlingly similar to Dodger Stadium's means his price is a little lower than it should be otherwise. Likewise for Mike Sweeney, just about the only hitter of real quality left on the Royals team (.267/.353/.400, 9 HR), hitting in a newly redefined pitcher's park. Both clubs will want to ransack the Angels' farm for the privilege of a one-year rental. Neither of these guys really fit well into the Angels' long-term plans. As the two-years-and-gone Angel career of Brad Fullmer attests, guys who can only mash righties (which is about five-sixths of the problem) are fairly straightforward to find; paying large premiums for them with either young cheap talent, dollars, or both just doesn't make sense.


On your points:

1) I bow to your far superior knowledge of the Angel pitching staff. I know I would rather have Lackey than four of our five guys anyway.

2) The whole Angel lineup was nothing but Erstads and DaVanons yesterday. So use your closer to pitch to them with the winning run on second base.

Otherwise, apocalyptic, indeed.
Not so much apocalyptic as apoplectic, but yeah. What you said.

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