The "Rap" .......

About Baseball & More......

by Tom Cole
© 2005

November 17, 2005

Hot Stove League Simmers - SLOWLY

Mike Cameron, NY Mets, can track down flies with the best centerfielders in baseball today..

As the winter season inexorably approaches, as college bowl matchups start to become more clear and NBA prima donnas exorcise their demons with on court athletic antics, the general managers of baseball sit down to re-make, re-tool their teams for the coming year.

Kevin Towers of San Diego may have wished he had interviewed for the Boston job, having traded Xavier Nady, a
young player with seemingly a great upside and little salary at this stage of his young career for Mike Cameron, an aging player coming off a devastating late season injury. Tower's strategy is to replace Brian Giles before he has even departed, apparently acceding rights to one of the more complete and clutch players in the league to the Yankees, in spite of Giles' southern California roots and his initial desire to come to San Diego from Pittsburgh for just that reason.

Xavier Nady, former Cal Bear and San Diego Padre, on his way to the big stage in NY

Some wonder why players eschew the comforts of a congenial and familir environment to chase Big City dollars, but if some teams are less than willing to make a concerted effort to retain those players, it is no wonder a player of Giles' caliber is suddenly receiving phone calls from Joe Torre in an old fashioned recruiting effort. Giles has been one of the real impact players in the league for the past seven years, with an on base % exceeding .400 over that period of time. And watching him compete against the NL West, he has proven to be a dangerous hitter as well, not just one satisfied to take his walks.
Nady was a 2nd round draft choice out of Cal, where he played 3b but made a successful transition to the outfield. He started off last season as one of the best players in the league, but settled down to a .261 batting average with 13 hr. But his potential is greater than that of the fading Cameron, tossed away by the Mariners who resurrected his career, and Nady may very well develop into a .285/25hr type of player who plays an above average right field for the Mets. What are the Padres thinking? Go figure, I can't.

The horrific collision last year with Carlos Beltran that ended Cameron's season, casting doubt on his health this year.

The Dodgers, floundering for most of last year under the guidance of Paul DePodesta, seem to have landed on their feet, for now. Ned Colletti has been instrumental in the construction of the SF Giants teams, a valuable assistant to Brian Sabean. While Sabean receives kudos for his astute decisions, many of these decisions and subsequent negotiations have been carried out with Ned Colletti at Sabean's side.

In this case, finishing second, as Kim Ng did, is not bad. She retains her position as Assistant GM and will undoubtedly learn more serving Colletti, absorbing the lessons that he did at
Sabean's side, and at age 36, she has more then enough time to learn more and profit from the experience. Forgoing a chance at history, as the NY Times put it, is not the by-line of this story. How many other equally qualifed or MORE qualified candidates for managerial and gm positions have been passed over in recent years? The desire to be politically correct and champion Ng's cause in the press is a misguided effort to bend over backwards and miss the real story. Such are the times we live in…with confused and convoluted priorities.

Ned Colletti (left), assistant GM in San Francisco, at a news conference accepting the GM job in LA and present assistant GM for the Dogers, Kim Ng (right)

Possibly the best arm in baseball is on the free agent market this year, but he is not a pitcher. Rafael Furcal displays the type of arm strength not seen since Shawon Dunston. In 1982, the Cubs eschewed the opportunity to draft Doc Gooden. When asked how they could have done such a thing, their reply, “Dunston has a better arm than Gooden.” And they were right. Dunston competed at a high level defensively throughout his career which ended in 2002, while Gooden fought through arm injury and drug addiction, squandering what was thought to be a sure Hall of Fame career.

Now the Cubs are focused on another great arm at shortstop, as well as a much needed lead off hitter with speed. Furcal has had some down times in career, having been arrested for drunk
driving at age 19, but he has generally been a good citizen and his stature as one of the youngest impact position players in the free agent pool this year will surely attract the attention of the big money teams, ie. the Mets, Cubs and his present team, the Atlanta Braves. It is difficult to imagine why the Braves are not makng a big push to retain his services, but perhaps they are, behind the scenes and quietly. For Bobby Cox's sake, I hope so, as his mantle as manager of the year will be jeopardy next year without Furcal who has become a fixture in the Braves infield at age 28. But give the Cubs credit for pursuing the type of player who will solidify both their defense and offensive lineup, giving Dusty Baker the chance to have some peace of mind, with the departure of the oft injured Nomar Garciaparra and the uneven offensive abilities of Neifi Perez.

Rafael Furcal displaying one of the very best arms in all of baseball. from the shortstop position.