The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone. The Dog Days of August are upon us, the 30 or so games before the “gun-lap” of September baseball. Some teams will solidify their holds on playoff spots, some will position themselves for a September push, and some will fall by the wayside leaving their fans to “wait ‘til next year!”
There were big names on the move and while the usual suspects, teams like the Phillies, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers and Red Sox were moving and shaking, the news I found most encouraging was that three teams that were in last place in 2010 were among the so-called “buyers”: the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, and Pittsburgh Pirates.
These teams, especially the Indians, have been donors more often in the past few years, the Indians having surrendered such notables as Cy Young Award winners C.C. Sabathia (to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008) and Cliff Lee (to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009). This year though the Indians got off to a great start and still found that they were in the thick of the AL Central race as the deadline neared. This led them to turn down the reported blandishments of the Red Sox for starter Fausto Carmona and instead go “all in” by acquiring the Colorado Rockies’ once and future ace, Ubaldo Jimenez. The Tribe also got outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs to shore up their depleted corps (Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo are on the Disabled List); then they turned and dealt playoff perennial Orlando Cabrera to the Giants, helping the Baysiders shore up their own infield. The Indians are going to rely on rookies Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall to maintain their infield while they duel with the Tigers, White Sox and Twins into September. There’s no guarantee the Indians will see post-season baseball, but they have put themselves in position to contend next season, as well.
The Pirates found themselves in the unaccustomed spot of being over .500 and in the discussion in the NL Central as the deadline approached, and GM Neal Huntington helped his team acquiring outfielder Ryan Ludwick from the San Diego Padres and first baseman Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles. This certainly shores up the Bucs’ lineup from the right side, but the last week has not been kind to them and they are almost dead in the water as the Brewers and Cardinals (who also helped themselves) duke it out above them. It is good to see the fans returning to PNC Park, one of the two prettiest ballparks (the other is AT&T Park in San Francisco) in MLB.
The Diamondbacks have been in the playoffs much more recently than the Indians or Pirates, but have fallen on hard times recently. This season, under new manager Kirk Gibson, the Snakes have revived in the desert heat and have capitalized on poor seasons by the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers to insert themselves into the thick of the NL West race with the defending World Series Champion Giants. The D-backs added pitching, acquiring veteran starter Jason Marquis from the Washington Nationals and reliever Brad Zeigler from the Oakland Athletics. They are going to be in the conversation throughout the season and will continue to press the Giants after winning two or three at AT&T Park this past week.
This indicates that MLB’s efforts to share revenue and enable the so-called “small market” teams to compete are working, enabling committed managements to put competitive, contending teams before their fans.