A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Baseballâ€™s Winter Meetings
NEW JERSEY— Baseball’s Winter Meetings have come and gone, so now it’s time to figure out who got the better end of what deals, and who ended up on the proverbial short end of the stick.
We’ll start with the Yankees finally making the Gary Sheffield signing official at 3 years, and $39 million. Sheffield should be worth the money, but is he worth the headaches that he and Kevin Brown could bring to the Yankee clubhouse? So far, Sheffield has played the good soldier, but New York has a way of turning the good into the bad, and then ugly. Kenny Lofton will also be playing ball in the Bronx, it seems. It also seems that the Yanks are doing what their cross-town rivals, the Mets would normally do. Sign a bunch of past their prime players(minus Sheffield) to serve as a quick fix to try and regain lost glory. With Boston now being the favorite in the American League East, these George Steinbrenner-esque moves can and will very easily backfire on him.
As for those Red Sox, this one won’t be sponsored by Nextel, because they are still trying to get this Alex Rodriguez deal done.
It’s been a week since the talk has started, but by the time it ends, it will be up to A-Rod to decide either way, or at least it should be. By the way, Mark Belhorn isn’t the greatest choice of 2nd basemen for them. Should have just stayed with Todd Walker. Keith Foulke will make a solid closer, though.
Even the Toronto Blue Jays are tired of playing 3rd best in this division for 6 straight years. The Jays go out and bring in former Arizona Diamondback Miguel Batista to put behind stud Roy Halladay in their starting rotation. Maybe, the Blue Jays are finally starting to get it
Baltimore makes their first big splash by signing Miguel Tejada to a long term deal(6 years, $72M). It looks like the Birds will be players in the A.L. East if they can grab some pitching. Of course, they aren’t done with the offense. After all, Javy Lopez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Vladmir Guerrero are still out there, looking for new homes in 2004. Just do yourselves a favor. Stay away from Armando Benitez!
Ditto to the Florida Marlins. Despite the losses of Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Encarnacion(traded to L.A.), and Derek Lee(traded to the Cubs), if they want to have so much as a shot at repeating as world champions, they DO NOT need Benitez blowing big time games for them. Find yourself another closer somewhere. Dontrelle Willis and World Series MVP Josh Beckett will be strong fixtures in the rotation for a while to come, and should give baseball down in South Beach a leg to stand on.
Going over to the Midwest, the St. Louis Cardinals decided to do business with the Atlanta Braves, and do a J.D. Drew/Eli Marrero swap for Ray King and Jason Marquis. Nice move, but since they are in the running for Greg Maddux, he becomes the quintessential, if the Cards are to contend in ’04.
As for the Braves, with the loss of Maddux, and the addition of John Thomson, it’s still subtraction. They simply will not be as good pitching-wise, and Drew will not give them the production of either Gary Sheffield or Javy Lopez, much less both. Of course, there’s always the injury factor with him to deal with, as well.
With the remainder of my time, I’ll get to my team, the Mets. I don’t want to put a grade on GM Jim Duquette just yet. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t send his off-season GPA to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton right now. In a move that’s eerily similar to the Mo Vaughn trade, he grabs Kaz Matsui from Japan, and puts $21 million in his pocket, with no clue as to how he will perform on American soil. Now, in a total contradiction to ownership’s so-called stance of “pitching and defense up the middle” for 2004, the Mets re-sign 42-year old John Franco to a one year deal. Franco’s best days have come and gone, and it’s time for the Mets to recognize that, which obviously, they don’t. Expect quite a tidy sum of blown saves from the washed up Met bullpen next year, between Franco, Mike Stanton, and David Weathers – and God only knows who the eventual closer will be. I only shudder to think. Is there something about my team that I do like? That would be the Mike Cameron signing. He’s a good 6 or 7-place hitter in your lineup, who can get the baseball, plain and simple. That’s my time – I’ll talk to you next week with another version of “The Squeeze Play”.