A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Free Agent Signings and Trade Talks
NEW JERSEY— As the calendar year changes to 2004, it looks like the Hot Stove has finally cooled off in Major League Baseball. All of the free agent signings and trade talks have been reduced to a precious few. However, there are still some that have a little juice to them, going into the new year.
Of course, the biggest trade talk going is the Alex Rodriguez for Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra. As of right now – after 2 deadlines have passed, this deal is dead. There’s a lot of mud to seep through in this deal, but there are two main components here.
First, the Red Sox are dealing in a position of strength here.
Remember, they were the ones who won 95 games last year, and were 5 outs away from the World Series, not the cellar dwelling Rangers.
Second, Texas and their owner Tom Hicks are requesting that Boston fork over some extra cash to deal with the contract of Ramirez.
Now, why should the BoSox have to even think about that without laughing at Texas? They are taking in extra money with A-Rod and his $180 million remaining on his deal, and Hicks want these guys to give the Rangers more money to cover Ramirez? Please. There’s no way. No deal. The last thing that I offer Texas is a rebate.
They are the ones who badly need to get out from under A-Rod’s contract, and desperately get their hands on some pitching. After all, what other team would try and make this trade with the money that’s involved? Nevertheless, there is no deal – at least for now. You never know how these backroom politics work themselves out.
Now, for the one guy that is still floating around on the free agent market, and that is Vladimir Guerrero. With the Baltimore Orioles signing Miguel Tejada and Javy Lopez, does that now leave the pricey right fielder out in the cold? Well, that remains to be seen. Nobody seems to be coming up to his asking price, so maybe it’s time for Mr. Superstar to re-negotiate – with his agent.
I suppose that someone could come in at the last minute, and change the landscape. However, more than likely, it will be Guerrero that will need to make a change.
Moving on to the Yankees, the contracts of Gary Sheffield, Kenny Lofton, and Tom “Flash” Gordon have become official.
Of course, the very false assumption is that these guys will lead this team to a world championship. They are going to find out the hard way that Andy Pettitte was a big game pitcher that the Yankees could not afford to lose, and there will be no parade going through the Bronx, for at least another year.
If it is of any consolation, there will be no repeat in Florida, either. Common sense has eluded the Florida Marlins, as they have signed classic choke artist Armando Benitez to be their closer.
Apparently, they have not seen any film on the same guy who has failed on every team he has been a part of which includes Baltimore, both New York teams, and Seattle. Of all the teams that I expected would be foolish enough to take a chance on him, I never thought the wallet conscious Marlins would be one of them.
Now that the top notch free agent pool is dried up, the non-tender list of free agents have arrived. Basically, this list is comprised of castoffs who were not re-signed by their teams, because of finances, or lack of performance. Much to the dismay of a lot of teams, there isn’t a lot of talent to go around here. Just ask my team, the New York Mets.
As usual, I will end my piece with them. You see, the think tank of owner Fred Wilpon and GM Jim Duquette passed on guys like Reggie Sanders and Jose Guillen, because they thought that they could find a treasure inside the trash that is the non-tender pool. Of course, they were wrong. After all, they still don’t have a right fielder, or a closer. Remember, this is a team that wants to be in contention, come September of 2004. Despite the words of a lot of “experts”, they are off to a bad start. Re-signing guys like John Franco and Scott Strickland will not get it done.
It certainly won’t bring the Met faithful back to the ballpark.
Flaky ownership and mismanagement threaten to give this team a 3rd straight last place finish. With everything in me, I certainly hope that I’m wrong. Very wrong.
That’s the Squeeze Play for this week. See you next year, and just think, Spring Training 2004 is right around the corner.