Deadline-day Difference Makers

The Yankees are still the Yankees, and the Pirates are still
the Pirates.

Having established that the earth did not shift entirely off
its axis at the 31st July deadline for non-waiver trades, here is
the outlook for some of the teams that clearly improved themselves:

Dodgers

While 2B Ryan Theriot isn’t scaring anyone, starting pitcher
Ted Lilly brings a sub-4.00ERA to an already stacked rotation. Relief pitcher
Dotel is an upgrade, and outfielder Podesednik’s base-stealing ability will add
life to their curiously anaemic offense. If Manny Ramirez can come back fully
from his leg injuries then the Dodgers have a real shot at catching the Giants
and Padres.

Phillies

Roy Oswalt may be one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball,
and in joining Halladay and Hamels at the top of the Phils’ rotation gives them
a dominant postseason rotation…if they can get there. Overcoming their hitting
drought and injury jinx will determine that.

Padres

With the lowest payroll ($38m) of any playoff contender, the
Padres are continuing to surprise everyone, including (if they’re honest)
themselves. Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals is a big upgrade over RF incumbent
Will Venable, though Miguel Tejada brings little more than a disability
allowance from the Orioles. Padres staff will soon be heard extolling Tejada’s
“clubhouse presence”, to excuse the total non-upgrade he represents over
existing 3B Chase Headley.

Rangers

Cliff Lee came over from the Mariners earlier in the month
and immediately became the staff ace. Being as he’s only a three-month rental
before hitting free agency, the Rangers had to sacrifice little more than
disappointing first base prospect Justin Smoak.

Jorge Cantu from the Marlins is really just injury cover until
Ian Kinsler returns from the DL but Christian Guzman (Nationals) and Bengie
Molina (Giants) should help off the bench.

So if they are the ones who have improved, what about the Yankees?

It seems that I am not going out on a limb, so much as a
spindly twig, in criticising the Yankees. There’s a reason they didn’t have to
give much away in their trades: they got almost nothing back except great PR.

berkman.jpg

Slugger and impending free agent Lance Berkman used to be
able to carry an offense – these days he has trouble carrying a decent-sized
bat on those balky knees, and his average and power are way down this year. New
outfielder and ex-seventh overall pick, Austin Kearns, is less of a has-been
than a never-was.

Then there is the other new kid on the Bronx, Kerry Wood,
who has been a disappointing 62 for 77 in save chances since 2008. This season
he’s been particularly terrible, sporting a 6.00ERA, which is slightly higher
than the 5.60ERA of Joba Chamberlain, whose late inning appearances he is being
brought in to replace.

But with a payroll nearly six times bigger than that of the
Padres, the Yankees will continue to exercise their ability to spend their way
out of any mistakes such as these, while the rest of baseball looks on in envy.

Until, of course, that day when the world shifts entirely
off its axis…

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