Home MLB'Weekly' Hit Ground Ball ‘Weekly’ Hit Ground Ball 2008 – Week Seventeen

‘Weekly’ Hit Ground Ball 2008 – Week Seventeen

by Matt Smith

Will I stay or will I go?  Don’t ask me!

Rumours are swirling, e-mails are pinging into Inboxes and the phone lines are jammed.  The thirty Major League GM’s are weighing up their options with the trading deadline, 21.00 BST this coming Thursday (31st), looming large.  Fans are looking on helplessly hoping that the GM of their favoured team makes a splash.  Many of the players involved are looking on helplessly as well. 

It’s something of an oddity for British sports fans to get used to, but it’s an accepted part of the business that ballplayers can be moved to another team on the other side of America without their consent.  That leads to the strange situation where some players are sitting in their clubhouse right now, reading the rumours of their imminent departure and waiting to be told which plane they need to catch. 

Recent rumours of a possible trade between the Rockies and the Phillies have left outfielder Shane Victorino hoping that he doesn’t have to leave Philadelphia.  Trouble is, he doesn’t get a say in the matter so he may be calling Colorado home by the end of next week.

Victorino’s problem is that he hasn’t yet reached the point where he has earned the right to veto a trade, either through demanding a partial/full no-trade clause when signing a free agent contract or by acquiring ‘veteran’ 10-5 rights.  The Padres are staring at a lost season and would probably be keen to obtain a prospect or two in exchange for Greg Maddux; however he has a full no-trade clause and if a proposed deal isn’t okay with him (e.g. it means moving away from the West Coast), it’s not going to happen.

Ray Durham also had the power to block the Giants’ attempts to move him on as he is a ten and five player (ten or more seasons in the Majors and five with his current team).  San Francisco were able to find a deal that suited the veteran though.  Durham is now a Milwaukee Brewer and while he may have to settle for a bit-part role (the Brewers have made it clear that they still see Rickie Weeks as their starting second baseman), that figures to be a lot more fun than playing out the string with a struggling Giants team.  As well as the allure of the Brewers being play-off contenders, Durham also didn’t have to go far to meet up with his new team mates.  The two teams were playing each other at the time of the deal, so Durham could just pick up his belongings and switch clubhouses.

Fans always demand loyalty from their players because their emotional attachment to the game makes it hard for them to see it for what it really is: a hard-nosed business.  Players know this to be true, occasionally learning their lesson the hard way.  Bronson Arroyo accepted what he claimed amounted to a home-town discount when signing a new contract with the Red Sox back in January 2006.  The reward for his loyalty was to find himself being traded to Cincinnati only two months later, his affordable contract no doubt making him an attractive proposition for the Reds.  Arroyo is now hoping that he won’t be moved on again.

The saving grace for the players is that they will be paid the same whatever happens and sometimes the trade works out in their favour, even if it takes a few years for their luck to turn around.  Xavier Nady was looking forward to possible play-off glory with the Mets two years ago, only to be traded on the deadline day to the Pirates.  The drop from the top of the NL East to the bottom of the NL Central would have been painful, but Nady has got on with his job and after his trade to the Yankees was completed yesterday, he has now experienced the other side of a trade by a contender.

So while we’re scouring the websites wondering who is going to end up where over the next few days, it’s worth remembering that some of the players are doing the exact same thing. 

Week 17 wrap-up

Here come the Yankees.  An eight-game winning streak (and counting) has drawn them to within one game of the Red Sox and they will be level if the Bronx Bombers win the series finale between the two teams tonight.  The Rays (61-42) still top the East by two games though.   In the Central, the White Sox (59-43) have a 3.5 game lead over the Twins who seemingly aren’t too bothered whether they make the play-offs or not, keeping Francisco Liriano in Triple-A and remaining silent on the trading front despite their obvious need for another bat.  Meanwhile the Angels (64-39) are under no pressure to make a move, coasting along as they are with a 10.5 game cushion in the West.

In the NL East, the Mets (56-48) have followed their cross-town rival’s lead (or should that be the other way around?) and catapulted themselves to the top of the division.  New Yorkers shouldn’t get overconfident just yet though: the Phillies and the Marlins both sit only a single game behind them and I believe the Mets have something of a recent history when it comes to collapsing down the stretch.  The Cubs and the Brewers (both 60-44) are locked together in the NL Central in what should be a great race over the next two months, albeit one that may end up with both making the postseason.  The D-Backs (52-51) retain their one game lead over the Dodgers in the West, although in this case the loser will not have the wild card to fall back on.

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