The July 31st trading deadline has come and gone with the Indians (and most teams, for that matter) standing pat. One of the bigger trades involved two familiar names as Matt Lawton was traded for Jody Gerut (making a short stay in Chicago for Gerut); but the Tribe, A's, Twins, Yankees, Rangers, and Orioles made no moves today. The Blue Jays were the only Wild Card team to make a significant move, trading John McDonald to the Tigers for a PTBNL on July 22nd (oh wait, they traded him away). The Tigers, interestingly, traded Kyle Farnsworth for a highly touted Braves prospect (despite the fact the Tigers are 3 games behind the Tribe).
While there is disappointment for not adding the needed right handed RF or 1B, it sounds like the "Sellers" are asking for the sun, moon, and stars to make significant moves. The report this morning from the New York Times that Soriano was going to the Twins for Lohse, Bret Boone, and two minor leaguers was probably the most ridiculous one that was circulated. That would be like the Tribe trading Elarton, Aaron Boone, and two minor leaguers for Soriano. Nice work, did Jayson Blair come back to write that article?
While looking at the Wild Card standings and seeing those teams stand pat made me realize that the teams in the hunt for the Wild Card are all "flawed" teams, just like the offensively-challenged Wahoos. So, here are the contenders (assuming that the Red Sox, White Sox, and Angels win their respective divisions) in their current pecking order with a bit of analysis:
- A's - The A's are probably the most dangerous team in the hunt due to their momentum, their tremendous starting pitching, and the fact that GM Billy Beane filled their two needs with the additions of Jay Payton and Jay Witasick after the All Star break. Oakland's offense, though, is still not the strongest. Though the pitching staff can overcome a lot of their offensive flaws, the A's have 33 less HRs, and only 20 more runs, than the Tribe. The A's look like the front-runner, riding Harden and Zito for the rest of the season.
- Yankees - Despite a ridiculously strong lineup, the Bombers were forced to acquire Hideo Nomo, Shawn Chacon, Al Leiter, and Alan Embree (with 3 of the 4 being released by their former teams) to shore up a pitching staff that looks like a Veterans' Hospital. With Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, and Chien-Ming Wang (not to be confused with the immortal Long-Duck Dong) on the DL, the Yankees are going to have to outslug their way into the playoffs. Unable to add another arm, the Yanks are going to have to go with what they've got on the mound and hope that they can win a lot of 12-9 games (when the Big Unit and Mussina aren't pitching).
- Twins - The injury to Torii Hinter and the struggles of Justin Morneau have made the Tribe offense look like the 1927 Yankees compared to the current Twinkies O. Bret Boone has knocked all of 9 hits (all singles) and 13 Ks since joining the Twins. On a sidenote - this is the same guy that hit 37 HRs in 2001 and 35 HRs in 2003, before the advent of any kind of drug testing; not that I'm saying anything. Santana, Radke, Mays, and the bullpen will be pressured to throw some gems with the way that the Twins offense is producing. For comparison, the Twins have 16 fewer runs, 29 fewer HRs, and 18 fewer hits that the "anemic" Tribe offense. And now Spiderman is gone for 4-6 weeks, which means mid-September is the target return date. Can Kirby Puckett still suit up?
- Rangers - Failing to move Soriano for any pitching help means that the Rangers are going to have to MASH to try to stay in this. Factor in that Kenny Rogers will be suspended for 20 games and Chan Ho Park is in sunny San Diego, and Chris Young will be their "ace" through August, not to mention their only available pitcher with more than 8 starts this season (the immortal Ricardo Rodriguez has 8). Is that enough to discount the Rangers, despite a phenomenal offense (does that sound familiar to any Tribe fans?). If the consensus is that pitching wins championships, why hasn't John Hart caught on?
- Blue Jays - Despite a strong push by this forgotten team, Ted Lilly just hit the 15 day DL, leaving Gustavo Chacin, Dave Bush, and Josh Towers behind the dominant Roy Halladay. Toronto is capable of a run, but seeing as most of their remaining games will come against the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and Orioles (with a series at the Jake in late August to boot), the Blue Jays have a tough path to follow to October.
- Orioles - The Orioles' young pitchers have struggled and injuries have mounted for the fading O's. Unless Tejada can pitch from the SS position and Sammy gets back on the juice (allegedly), the O's are on their way down. The O's dropped under .500 yesterday and look like more of a spoiler down the stretch (against the Sox, Yanks, and Jays) than an actual player in the Wild Card race.
Feel any better about the Tribe's chances? With Millwood, Lee, and Westbrook leading to a solid bullpen, the Tribe needs a few offensive players to find their groove to really stay in this.
Combine The Stick's revival, SuperSizemore's hot streak, and Jhon's nice transition to batting higher in the order to the return of Hafner (who is 2nd in the AL in OPS, behind the other-worldly A-Rod) and I like our chances. With all of the negativity surrounding the team, though, I feel like the only optimist in town. I feel like Lloyd Christmas telling Mary Swanson (after being told his chances are "more like one-in-a-million"), "so, you're telling me there's a chance".
Seriously, watching the Baseball Tonight Deadline Special, the focus on the Indians was whether they would be "Sellers", with Steve Phillips saying that Millwood and Wickman were their two biggest chips. Meanwhile, according to Harold Reynolds, Minnesota just needs to add that one big right-handed bat. What!?!
Wait, aren't the Indians one game back of the scuffling Twins? And isn't the Indians' schedule littered with games against Tampa Bay and Kansas City? Why the lack of respect or national attention? It's baffling.
On another note, with the Tribe not making a deal for a bat, Terry Pluto has an interesting suggestion to get a RH bat into the lineup. Call up Ryan Garko (the Sharko), when B-Phil goes to Buffalo to test his "Atomic Wedgie Hitting & Life Lessons", to platoon with Broussard. Broussard has been shredded by left-handed pitching, while Garko's hit .292 with 15 HRs and 60 RBI in Buffalo. Sounds good to me - as always, the level-headed Pluto simply calls it like he sees it.
A win today puts the road trip at 6-4. 16 of 28 games in August against the Royals, Devil Rays, and Tigers.
"So, you're telling me there's a chance"