By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
The Reds are continuing to try to get Brad Penny from Florida, but it appears the only way they'll be able to do so is a three-cornered deal through Montreal, and that appears dead.
Boston, not Atlanta, will get the Mets' second-round pick in next year's draft, since Cliff Floyd is ranked higher than Tom Glavine.
The Tigers are realistic. "If we went out and signed some big free agent, that alone wouldn't make us appreciably better," says team president and GM Dave Dombrowski. "We have a lot of work to do." "What we have to do is get the players pointed in the right direction and get the attitude right," says new manager Alan Trammell. Non-tendering Robert Fick was a clear message to getting the attitude right again.
John Rocker left Mayaguez in Puerto Rico, but has caught on and is working his way back. Speaking of other comebacks everyone roots for: Rick Ankiel. The lefty has been working very hard all winter in Jupiter, Fla., and has been cleared to throw. By the way, Toe Nash has signed with the Reds.
The A's actually traded up to take right-hander Buddy Hernandez in the Rule 5 draft. Hernandez, in the Atlanta system, was 4-0 with a 1.22 ERA with 36 hits allowed and a 23/81 walk/strikeout ratio in 56 innings at Class A Greenville. He also held opponents to a .140 batting average and allowed only two home runs in two years. Why was he in the draft? Because he's 5-foot-10. Hmm. Haven't Pedro Martinez, Roy Oswalt, Greg Maddux, Tom Gordon and Tim Hudson dispelled the myth of the inadequacy of the sub-six-foot pitcher?
The best free-agent steal thus far could be Boston's signing of Chad Fox, he of the nearly-unhittable curveball. Fox sat out nearly all of last season with arm problems and has had a history of physical woes. But in 2001 he was 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA with 44 hits allowed, 36 walks and 80 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings for the Brewers.
"He's one of those guys who if he's healthy could save 35-40 games," says A's GM Billy Beane. "We were on him, but with Hernandez and all the relievers we had, we felt his opportunity was better in Boston."
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's theory is to get as many good arms as possible, and out of the Rule 5 draft the Red Sox got one of the best pitchers in Puerto Rico, sidearming lefty reliever Javier Lopez, who a Tampa Bay scout says, "will get lefties out in the big leagues with ease. He was the best pitcher I saw in winter ball."
Good winter ball sign for the Orioles: Second baseman Brian Roberts, whose energy, defense and speed could help in 2003, is hitting .318 and leading the Puerto Rican League in steals and on-base percentage.
The Padres have very good reports on Luther Hackman, whom they picked up from St. Louis for Brett Tomko. Hackman has been clocked in the mid-90s and San Diego GM Kevin Towers envisions him as a strong setup man.
Some logical non-tender destinations: Jay Witasick back to the Padres, Tanyon Sturtze to Toronto (he was originally drafted and signed by Ricciardi) and Chris Singleton to Oakland, where he will allow Terrence Long to go back to playing left field.
The Astros are obviously thrilled with owner Drayton McLane's aggressive signing of Jeff Kent, but they are still worried about their outfield defense. Craig Biggio has never played left field, Richard Hidalgo's future as the right fiedler is in doubt and Lance Berkman is concerned about his knees holding up in center. But Jason Lane is a wonderful chip to have. As for Daryle Ward, the Astros are trying to trade him. Pittsburgh backed out of a deal for Ward, but there are several American League possibilities, including Anaheim.
If you haven't finished shopping, get the new Pearl Jam, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Three Doors Down or, if you missed it three months ago, Kay Hanley will do fine.
But all any baseball fan really wants is for the owners and players to appreciate that the time has come today to band together and reach out to the fans and try to leave the game better than they found it. Because there is no question the game is not better off than it was a decade ago, when expansion, greed and sugar plum owners dreaming of union-busting began corroding the game.
Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories