Sunday, August 03, 2008

Trade Association

Jason Bay had a home run last night. So did Manny Ramirez. Hitters hit. Injuries and age can slow them down, steroids can bulk up power numbers, but by and large, once a guy's been swinging a bat at big league pitching for a couple seasons, what he has done is what he will do. It's one of the very few predictabilities in the sport.

Good thing, too. Otherwise, fantasy baseball would be impossible. Try and imagine participating in a money league for pitchers only!

Yes, it's a Red Sox-centric universe here in Boston. Yes, this city has been making itself stupid over star sluggers since Ted Williams arrived (Just you wait, Big Papi! Your turn is coming). But that's no excuse for overlooking the most obvious feature of the big deal that Manny out of town, to wit, the Dodgers pulled off a short-term swindle that'd be the envy of any offshore hedge fund extant.

Jason Bay is not chopped liver. He is, roughly, 90 percent the hitter Ramirez is. And that's fine for Boston's purposes. It's really all they need to keep their lineup functioning efficiently minus Manny. As fire sale trade returns go, Bay is as good as it gets.

Now let's walk a mile in Joe Torre's Gucci spikes. The Dodgers are locked in one of those "this division sucks" pennant races with the Diamondbacks. In such a race, trade deadline personnel upgrades are even more important than for a team that needs to win 95 games to make the playoffs, because the mediocre teams, by definition, have bigger holes to fill.

The Dodgers' hole was runs. They hardly score any, because they have no power. The ghost of Nomar, until he got injured again, was one of their main longball threats. Honest.

The Dodgers got Manny Ramirez, 500 plus homers, for Adam LaRoche. And he's free! The Red Sox are paying Manny's salary!!! Nice of Theo and John Henry to cut a break for a struggling small market franchise like that.

Minus Manny but with Jason, Boston's chances of another title are about what they were with Manny-dependent on other factors such as the bullpen, a center fielder hitting more than .132, and Josh Beckett. Call the trade a wash. That's not criticism. A wash is damn good work. Nothing is harder for a front office than dumping a superstar without dumping the season in the process.

Minus Manny, the Dodgers had no shot at the playoffs. Now they do. And they're gettintg paid for the upgrade. The only way they could have done better was to find oil underneath the Chavez Ravine parking lots. Which, come to think of it, they also could do.


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