Friday, July 31, 2009

MLB Trade Deadline Flies Under the Radar

Last year, when Major League Baseball announced it had worked out a deal with most cable companies for their own TV station, I was over the moon. I honestly hadn't been this excited since JT Snow saved Darren Baker from certain death and the Giants appeared well on their way to their first World Series Championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958 (and if you're scoring at home, that would have been their first World Championship in my lifetime). This was like a dream come true for me, the television was going to pump baseball into my home 24/7. If I had insomnia one night, baseball would be there. If I was home sick from work, baseball would be there to keep me company. If I got home from a bender on South Beach at 4am, baseball would be right there waiting for me. I called Comcast immediately and asked the guy if this new channel was included on my package. He nodded. Ok, he didn't nod, he said yes...but in my head he was nodding along with me. He told me it would be channel 741. So, that night, I played the numbers 7-4-1 in the Pick 3. I still go to work everyday, so you know how that turned out. But there it was, in all it's glory- the MLB Network. Such a glorious thing.

The MLB Network had everything - live look ins at games around the country, a game of the week every week. And great guys talking about baseball (Mitch WIlliams and Dan Plesac are perfect for their segment). I'll admit, one of the things I was looking forward to most about this channel was today- the MLB trade deadline. I was going to take today off work and sit by my TV all day....parked on channel 741, watching the up to the second updates that ESPN would invariably be 30 minutes or so behind. MLB Network was made for days like today. Sure, I never get tired of watching game 6 of the '86 World Series or game 7 of the '01 World Series...heck, I could watch those two games on a continuous loop on a slow sports day just for giggles. But the trade deadline....that would be where MLB Network would truly suck me in.

Then a funny thing happened about a month ago. I got my cable bill....and it had doubled. I called Comcast. They said that my other deal was just an "introductory offer" and that my new bill reflected what I would now be paying. I was livid. So, I called AT&T, who was more than happy to accommodate me with a nice bundle package of Cable, Internet, home phone and cell phone service. They gave it to me at a great price (no BS introductory offer) and I was now going to have over 1,000 channels of programming. All forgot to ask was one little question. Oops. When AT&T hooked up my cable I explored all my new found channels. I had two TNTs, two TBS' (you know for the west coast child in me). I had the Big Ten Network (for no apparent reason). I also stumbled upon what appeared to be 16 different Lifetime movie channels. What I didn't find in the 1,036 channels was the MLB Network. I know this because I scrolled through......twice. That's right, 2,072 channel surfs and no MLB. I was crushed. So, I decided to work today, and just stream on my computer. Turns out, I didn't miss much. Recapping what turned out to be a relatively slow trade deadline week....

The Red Sox obtained a much needed middle of the lineup bat in Victor Martinez, who I believe will see more time at 1B than behind the plate. Jason Varitek has been very solid this season, while Mike Lowell has spent a good portion of the season on the DL and nursing injuries that tend to happen at his age. For you fantasy junkies out there, Kevin Youkilis will start seeing a lot more time at 3B, so you may get some position flexibility with him as the year goes on.

The Yankees countered this move with one of their own.....Jerry Hairston, Jr. The Yankees seem content with their current lineup...and they should. It's downright devastating. But their pitching is anorexicly thin and watching pitchers Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy and Jarrod Washburn get moved while they stood pat has to frustrate Yankee fans.

The White Sox, Twins and Tigers all made moves that should help them now, all without giving up a lot for the future. The Sox traded away 4 prospects to San Diego to obtain injured stud Peavy, but none of the prospects excite me. While the Tigers and Twins were able to fill holes with Washburn and Orlando Cabrera, respectively, without paying a king's ransom. It was more like a joker's ransom.

Seattle was the only team to make moves in the AL West, but not enough to catch the Angels or Rangers.

In the National League, the Phillies made the biggest splash, obtaining 2008 AL CY Young Award Winner Cliff Lee for peanuts. Add in that the Braves and Mets did nothing and the only fish the Marlins could reel in was Nick Johnson, and the Phillies should have little trouble repeating as NL East Champs.

While the Phillies made the biggest noise in the NL, I really like the under-the-radar moves of some other teams. The Dodgers, Cubs, Giants and Pirates all accomplished goals they needed to at the deadline. The Dodgers bolstered a porous bullpen by acquiring a solid reliever from Baltimore in George Sherrill. The Cubs bolstered a beleaguered rotation and bullpen in their acquisitions of Grabow and Gorzelanny. Meanwhile, by the bay, the top pitching staff in baseball, the Giants, finally added some offense in Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez. They did pay a decent price for Sanchez. But the Wild Card leaders needed offense to go with their top notch pitching.

While most of the talk revolves around the buyers and those that stood pat, the Pirates cashed in as sellers this year. Other teams gave away their players for pennies on the dollar....but the Pirates made sure that they received top-level prospects in exchange for their players. Most notably was San Francisco's Tim Alderson. A former 1st Rd draft pick of the Giants, Alderson has dominated at each Minor League stop he has been on. The pitching-rich Giants could afford to move him, but the Pirates got quite the haul here.

And before we finish up, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the St Louis Cardinals' pick up of Matt Holliday. They gave up 3 top notch prospects to get him. But I am sure Albert Pujols will be seeing a lot more good pitches to hit now that he has a solid bat in Holliday behind him.

I am looking forward to a great, exciting final two months of the season. Even if I have to do it without MLB Network.

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