Winners and losers, leaving Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS – Sorting out the winners and losers at baseball’s winter meetings, while abiding by the admonition that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, thus protecting the names of all the scouts, front-office men, managers, agents and reporters who doubled down at the wrong time. Like the National League executive who cracked before leaving town, “It took me no time at all to convert $4,000 into $1,250.”
Jerry Manuel, winner: The New York Mets manager had a ballclub last season that went 6-16 in games in which it led after six innings, lost 13 games in which it led after seven, and would have won the National League East by six games if all games ended after eight innings, according to STATS. Now, instead of holding his nose while picking up the bullpen phone, Manuel will be able to call upon J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, one closer for each of the last two innings.
Jake Peavy, loser: The San Diego Padres pitcher supposedly was so jacked up about becoming a Chicago Cub that he was spotted singing “Go Cubs Go” in a Las Vegas bar after a Brooks and Dunn concert he’d attended with Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt. After the Cubs and Padres broke off trade talks Thursday, he might as well have been singing “A Man This Lonely” by the country duo.
Omar Minaya, winner: The Mets general manager, who took advantage of the glut of closers to sign K-Rod at a K-Mart discount (if $37 million can ever be called a bargain) and also traded for Putz, broke off one of the meeting’s best lines when he said: “All I’ve heard from Mets fans as I walk the streets of New York City, going out to get bagels and what not, is, ‘Omar, address the bullpen.’ Well, Mets fans, we’ve addressed the bullpen.”
Manny Ramirez, loser: That should come with an asterisk. Manny is going to wind up with his money, his own parking spot at Chavez Ravine, and his own reality TV show, if he wants it, after he re-signs with the Dodgers, which just about everyone here predicts will happen. But in any other year, Man-Ram would have been high on the list of both the Yankees and Mets, and just might have been able to land another $100 million deal. But the two New York teams needed pitching more than another bat, especially one that comes with a matching set of Tumis.
Oprah Winfrey, winner: The talk queen’s confessions this week about her prodigious weight gains will quickly fade away now that the New York tabloids have new Yankee acquisition CC Sabathia tipping the scales at more than 300 pounds. And unlike Oprah, he has yet to play the excuse that he has a fear of working out.
Doug Melvin, loser: The Brewers general manager had one chance to spend $100 million, and that was on Sabathia. When Sabathia signed instead with the Yankees, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio asked for his checkbook back.
Amber Sabathia, winner: After flying to San Francisco to meet Sabathia and his wife, Yankees GM Brian Cashman increased his offer to the free-agent left-hander by $21 million and threw in an opt-out clause as well, even though he essentially was bidding against himself. That’s what you call down-home charm.
Detroit Tigers, loser: President/GM David Dombrowski, his payroll already well north of $100 million, couldn’t compete for K-Rod, was outbid by the Indians for Kerry Wood and didn’t have an answer for Minaya’s three-team, 12-player trade that pried Putz from Seattle. If the season started today, the Tigers’ closer would be Fernando Rodney. That’s a five-alarm fire.
Mark Teixeira, winner, Washington Nationals, loser: You have to play Tex and the Nats as a parlay. Teixeira could be on his way to joining Alex Rodriguez as baseball’s $200 million players because just as A-Rod had Tom Hicks and the Rangers to drive the bidding beyond reason, so, too, does Teixeira have Nats owner Ted Lerner. Lerner’s best negotiating tactic seems to be to ask “How high?” when agent Scott Boras snaps, “Jump.” The Red Sox, Angels and Orioles might all be forced to check out of the bidding, but for now they refuse to believe that Teixeira willingly would commit the next decade to a team that lost 102 games last season.
Atlanta Braves, loser: The Braves still could wind up in the win column, if A.J. Burnett decides playing in Atlanta for less money than a fatter deal from the Yankees. The Braves balked at guaranteeing Burnett a fifth year, like the Yankees reportedly did, because they figured if they gave him an extra year, the Yanks just would add more dollars.
Phillies fans, winners: They may be fretting about who the defending champs will find to play left field, if this really is the end for Pat Burrell, and what their team will do while Chase Utley recovers from hip surgery that is expected to keep him out until June. But they’ve got to love the fact that the Phils’ smoking rivalry with the Mets – Jimmy Rollins taunting the Mets that they can’t beat the Phils, the Phils taking offense at Jose Reyes’ showboating – is almost certain to step up to the next level with K-Rod closing for New York. The flamboyant Rodriguez makes Dennis Eckersley look shy after he punches out a hitter, screaming and pointing skyward, which may be why Phillies ace Cole Hamels couldn’t resist calling the Mets “choke artists” on a New York radio station Thursday.
Mike Lowell, loser: The Red Sox third baseman was World Series MVP in 2007, and last season he played until his hip got so bad he no longer could walk and underwent surgery. Now, all he’s hearing is that he’ll be traded if the Red Sox sign Teixeira and move Kevin Youkilis to third. He’s a big boy and should understand it’s a business, but it still has to sting.
Scott Boras, winner: Bud Selig shut down the winter meetings for a year in the early ’90s when he decided that the agents were holding the game hostage. Judging by the insane scrum of reporters that followed Boras through the halls of the Bellagio, pinning him at one point against a store window, it seems like some things haven’t changed.