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NL Roundup

Dog day shakeups

It's only the second week of August, but it appears that all the divisional races have already been settled, which leaves only the Wild Card still undecided. And now that the trade deadline has passed, it may appear that the vying teams will have to just hope that what they have is good enough.

But that's simply not true. Now firmly entrenched in the dog days of summer, something's needed to stir up the excitement. In light of this, let's see what moves organizations could make to strengthen their chances in the Wild Card hunt. No bars will be held and no regard for possible ridicule will be accounted for: the more radical the maneuver, the better.

San Diego Padres
1) Move 1B Phil Nevin to 3B and tell Sean Burroughs to call up BALCO
2) Move RF Brian Giles to CF to replace Jay Payton
3) Call up Xavier Nady to play RF and Tag Bozied to play 1B

By every measure, the Padres are a pitiful offensive team. Granted, playing half of their games at Petco Park accounts for some of this woefulness. On the other hand, the only park where your team can justify trailing the Pirates and Expos by double digits in home runs is Yellowstone. The outlook isn't any rosier when you look at their other stats- 14th in slugging and 13th in OPS. Somehow though, they still find themselves in contention for the Wild Card. Offhand, I can't name the last team to qualify for the postseason that finished dead last in home runs. However, I would wager that a good chunk of time has passed since it happened.

Ostensibly, the Padres would like to maximize their chances to qualify for the postseason. With this in mind, the Padres should seriously consider buying Burroughs an all-club membership to 24-Hour Fitness. As a general rule, I advocate the development of young players whenever possible. However, as much as I love young talent, I love home runs and walks even more - and Burroughs provides neither. Besides, Nady and Bozied are both young too.

Replacing Payton is a no-brainer in center. Frankly, I can't understand what prompts Bruce Bochy to write Payton's name on the lineup card day after day. I never thought I'd say this, but Terrence Long would be a better option. Fortunately for the Padres, Long isn't their only option. Giles could move a couple hundred feet to the left and not embarrass himself.

Chicago Cubs
1) Make your fifth starter the closer for the postseason
2) Call up OF Jason Dubois and make him your 4th outfielder and sabotage Jose Macias' car on game day.
3) Make Todd Walker and Mark Grudzielanek a strict right/left platoon.

Remember back in middle school when you were taught that X divided by Y was not the same as Y divided by X. Well, that is something like the difference between closing and starting in baseball. Converting a starting pitcher into a closer is easy (see John Smoltz, Eric Gagne, Dennis Eckersley); transforming a closer into a starting pitcher is a far different proposition (see Danny Graves, Byung-Hyun Kim).

Hopefully, the South Siders can take a lesson from history. The Cubs have the good fortune to possess five quality starters. But, while this is terrific for the regular season, in the postseason it's like being blessed with an extra thumb. The Cubs current bullpen situation could jeopardize the lives of their older fans will develop heart problems if they continue to trot in Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins at the end of ballgames. As a service to their elder fans trying to hold on until the fateful day the Cubs can secure a World Series victory, they should press either Matt Clement or Carlos Zambrano into ninth inning service. Greg Maddux would work too, but even Dusty doesn't have the gall to tell a 300-game winner that he's coming out of the pen.

During his playing career, Dusty's main value as a ballplayer was his ability to hit the long ball. This fact makes his affinity to "versatile" players who can move all around the diamond but couldn't hit the ball out of the infield if it were placed on a tee all the more perplexing. His decision to devote 200 at-bats between Jose Macias and Rey Ordonez borders on treason. I have a sneaking suspicion Jason Dubois (25 HR in 299 AB, .385 OBP, .625 Slg. at Triple-A Iowa) would be a better bat to have off the bench.

San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies
1) Call a do-over on the Felix Rodriguez for Ricky Ledee trade
2) Run a reality show called "A Shortstop Who Can Play Baseball" to replace IF Neifi Perez (or give his job to Brian Dallimore)

The trade that looked silly last week looks downright absurd now. Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell injured his wrist during batting practice and is done for the season. In his place, Phils manager Larry Bowa has replaced Burrell with the three-headed monster of Lou Collier, Doug Glanville and Jason Michaels. The only person who is ecstatic about this is Florida LF Jeff Conine. In one day, he went from being the worst left fielder in the NL to the fourth-worst without doing a thing.

Felipe Alou should be applauded for yanking Matt Herges out of the closer role and inserting Dustin Hermanson. Hermanson won't be confused with Mariano Rivera anytime soon, but at least batters won't look like Tiger Woods with the driver against him. Unfortunately, Alou moved Herges into the stopper (late-inning, tied or one-run games) role when they should have given him a canoe in McCovey Cove and left him with "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Right about now, my intuition is telling me that the Giants think Felix would look pretty good in Herges' spot and that the Phillies believe Ledee would be a handsome fella to have patrolling left field.

Special commendation this week goes to Greg Maddux for winning the 300th game of his career. In this current offensive era, hitting 500 home runs is an accomplishment that now ranks up there with batting .300 in Little League. On the flip side, 300 wins is a mark that only two current pitchers have a realistic chance to achieve.

If Tom Glavine (259 Wins) and Randy Johnson (241 Wins) fall short, it wouldn't be inconceivable to not see another 300-game winner for the next 25 years. Even more impressive is that Maddux is still a quality starter who could easily win 30 more games, placing him among the all-time greats. Congratulations Greg. This is a phenomenal feat.