Sunday, August 8, 2004

Around the majors: A jersey for a promise


Garciaparra gets to wear No.5, under a few conditions

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The debate over how and when Nomar Garciaparra injured his right Achilles tendon raged last week.

Accusations from Boston were answered by denials from Chicago, where Garciaparra was settling into his first week as the Cubs' shortstop.

The back-and-forth, however, overshadowed a clubhouse pact between Cubs catcher Michael Barrett and his new teammate.

Barrett offered his No. 5 jersey to Garciaparra, who wore the number during his eight-plus seasons in Boston, only if the five-time All-Star promised to consider re-signing with the Cubs after this season.

"I said, 'You know what? I am definitely going to consider it afterward. But we'll address that when the season is over,' " Garciaparra said. "Let's get to the postseason and then get to our goal of winning the World Series."

The jersey exchange also included a deal both sides kept private.

"He asked me if I was working for (Cubs general manager) Jim Hendry," Barrett said. "I told him that, for me, it's been a great place to play and I've been really comfortable. I want him to be comfortable. I really hope he wants to hang around."

HIT MACHINE: With an incredible push the past five weeks, Ichiro Suzuki has moved into position to win the American League batting title.

The Mariners right fielder led the majors with a .359 average entering Friday - up from .314 on June 29 - but also has a chance to become the first player to start his career with four consecutive 200-hit seasons.

His major-league-leading 170 hits in 109 games through Friday put him on pace for around 250 hits this season.

"I'm not a big guy (5 feet 9, 172) and hopefully kids could look at me and see that I'm not muscular and not physically imposing, that I'm just a regular guy," Ichiro said. "So if somebody with a regular body can get into the record books, kids can look at that. That would make me happy."

COMMON GROUND: Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta engineered four trades involving 14 players before the July 31 non-waiver deadline - turning over 20 percent of a first-place roster in the process - and endured a considerable backlash for doing so.

As he later explained, the moves were dictated by an unwavering vision to help the Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988.

"It's a very calculated thing that every player we brought in (except catcher Brent Mayne) has some playoff experience and some playoff success," DePodesta said. "That was critical to maintaining our chemistry."

YOU COMPLETE ME: The Yankees found their backup first baseman Tuesday, signing 36-year-old John Olerud.

"I'm going to tell you what I was quoted as saying in 2001, and I got made fun of by a lot of people," said Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez, a teammate of Olerud's during the 2000 season in Seattle. "He's the best player I've ever played with. He just completes our team."

THE LAST WORDS: It has been a miserable season for the Diamondbacks, yet team officials decided against trading pitcher Randy Johnson.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner is signed through the 2005 season.

"I want to continue to work hard and try to make what was going to be one of my best years . . . into a year I can still be somewhat pleased with under the circumstances," Johnson said. "I'm in a boat with no oars, and the perfect storm is about to hit."

ODDS AND ENDS

• After the Phillies lost six of seven games from July 26-Aug. 1, the issue of Larry Bowa's job security rekindled. The Phillies then swept a three-game series against the Padres and headed to Los Angeles for a three-game series this weekend.

• The Astros intend to try to sign center fielder Carlos Beltran during the offseason. Beltran, who will be a free agent, has not ruled out a return to Houston.

• Only two Royals players have avoided a stint on the disabled list: Ken Harvey and Mike Sweeney.

• Pirates catcher Jason Kendall on Tuesday broke an 88-year-old team record for games caught. George Gibson, who held the record, caught 1,155 games for the Pirates from 1905-16.

Better bats

Largest increase in batting average from 2003 to 2004 (qualifying batters in each season):

Player 20032004Inc.
Adrian Beltre.240.328+.088
Jack Wilson.256.319+.063
Jeromy Burnitz.239.301+.062
Pat Burrell.209.263+.054
Royce Clayton.228.282+.054
Cesar Izturis.251.305+.054
Aramis Ramirez.272.326+.054

K kings

Career strikeout leaders (x-active):

1. Nolan Ryan5,714
2. x-Roger Clemens4,246
3. Steve Carlton4,136
4. x-Randy Johnson4,051
5. Bert Blyleven3,701
6. Tom Seaver3,640
7. Don Sutton3,574
8. Gaylord Perry3,534
9. Walter Johnson3,508
10. Phil Niekro3,342
11. Ferguson Jenkins3,192
12. Bob Gibson3,117
13. x-Greg Maddux2,860
14. Jim Bunning2,855
15. Mickey Lolich2,832
16. Cy Young2,819
17. Frank Tanana2,773
18. x-Curt Schilling2,679
19. David Cone2,668
20. Chuck Finley2,610
21. Warren Spahn2,583
22. Bob Feller2,581
23. x-Pedro Martinez2,569
24. Jerry Koosman2,556
25. Tim Keefe2,538

Summer savers

The top relievers for July:

WLSvBSPts
Gagne, LA1011135
Isrnghsn, StL0010033
Mesa, Pit0112132
Smoltz, Atl0010131
W-win; L-loss; Sv-save; BS-blown save; Pts-Rolaids Relief Man points.

MLB Power rankings

1. St. Louis CardinalsWalker makes Cards a juggernaut.
2. N.Y. Yankees Didn't get Unit; does it matter?
3. L.A. DodgersMaligned for deals, but Penny's huge pickup.
4. Minnesota TwinsPulling away from AL Central pack.
5. Texas RangersBullpen just dominating.
6. Atlanta BravesEveryone but Chipper contributing.
7. Oakland AthleticsGoing back and forth with Texas for AL West lead.
8. Chicago CubsPrior looking better.
9. Boston Red SoxNew SS Cabrera starting out slowly.
10. San Diego PadresSwept by Phils. Ouch.
11. Anaheim AngelsMondesi Mondesi-ed his way out of town.
12. San Francisco Giants Earache my eye, Barry!
13. Philadelphia PhilliesBowa saved his job - for now.
14. Chicago White SoxBig Hurt - he gone!
15. Cleveland IndiansAdded Josh "Don't Call Me Michael" Phelps.
16. Houston AstrosRoger Clemens, Little League Father.
17. Florida MarlinsDeals give Fish new life.
18. New York Mets Bolstered rotation, but at what cost?
19. Cincinnati RedsWith Nuxgate over, let's get on with season.
20. Milwaukee BrewersSlipping, but what a great story.
21. Tampa Bay D-RaysMark it down: Kazmir best deadline acquisition.
22. Pittsburgh PiratesShould have gotten more for Benson.
23. Detroit TigersTrounced by Rangers.
24. Baltimore OriolesPalmeiro just keeps on hitting.
25. Colorado RockiesFinally prodded Walker out of town.
26. Toronto Blue JaysFrasor quietly effective closer.
27. Montreal ExposMaking their move - probably to D.C.
28. K.C. RoyalsInjuries just keep piling up.
29. Seattle MarinersYeah, Olerud was the problem.
30. Arizona D'backsAgent Jeff Moorad slithers into front office.

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Information submitted by other baseball writers was used in this report.




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