Dodgers may surprise

The Yankees are still the Yankees,
and the Pirates are still the Pirates. Having established that the earth did
not shift entirely off its axis at the 31st July deadline for non-waiver
trades, here is the outlook for some of the teams that clearly improved
themselves:

Dodgers

While 2B Ryan Theriot isn’t scaring
anyone, starting pitcher Ted Lilly brings a sub-4.00ERA to an already stacked
rotation. Relief pitcher Dotel is an upgrade, and outfielder Podesednik’s base-stealing
ability will add life to their curiously anaemic offense. If Manny Ramirez can
come back fully from his leg injuries then the Dodgers have a real shot at
catching the Giants and Padres.

Phillies

Roy Oswalt may be one of the top 10
pitchers in baseball, and in joining Halladay and Hamels at the top of the
Phils’ rotation gives them a dominant postseason rotation…if they can get
there. Overcoming their hitting drought and injury jinx will determine that.

Padres

With the lowest payroll – $38m – of
any playoff contender, the Padres are continuing to surprise everyone,
including (if they’re honest) themselves. Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals is a
big upgrade over RF incumbent Will Venable, though Miguel Tejada brings little
more than a disability allowance from the Orioles. Padres staff will soon be
heard extolling Tejada’s “clubhouse presence”, to excuse the total non-upgrade
he represents over existing 3B Chase Headley.

Rangers

Cliff Lee came over from the
Mariners earlier in the month and immediately became the staff ace. Being as
he’s only a three-month rental before hitting free agency, the Rangers had to
sacrifice little more than disappointing first base prospect Justin Smoak.

Jorge Cantu from the Marlins is
really just injury cover until Ian Kinsler returns from the DL but Christian
Guzman (Nationals) and Bengie Molina (Giants) should help off the bench.

So if they are the ones who have
improved, what about the Yankees? It seems that I am not going out on a limb,
so much as a spindly twig, in criticising the Yankees. There’s a reason they
didn’t have to give much away in their trades: they got almost nothing back
except great PR. Slugger and impending free agent Lance Berkman used to be able
to carry an offense – these days he has trouble carrying a decent-sized bat on
those balky knees, and his average and power are way down this year. New
outfielder and ex-seventh overall pick, Austin Kearns, is less of a has-been
than a never-was.

Then there is the other new kid on
the Bronx, Kerry Wood, who has been a disappointing 62 for 77 in save chances
since 2008. This season he’s been particularly terrible, sporting a 6.00ERA,
which is slightly higher than the 5.60ERA of Joba Chamberlain, whose late
inning appearances he is being brought in to replace. The Yankees will continue
to exercise their ability to spend their way out of any mistakes such as these,
while the rest of baseball looks on in envy. Until the world shifts off its
axis…

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