Ezequiel Astacio vs. Pedro Martinez? No problem, says Brad Ausmus. I'll just push a run across with a little suicide squeeze, then end the game with yet another walk-off hit. And he even thought enough to take off his helmet before getting mobbed by his mates.
Something's going on here, folks. Something's in the air. A little magic. I mean, if Brad "Mr. 300 -- Slugging" Ausmus can win a game practically by himself, we just can't do wrong.
In fact, Jack and I worry about Nationals Syndrome. That is, thinking we're better than we are because we're playing better than we are. Make no mistake: I think we have a great team and we're playing out of our minds. But look at our recent wins. Very much like the Washington Nationals back in June. And look what's happened to them. The point? With the trade deadline looming, we ought to make some moves to ensure we keep up this torrid hot streak. Not necessarily drastic, but enough to get things going. After a lousy offseason, Purpura needs to show he can make a move when it counts.
So, I offer my last-minute trade thoughts (Caution: they may differ from Jack's). If I were Purpura (and one time I actually came down with a disease called Immune Thrombocytopenic purpura, so I guess I'm close...), here's what I would do:
Trade Burke for J.C. Romero. Some would say this is tomfoolery. They might be right, since Burke might turn out to be a Marcus Giles-type. Of course, he might turn out to be a Luis Rivas-type, too. One thing's for sure, he ain't Chase Utley. That guy's good. The fact of the matter is, Biggio is still a very productive player at 2B. I want him to play next year, and as long as it takes for him to get 3,000 hits. I'm sure every decent Astro fan will agree with me. Burke has talent, but we aren't getting the most out of him since we aren't starting him everyday at second base. We ought to trade him, not just for his benefit, but for the team's. If we make no other trades, this one will increase PT for Lane, Lamb and the incredible Orlando Palmeiro. Romero is a very good lefty reliever. A great ERA but he's walked a few too many batters to be considered elite. I'd keep Gallo as well (who, by the way, now has a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP) to have two good lefties in the pen. (Harville goes to AAA to work on throwing a new pitch. It's called a strike.)
Get Adam Dunn, whatever it takes. Yes, Cincy is asking for a lot. And yes, we could probably get him as a free agent after the 2006 season. But I want him NOW. And we need him--now. Even if we need to give up a lot. Young power hitters seem to be going by the wayside. Besides Cabrera, Pujols, Teixeira and Blalock, how many young sluggers are out there? Not too many. Dunn has a .967 OPS, fifth in the NL (tied with A-Ram and one point ahead of MoBerg). The more I read about the trade market, the more I believe sellers will have to crack in the next 48 hours. The Reds may hold onto Dunn if the find a buyer for Junior (the Yanks?), but I think they will be forced to lower their demands by Saturday. Backe's injury might hurt things, since he's the "proven major leaguer" the Reds have said they need. Backe's got good stuff, but it misses too often. If he finds some control, I bet he has the potential to become a Brad Penny kind of pitcher. But more than likely he'll stay a fourth starter throughout his career. At least he can bat, right? I would trade Backe, Lane and a prospect other than Zeke (Buchholz? Nieve?) for Dunn.
Next, acquire Jose Cruz Jr. I know what you're thinking. And no, I'm not high. I'm not sure if Cruz is on waivers a la Danny Graves or Corey Patterson, but we ought to get him somehow. If we do have to trade for him, I'm sure it wouldn't take much. I mean, the D-Backs freakin' demoted him even though he gets on base 34.7% of the time. That's just about as good as their two big pickups last offseason, Shawn Green (.351) and Troy Glaus (.353). I'm sure he'd love to play for his daddy, and it would be nice for him to play for a team that appreciates him. He's got the right field all to himself. Plus... another switch hitter!
Finally, I'd tell Everett to stop trying to hit homers. Let the big boys take care of that. Stop swinging for the fences and take a lesson from Taveras: Get on base however you can (but good job hitting that bomb off Pedro today).
So, here's who we got on our Championship team:
CF Taveras (.691)
2B Biggio (.836)
LF Berkman (.945)
3B Ensberg (.966)
1B Dunn (.967)
RF Cruz Jr. (.783)
SS Everett (.658)
C Ausmus (.637)
Bench: Lamb, Palmeiro, Bruntlett, Vizcaino, Quintero
Staff: Oswalt, Clemens, Pettitte, Wandy, Zeke, Burns, Springer, Gallo, Romero, Qualls, Wheeler, Lidge
Suddenly this team looks a lot better. The two rookies at the end of the rotation scare me, but both are improving. Romero-Qualls-Wheeler-Lidge is domination. This lineup would get the job done. I hate to lose Burke, Backe and Lane, but you can't get attached to players who -- let's face it -- aren't that great. Besides, something tells me Dunn, Romero and Cruz are a touch better.
Now then, some notes I picked up on Rotoworld.com: Clemens' back is bothering him, but he pitched through the pain on Wednesday. "I was fortunate," he said. "Every time I went out for the warmups, it was stiff. But it came around and I got better."
Backe's injury doesn't seem like it's too dangerous. "It's a little aggravating," Backe said. "I'll certainly be back in a couple of weeks. I just hope it's back to 100 percent instead of 90 percent." Me too. And while you're in the hospital bed, look at your numbers. Hope your walk total doesn't give you a heart attack. Anyway it'll be nice to see what Zeke can do while our hitters are putting up crooked numbers.
Finally, I think I may have another contender for next year's catcher: Robert Fick. He seems to have matured, both mentally and physically, from the "bad boy" of the Tigers and Braves. Chek out this year's stats in 112 ABs: .295/.360/.420 for a .780 OPS. That's good. It's tad higher than his career .755 OPS, but he's just over 30 and seems to have found his swing again this year. Plus it looks like Ramon Hernandez wants to stay in San Diego, and I'm sure they want him there.
Friday: Wandy vs. Benson
Saturday: Pettitte vs. Glavine
Sunday: Oswalt vs. Ishii