Astros charging for head
of NL Central
The Mendoza Line
Ed De La Garza
Right about now, Chicago Cubs fans are
collectively screaming, "Doh!"
A proposed deal that would have sent Tampa
Bay Devil Rays first baseman Fred McGriff to Chicago was vetoed by the
Crime Dog himself. Citing he wanted to stay
close to his family and that playing for
a winner wasn't his main priority, McGriff opted to stay with a last-place
But he may eventually say yes to a deal,
provided it's sweetened significantly -- and not necessarily by the Cubs.
While that's bad news for Chicago, which
saw its National League Central Division lead over Houston dwindle to two
games, that doesn't mean the Cubs won't keep
looking for another bat.
Pitching has kept them atop the standings
(first for runs allowed), but they rank near the bottom of the pack in
the NL -- and dead last out of all contending teams in
The Cubs badly need someone with power
-- aside from Sammy Sosa -- if they want to avoid their usual collapse.
There's been some talk of their trying to get Steve
Finley out of Arizona.
OK, even the most loyal Chicago fans dread
the idea of an Astros team that's finally starting to click. Nothing against
the Cubs, but they're only keeping Houston's
Around the bases
Controversial Cleveland Indians closer
John Rocker was demoted after giving up four runs Monday in a 10-8 loss
to the Astros. Manager Charlie Manuel didn't
specify whether or not it would be a permanent
move. He also didn't bother to tell the easygoing and always affable Rocker
before telling the media. Wickman
reclaims the role Rocker assumed when
the Indians traded for him.
Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez won't be
back in the lineup until at least Sept. 1, meaning the New York Yankees
will more than likely widen their one-game lead
over Boston in the American League East
But Boston will also have a hard time keeping
its lead in the Wild Card race. Cleveland and a resurgent Oakland team
will try to extend the "Bambino Curse." It's
long from over for Boston, but its brightest
spot may be Manny Ramirez's contention for the Triple Crown.
With the trading deadline on the horizon,
contending teams -- the Astros included -- are making serious bids to acquire
the one player who can put them over the
Topping the list of names is underrated
Colorado Rockies pitcher Pedro Astacio. He only has a 6-11 win-loss record
(he's won only three of his last 16 starts).
Teams may be willing to neglect his 5.14
ERA, considering he pitches in Colorado, but they may not be willing to
pay his $9 million salary next season.
Other rumored names include Jose Cruz Jr.,
Sterling Hitchcock, Dmitri Young, Jermaine Dye, Woody Williams, Todd Jones,
Andres Galarraga and Steve Finley.
As of press time, the Astros were a mere
two games out of first place in the NL Central. They've been riding the
success of Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller, but their run
production is second only to Colorado.
With Scott Elarton being placed on the
disabled list, the Astros avoid having to make a decision that could effectively
end the young pitcher's career. But it does put
them in the position of needing a replacement.
Dave Mlicki will replace Elarton for the time being, but his 7.16 ERA indicates
he won't fare much better.
They don't need someone to fill Elarton's
shoes. They need someone to help them in the playoff race. This is where
Al Leiter comes in.
It was reported Monday that the Astros
had made inquiries about the New York Mets pitcher. It was also reported
Leiter had the right to veto a trade to any one of 12
teams. But it wasn't known if Houston
was on the list.
Leiter is only 5-8, but he does have a
decent 3.42 ERA (second for full-time Mets starters) and has always been
a workhorse for whatever team he's on. It's probably
a long shot, but the news at least means
the Astros don't want to stand pat.