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Volume 68, Issue 161, Wednesday, July 30, 2003


Astros need to make a deal

Miceli's 4.02 ERA unlikely to help club make a serious run

Mendoza Line

Ed De La Garza

In Monday's Cougar Pause diatribe, I neglected to mention that Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane is a Baylor alum as well. He's also chairman of the school's board of regents. He obtained his business degree in Waco and parlayed it into a career in food distribution. The former Bear was seen as Houston's savior when he rescued the Astros from former owner John McMullen.

Years of playoff pratfalls and a publicly financed stadium have tarnished that image just a little bit. The media's been pretty lenient with McLane so far, even if Astros fans wonder why he keeps crying "woe is me" when the subject of opening the wallet comes up.

McLane has spent money in the past. As recently as this past off-season, he brought in Jeff Kent. Kent was probably willing to come to Houston on the cheap, but a three-year $17.2 million contract isn't exactly chickenfeed. Aside from Randy Johnson in 1998, the organization hasn't been too keen on making the blockbuster deals to help it get to, and win, the World Series.

Just before this year's trading deadline, the Astros released Brian L. Hunter. Tuesday, they acquired right-handed relief pitcher Dan Miceli from the Yankees for a player to be named later or cash. Reserve those postseason seats now.

The deadline will pass Wednesday and the biggest deal the Astros have made is adding a reliever with a 4.02 ERA. Houston is Miceli's fourth stop this season. It doesn't really make the relief staff stronger. Of course, Houston's problem this season may be that it doesn't have that much to work with. The Astros would have to give up something to get something in return. 

Either that or approach a team looking to unload some salaries (much like Pittsburgh did with the Cubs).

The Astros are probably good enough to win the division without bolstering their lineup, but they won't go deep in the playoffs without a significant move. If Pittsburgh's still selling its best players to division rivals, Jason Kendall would be an improvement over the .200-hitting Brad Ausmus.

Latest reports have Kendall and Brian Giles staying behind in San Diego after the Pirates series with the Padres. Latest reports also have St. Louis trying to make a deal for the Pirates' Jeff Suppan (10-7, 3.57 ERA). Chicago traded to get better and the Cardinals will undoubtedly try to shore up their pitching staff. But latest reports may have the Astros sitting back.

It may be enough come playoff time, but if the Astros fall just short of winning the division or again fail to win a postseason series, those "woe is me" cries are going to fall on deaf ears.

In the news

Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer will buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from News Corp. for between $400 and $450 million, CBS Sportsline reported. The deal is considerably less than the $660 million John Henry paid for the Boston Red Sox in 2001, but the Dodgers deal does not include cable rights.

The deal would have to be approved by major league baseball and the NFL, but it should only be a formality. Glazer isn't hurting for money (he's worth $750 million), but most of his assets are tied up in the Buccaneers. The deal would end a six-year relationship with the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp.

Though they've been close, the Dodgers haven't been to the postseason under the current ownership. They were involved in a tight race with San Francisco early this season but have since faded to third place behind the Giants and Colorado, 12 and one-half games out of first place.

Glazer would assume control in October if the deal is approved. Murdoch will likely return to spending all of his time peddling tabloid journalism and conservative rhetoric.

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