Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Extra Thick News
2005-05-25 10:45
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Jamey Wright, a former Brewer, goes against Milwaukee in a nationally televised attempt to prevent the Rockies from getting swept by a .500 team missing its two best players, Ben Sheets and Lyle Overbay. Luckily the Brewers' worst starter is set to face him. CBS power rankings show the Rockies consolidating their #29 spot, although the Astros are coming down hard. Houston's bats might be the only ones colder than Colorado's leaguewide. Shawn Chacon will probably not miss a start with his ankle sprain, but Byung-Hyun is waiting should the call come. Free advice for Rockies brass: Stay away from Danny Graves. Run if necessary. If his agent calls, pull the phone out of the wall.

Preston Wilson is doing some job getting his young teammates playing time. Todd Greene is doing quite the opposite. Clint Hurdle's daughter's condition is improving, while Jamie Quirk mulls his future. Only thirteen more shopping days until the MLB first-year player draft, get your fix with coverage from MLBlogs, Purple Row, and Peter Gammons. Of course, as the Post's Terry Frei told us all the other day, the draft really doesn't matter; only teams with enormously rich owners who can afford to run their teams at a loss can win.

Frei's column, which the Row already torched at length, is the kind of irresponsible sportswriting that goads owners into making the decisions that keep bad teams bad. Look at the A-Rod contract and all the good it did the Rangers. Look at the money the Mariners gave Adrian Beltre after their awful year last season, money which they just as well could have spent on Jeff Cirillo and several million Hostess cupcakes. Look at the Rockies and Mike Hampton...or don't, please. But just for fun, here's a few teams that have lower payrolls than the Rockies this year: Toronto, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Cleveland. Hardly a group without hope of ever contending.

That brings us nicely to the series taking place in Phoenix right now, a referendum on building from within vs. spending lots of money you don't have. The Diamondbacks were as bad last year as the Rockies are this year, although like the Rockies they were not without young bright spots. Rather than continuing to position themselves for a return to prominence in due time, Arizona leadership got antsy and brought in via free agency and trade a veritable orgy of bad contracts: Shawn Green, Javier Vasquez, Russ Ortiz, Troy Glaus.

Meanwhile the other team vying for first place in the poor NL West, the Padres, has built gradually from within with young pitchers and position players, and a few balanced trades netted guys like Ramon Hernandez and Brian Giles. Check this out. Past Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin, the Padres are beholden to no one past this year, and after that the only long-term deal on the horizon is a bargain-basement arbitration-avoiding extension for the worthy Jake Peavy.

Those of us who are fans of fiscal solvency, sound planning, and the Ba'hai have to be backing the Padres. Those of us who consider lottery tickets an investment, think Royce Clayton's glove more than makes up for his bat, and who are related to Shawn Estes are in the D-Backs' camp. San Diego won the first game 9-5 (Ortiz took the loss). If you're a Rockies fan, you have to root for the Padres. The last thing we need our impressionable ownership and GM getting in their heads is that we need a Russ Ortiz of our very own.

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