Paul Hagen | Don't bury Phils about Polanco situation

Posted: July 06, 2007

DAVID BELL IS out of baseball. Ugueth Urbina is in jail in Venezuela, convicted of attempted murder. And Placido Polanco, second baseman for the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers, will start in Tuesday night's All-Star Game.

These are all facts, true and undeniable. But, please, don't start screaming just yet.

Would the Phillies have been better off keeping Polanco and playing him instead of Bell rather than trading him to the Tigers for Urbina on June 8, 2005? With the benefit of hindsight, sure.

Before condemning the Phillies for making yet another dunderheaded, shortsighted, stupid move, though, it's worth examining the circumstances that led up to that decision.

Such as, going into the 2005 season, the Phillies had committed themselves to playing Chase Utley at second. That wasn't a bad call, as it turned out, since Utley will be the NL starter at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

Such as, at the same time, Bell was only halfway through a 4-year contract, was still owed another $9 million and was coming off a solid season during which he batted .291 with 18 homers and 77 RBI.

Such as, Polanco wasn't even supposed to be with the Phillies that year. Instead of becoming a free agent, he agreed to accept arbitration and almost immediately seemed to regret it. "It seemed like every other day he was coming to us, bemoaning his lot in life," former general manager Ed Wade recalled recently.

Such as, once Tim Worrell had to leave the team for personal reasons, a team that thought it had a chance to make the playoffs desperately needed to add some depth to its bullpen.

Such as, it cost the Tigers $18.4 million over 4 years to keep Polanco. Sure, the Phillies could have afforded it. It just would have meant that they wouldn't have had that money to spend somewhere else. "There were some financial pressures," Wade conceded.

Such as, the Phillies didn't know at the time that Bell would be dogged with injuries his final 2 years in Philadelphia.

So when Polanco is introduced at the All-Star Game, it's natural to think about what might have been.

Just understand that there were reasons it didn't turn out that way.

The hot corner

-- Scouts say the Reds are alerting other clubs that everybody on their roster is available except Aaron Harang, Homer Bailey, Josh Hamilton, Alex Gonzalez and Brandon Phillips.

-- Scouts say the Reds are alerting other clubs that everybody on their roster is available except , , , and .

-- The starting time of Atlanta's home game against the Cardinals on July 22 has been moved from afternoon to 8:05 p.m. for ESPN, and Braves manager Bobby Cox isn't happy about it. After the game, the Braves fly to San Francisco, where they'll play the next night. "I can't believe this [stuff]. I mean, somebody's just not using their heads," he muttered. "You can't look at the schedule and say, 'There's got to be a better game somewhere?' "

-- According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there are rumors that Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Tony La Russa could end up in Cincinnati as a package deal. Reds owner Bob Castellini used to be part of the Cardinals ownership group.

Around the bases

-- It's estimated that between 1,000 or 2,000 fans left their seats after the third inning Saturday night at Pittsburgh's PNC Park to make a statement about their unhappiness with the team's losing ways. One column called the planned protest a "major flop."

-- It's estimated that between 1,000 or 2,000 fans left their seats after the third inning Saturday night at Pittsburgh's PNC Park to make a statement about their unhappiness with the team's losing ways. One column called the planned protest a "major flop."

-- The Cubs held Michael Barrett Bobblehead Day last Sunday. Yes, even though Barrett was traded to the Padres on June 20.

-- Mariners manager Mike Hargrove knows why outsiders don't get his decision to step down last Sunday after his team had won eight straight. "I don't expect people to understand it. I really don't. Because there's times I don't understand it," he said.

On deck

CHEERS: For Brian Cashman and Joe Torre. The Yankees general manager and manager's jobs are probably on the line, but neither appears willing to trade a top prospect like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Ian Kennedy for a quick fix that could prolong their careers in the Bronx, but weaken the franchise in the longer term.

CHEERS: For Brian Cashman and Joe Torre. The Yankees general manager and manager's jobs are probably on the line, but neither appears willing to trade a top prospect like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Ian Kennedy for a quick fix that could prolong their careers in the Bronx, but weaken the franchise in the longer term.

"My future is unimportant," Torre told The New York Times. "I've never looked at the organization and felt they should do something just to make my life easier. I've been a lot less secure in other places and just felt the right thing is the right thing."

JEERS: To the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's not just that reliever Salomon Torres has filed a grievance against the front office, claiming he was lied to when he signed his below-market contract, and has asked to be traded. While grievances aren't generally announced, apparently Freddy Sanchez, Pat Meares, Dennys Reyes and Jody Gerut have all taken similar action against the team.

"They lead the league in grievances because they're always trying to save a buck and [mess] with their players," one agent said.

Maybe that's one reason the Bucs are well on their way to a 15th straight losing season.

By the numbers

2: Times Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt was called for taking too much time between pitches Tuesday night. That's a rarely enforced rule, but crew chief Dana DeMuth said Betancourt is on a list of pitchers supplied by Major League Baseball who routinely violate the letter of the law.

2: Times Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt was called for taking too much time between pitches Tuesday night. That's a rarely enforced rule, but crew chief Dana DeMuth said Betancourt is on a list of pitchers supplied by Major League Baseball who routinely violate the letter of the law.

4: 1-0 wins for the pitching-rich Padres this season.

10: Home runs by Hideki Matsui, most on the Yankees by anybody not named Alex Rodriguez.

175 million: Attendance milestone passed by the Dodgers on Tuesday night, the first team to do that since the National League began keeping track of tickets sold in 1901.

Up next

The All-Star break starts after Sunday's games and that's always an invisible line in baseball. When play resumes, teams will have 2 1/2 weeks to figure out what to do before the July 31 trading deadline. It's the time when teams rearrange their pitching rotations and adjust their rosters. It's a pause during which losing teams sometimes change managers. Oh, yes, and they also play a game that the American League has gone 9-0-1 in over the last 10 years.

The All-Star break starts after Sunday's games and that's always an invisible line in baseball. When play resumes, teams will have 2 1/2 weeks to figure out what to do before the July 31 trading deadline. It's the time when teams rearrange their pitching rotations and adjust their rosters. It's a pause during which losing teams sometimes change managers. Oh, yes, and they also play a game that the American League has gone 9-0-1 in over the last 10 years.

Weeklings

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: New Orioles president of baseball operations Andy McPhail, on being approached with offers to trade the team's young pitching: "They pay us to talk and listen. So I don't have a problem with doing that. I also am not particularly interested in doing anything stupid."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: New Orioles president of baseball operations Andy McPhail, on being approached with offers to trade the team's young pitching: "They pay us to talk and listen. So I don't have a problem with doing that. I also am not particularly interested in doing anything stupid."

FAINT PRAISE OF THE WEEK: Jim Leyland, who will run the American League All-Star team this year, was Barry Bonds' manager in Pittsburgh. And he said he was happy to see Bonds voted into the NL's starting lineup. Then he added: "I don't think San Francisco could have carried that vote by itself as a fan base. So I think people throughout the country, obviously, must not be as disgusted with Barry Bonds as some people have let on."

STAT OF THE WEEK: The numbers show that Athletics righthander Joe Blanton is a pretty good pitcher. But get this: When Blanton has gotten more than one run of support, he's an amazing 35-7 in his career.

PLAY OF THE WEEK: Red Sox No. 1 prospect Jacoby Ellsbury scored from second base on a wild pitch from Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir Wednesday. "I don't think I've seen that in the majors or the minors," marveled Boston second baseman Alex Cora. "That's serious speed."

Finally

How much difference does the hitting coach make? There is anecdotal evidence this year to suggest that the coach may have a pretty big impact.

How much difference does the hitting coach make? There is anecdotal evidence this year to suggest that the coach may have a pretty big impact.

In Boston, Ron Jackson was let go at the end of last season and replaced by Dave Magadan. And there are those who don't think it's a coincidence that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who combined for 89 home runs last year, had just 24 between them going into play last night.

In the meantime, the Dodgers' attack has perked up since Eddie Murray was fired last month and Bill Mueller was brought in. "Our total approach has been different," said manager Grady Little. "We're seeing more pitches and our on-base percentage has been better. I don't know how much of that can be attributed to one person ... we're just getting better results right now."

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