1. What did the Rockies want with Larry Bigbie anyway?
It seemed strange when Bigbie -- coveted by several teams -- went from the Orioles to Colorado, a club that had seemingly shown little interest in him. That is, until it came clear last weekend that the Rockies wanted to trade him. And the deal was to Boston, the very team Baltimore was chasing.
The idea was that Bigbie, who was traded last Friday night, would then go to the Red Sox for outfielder Adam Stern and Class AAA catcher Kelly Shoppach, a player the Rockies desperately wanted. A fax was even sent agreeing to the trade, but according to the Boston Globe, it didn't contain a management signoff from Boston. Hence, it was never official. The next day, because of a proposed trade of Manny Ramirez to the Mets, the Red Sox pulled themselves out of all other trades, leaving the Rockies with Bigbie -- a player they don't even want.
Needless to say, Colorado management is not happy. "If that's what it takes to be world champions, then people are right, we will never be one, because we don't operate and treat other organizations like that," Rockies owner Charlie Monfort told the Denver Post.
2. Are the Dodgers through with Hee-Seop Choi?
Sure seems like it. This week, they started a catcher who can't throw, Jason Phillips, at first base instead of Choi, who has never seemed to reach his enormous potential. The South Korean has been a favorite of fantasy baseball players because of his high on-base and slugging percentages in spot duty in Chicago and Florida. The thought was that given the chance to play every day, he would hit 40 home runs.
But after the Dodgers dealt catcher Paul LoDuca, right fielder Juan Encarnacion and setup man Guillermo Mota to get Choi and pitcher Brad Penny, Choi became a disaster in Los Angeles. This year he is hitting.246 with 14 home runs and 60 strikeouts in 248 at bats. In other words, the on-base and slugging percentages cover the fact that he fails in clutch situations.
"You do what's best for your team," Dodgers Manager Jim Tracy said in a not-too-subtle hint that he has seen enough of Choi.
3. Why are the Astros suddenly so hot?
They slogged through the first half of the season with Roger Clemens having perhaps his best year and Roy Oswalt as an all-star, but getting a healthy Andy Pettitte has put the Astros over the top. Finally recovered from last summer's elbow surgery, Pettitte was unhittable in July going 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA.
Houston's run is more amazing when you consider that the Astros play in a park home run hitters love. Even more amazing for Pettitte was that he left his second start in July with a strained left elbow. But was able to rest during the all-star break and came back better than ever.
4. How good is Zach Duke?
The Pirates, desperate for anything to build around, brought up their young left-handed pitching star and set him loose on the National League at the beginning of last month. Now people are comparing him to Fernando Valenzuela, despite little in the way of physical resemblance. Duke is now 4-2 with a 0.92 ERA in the majors. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette researched the records and discovered that only three rookie pitchers in the last 60 years have lower ERAs in their first six starts -- Valenzuela (0.33 in 1981), Boston's Boo Ferriss (0.50 in 1945) and Montreal's Steve Rogers (0.88 in 1973).
He is even receiving fan mail from Japan.
5. How glad is Texas to be rid of Chan-Ho Park?
Its big free agent signing of four years ago was a complete bust in the hitter's park in Arlington. He was 22-23 with a 5.79 ERA in 68 starts; the only pitcher with a higher ERA in that time frame is Kansas City's Jose Lima with a 5.49 ERA. He ruined any good will he had with the club when he mailed in a game in 96 degree heat, giving up nine hits and six runs in 3 1/3 innings. The Rangers were only able to get rid of him because San Diego was desperate to dump Phil Nevin.
This now means the Rangers have gotten rid of three-fifths of their season-opening rotation, after releasing both Ryan Drese and Pedro Astacio. Ironically Astacio and Park are both pitching for the desperate Padres, who once had the best young rotation in the National League.