Buster Olney: Chicago White Sox

White Sox's climb boosts AL Central 

November, 22, 2014
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Jose AbreuAP Photo/Andrew A. NellesThe acquisition of Jose Abreu kicked off Chicago's recent growth.
Maybe the American League Central has been better than previously advertised, in light of the recent postseason success of the teams. The Detroit Tigers played for the league championship three straight seasons, from 2011 to 2013, and really, all that stood between the Kansas City Royals and a championship at the end of a seven-game World Series this year was Madison Bumgarner. The Central fed two teams into the five-team playoffs each of the past two seasons, with the Cleveland Indians participating in 2013.

The division’s reputation for weakness has probably been built on its payrolls, besides that of the Tigers; the Indians, Royals and Twins typically operate with modest budgets, and the White Sox went through cuts in recent seasons. But, no matter how the perception was built, it is changing because the AL Central is evolving into something better.

The Tigers will again run out a rotation of stars, supported by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and the Royals should be back in contention again, even if they lose James Shields (and perhaps replace him with someone such as Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano or Brett Anderson).
Jerry ReinsdorfAP Photo/David BanksJerry Reinsdorf won't have nearly the same power under new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
Some of those who were in the room in last week’s contested election of the next MLB commissioner are still trying to figure out what happened, and why it happened the way that it did, with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf fighting with virtually no chance of success.

Reinsdorf pushed Tom Werner as a candidate when the vote was stacked heavily in favor of Rob Manfred by a 2-1 margin, and folks with other teams say they would’ve understood better if Reinsdorf had simply presented Werner as an alternative to Manfred -- and then quickly retreated, in the face of overwhelming dissent.

But that’s not how it played out. Reinsdorf kept the fight going, even as the Rays and Brewers jumped on board and joined the Manfred camp, putting him within a single vote of being selected. Reinsdorf then mentioned that there were other qualified candidates in the room who were not up for election -- and somebody then asked why Reinsdorf, a member of the search committee, hadn’t pushed forward those other would-be candidates before.

As it played out, rival executives say, there were only two sure outcomes:

1. Manfred would be elected.
2. At the end of the process, Reinsdorf lost a lot of influence.

For years, Reinsdorf has been regarded as the second-most powerful man in the sport, given his relationship with deal-making commissioner Bud Selig. But in the midst of the process for choosing the commissioner, the decision was made in the room to allow Manfred to choose his own executive committee -- which Reinsdorf has been a part of in the past.

“He’ll be treated like everybody else now,” one rival executive said.

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My first season in MLB - Spanish 

August, 17, 2014
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Jose AbreuDan Hamilton/USA TODAY SportsAdam Dunn has been a strong presence for Jose Abreu during his rookie campaign.
Guest bloggers are stepping in for Buster Olney this week to write the lead item. Today's guest blogger is Chicago White Sox rookie outfielder Jose Abreu; this version is presented in his native language.

Primeramente debo comenzar por agradecer a Dios por haberme permitido alcanzar mi sueño, el sueño de toda mi familia: llegar y ser parte del mejor béisbol del mundo; por darme la oportunidad de mostrar cada día lo que soy capaz de hacer con las habilidades y condiciones con las que me bendijo; y por estar en una organización como la de los Medias Blancas y estar rodeado de tantas personas buenas que me han ayudado en todo este proceso que he vivido esta temporada.

La verdad es que no ha sido tan fácil como mucha gente piensa, pero tampoco ha sido tan difícil como me lo pude haber imaginado. La clave, como siempre he dicho, ha estado en mantenerse trabajando, en disfrutar lo que somos capaces de hacer cada día y en no conformarnos.

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My first season in the major leagues 

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
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Jose AbreuDan Hamilton/USA TODAY SportsAdam Dunn has been a strong presence for Jose Abreu during his rookie campaign.
Guest bloggers are stepping in for Buster Olney this week to write the lead item, while Buster still has his news and notes below that. Today's guest blogger is Chicago White Sox rookie outfielder Jose Abreu.

First of all, I need to thank God for allowing me to reach my dream, the dream of my family: That is, being part of the best baseball league in the world; for giving me the opportunity to show every day what I’m capable of, thanks to the abilities given to me by him; and for being in an organization like the White Sox that has allowed me to be surrounded by so many good people that have helped me during the process this season.

Truth is, things haven’t been as easy as a lot of people might think. But they haven’t been too tough, either. The key, like I’ve always said, is to keep on working, enjoy the things you are capable of doing, and never settle for less.

Back when I was a kid and started playing baseball, my father always advised me that I had to be devoted in order to be good, to become whoever I wanted to be I had to work real hard every single day. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

That advice from my father, who is also named Jose, is like a Holy Scripture to me. I work intensely every day, to be prepared for every single game.

When I played with Cienfuegos or with the Cuban national team, I worked nonstop. Did it every day, even when I had a long trip ahead, traveling by guagua (bus), to every city in our schedule.

When I arrived in this country, my daily preparation became easier, because of all the training facilities that exist. In my first days here, I kept on working, preparing myself so I wouldn’t waste this new opportunity that the Lord gave me, to pay the team back for the trust they gave me, and to honor all the efforts and sacrifices made by my family.

Taking advantage of all the benefits that I’ve bumped into since I arrived in the big leagues has been an easy task, same thing as being able to keep my focus about the work I have to do, about all the positive things that have happened to me, and everything I’ve achieved in this time. Honestly, I never thought I could achieve all these things, like being Player of the Month, Rookie of the Month, an All-Star, but that’s what God has chosen for me, and I accept that in a humble way.

But like I said, despite having all these great things, I haven’t lost my focus, because I always remember another piece of advice from my father: “You must have a plan for everything you want to achieve. You must stick to that plan and work on it, so things can happen." And it’s been like that. I’ve always stuck to my plan, where hard work is everything.

I have met some great people that have helped me to improve all the resources in my work and preparation, people with great experience that have been gracious enough to provide some advice, and have also allowed me to use some of their examples.

Paul Konerko -- who unfortunately will retire after this season -- and Adam Dunn have been two key people that have guided me in this transition process.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastPaul Konerko's work ethic has provided a strong model to follow for Jose Abreu and other young White Sox hitters.
Konerko’s leadership has given me security and confidence. He is a person who never loses his temper, a hard worker who loves to study his batting with great detail. His work ethic has set an example for me, and it has helped me to keep my plan rolling, improving it every day.

From Konerko, I’ve learned how to take advantage of all the pitching analysis that is available, although I must confess that I’m not the type of guy who likes to read too much of that, since I’ve got my own method to analyze pitchers. But it’s a tool that we have, and eventually, it can help.

Both Konerko and Dunn have helped me to stay relaxed, to avoid feeling pressured when things don’t go my way, to avoid the frustration after failing to achieve something that I think I could have done easily.

Dunn is always looking for different ways to keep the team in good spirits, so we cannot lose the battle against pressure. I still laugh every time I see Phil, the toy chimp he’s got in his locker. There was one time when he brought a toy bird that made a very weird noise. The first time I heard that bird, it really scared me a lot. Now, I just laugh.

The way Konerko and Dunn handle every situation helps the team. It has helped me to control the different scenarios that might happen at this level, both on the field and inside the clubhouse.

I think that both Konerko and Dunn have provided examples that have helped me to complement my plan, the very same plan taught by my father that has been improved. I hope to be able to follow their examples, and continue to take advantage of every single opportunity, as long as the Lord allows me to do so.




And now we return to Buster's regularly scheduled news and notes ...

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Konerko situation tricky for White Sox 

November, 18, 2013
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Paul KonerkoKelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsPaul Konerko had a .669 OPS with just 12 homers in 520 plate appearances in 2013.
Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf talked about the terrible season his club had, and said flatly that Paul Konerko can make the decision on whether to return for 2014. From his interview with WSCR-AM, on Konerko:
"It's truly Paul's option," Reinsdorf told Ben Finfer and Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM 670. "He's earned the right to come back if he wants to come back. He's been the most popular player in the last 15 years that we've had. He's only had a handful of at-bats in a Cincinnati uniform, so he's basically a White Sox lifer. He's a terrific teammate. He's our captain. He just has to make a decision whether he wants to come back or not."

Some owners might say something like this and you'd assume they're being disingenuous. But Reinsdorf is loyal, first and foremost. You hear this all the time from people who have worked for him, from his friends, from rival executives.

There are times, however, when his loyalty is not necessarily the best thing for the operation of his baseball team.

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White Sox place huge bet on Abreu 

October, 18, 2013
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Jose AbreuAP Photo/Koji SasaharaJose Abreu's deal with the White Sox is the biggest contract ever for an international free agent.
DETROIT -- When the Dodgers signed Cuban defector Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42 million contract, there were lot of evaluators who thought the deal was reckless, at the very least, and maybe a little insane. And now every team would love to have him at that rate.

There was similar sentiment in the sport when Oakland signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $38 million contract, and in two years with the Athletics, Cespedes has established himself as one of the better right-handed power hitters in the majors. So it’s always possible that the White Sox will be proved correct for their $68 million investment in Jose Abreu, a 26-year-old first base/DH type who defected from Cuba this summer.

But to put the Abreu signing into perspective: His contract is a bigger deal than any signed by Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn or Albert Belle or John Danks or Mark Buerhle or any other White Sox player in club history.

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Mets' struggles creating value 

September, 28, 2013
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Sandy AldersonRich Schultz/Getty ImagesThe Mets' disappointing season has likely earned Sandy Alderson's club a protected draft pick.
The New York Mets’ loss Friday was the 87th of their season. And it was a really important loss.

With that defeat, the Mets moved back into position to have the No. 10 pick in the 2014 draft -- and if this holds over the last two days of the regular season against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Mets’ first-round pick would be among those 10 that are protected against draft-pick compensation.

This past winter, the Mets’ pick was not protected, which affected their aggressiveness in trying to sign Michael Bourn and others. If they finish the year lined up for the No. 10 pick (or better), it could nudge them into pursuit of one of the better free-agent position players who will be available this winter. If they signed a Shin-Soo Choo or a Jacoby Ellsbury, the Mets would have to surrender only a second-round pick in compensation.

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Why MLB must ban plate collisions 

September, 7, 2013
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Prince FielderAP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezA hard collision at home plate caused Giants catcher Buster Posey to miss much of 2011.
A talent evaluator who works in baseball imagined the future testimony aimed at a team -- or all of Major League Baseball -- in a lawsuit filed by a catcher seriously injured while blocking home plate.

"'I was told in spring training by my catching instructor that this is something I need to do,'" the evaluator said, imitating the words that any catcher could say. "'I didn't block home one day and he called me a -----, and he said that blocking home plate is something that every catcher is expected to do.'"

The evaluator jumped into another role, imagining himself as the catcher's lawyer: "'What happened next?'"

Evaluator as catcher: "'I blocked home plate, as I was instructed to do, and now I can't walk.'"

This testimony could be especially effective, the evaluator noted, if it comes from someone sitting in a wheelchair, and if you think that can't happen, maybe you should watch this video of the hit that Harrisburg catcher Brian Jeroloman took in a Double-A playoff game the other night, when he was run over by Erie's Brandon Douglas.

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Where Robinson Cano could go 

August, 25, 2013
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CanoAP Photo/Gail BurtonYankees second baseman Robinson Cano's 4.8 WAR is among the best in baseball.
LOS ANGELES -- If the Yankees don't make the playoffs, then as of this morning, there are 33 games left in the career of Mariano Rivera.

But everybody saw that coming. There may also be only 33 games remaining in Robinson Cano's tenure with the Yankees if he leaves as a free agent when the season is over. He is their best player and they need him, and yet in recent years, teams have held the line with their own superstars -- for instance, the Cardinals with Albert Pujols and the Rangers with Josh Hamilton -- and those choices have been quickly vindicated.

The Yankees have their own experience in deciding whether to invest in a long-term star (Alex Rodriguez), and that hasn't turned out so well.

Cano is represented by Jay-Z and CAA, and the expectation among executives is that they will be looking to plant a flag with their contract -- something in the A-Rod/Pujols neighborhood.

But a big question that has come up among some rival officials is this: What teams will compete against the Yankees to sign him to create that leverage?

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Michael Weiner a true class act

August, 11, 2013
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Brad ZieglerESPN IllustrationArizona pitcher Brad Ziegler makes a Sunday column relief appearance for Buster Olney.
Buster Olney is on vacation this week, so for the second straight year, guest columnists are writing the lead of his column in his absence. Today, D-backs reliever Brad Ziegler chimes in on what makes union leader Michael Weiner such a special person.

This is a crazy game. If you had told me when I was growing up that I'd have at least six seasons of time in major league baseball, I'd have been absolutely ecstatic. While it was always a dream of mine to play, it also always seemed so far out of reach. Yet, here I am, blessed with so many things in my life, including a career that I truly enjoy. There are many other things, too: an amazing family (including the two friendliest dogs in existence), financial security and good health.

Good health -- something I'm thankful for every day. Something that not everyone in this life shares.

One of the most respected people in this game is in the fight of his life, and anyone -- everyone -- who has any part of this game is pulling for him. Players, coaches, general managers, owners, writers, umpires. Everyone.

As many of you know, Michael Weiner is currently serving as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association -- our union. And anyone who follows the game also knows that a year ago, Michael was diagnosed with a Stage 4 glioblastoma, an aggressive and inoperable brain cancer.

I've been a player representative for the union since the start of the 2009 season. In the middle of that season, I got a phone call from Donald Fehr, informing me that he was retiring as executive director. After a few conference calls, we selected the obvious replacement that December: Michael Weiner. I hadn't yet met Michael. My agent, Rob Martin, had met him a few times and heard him speak a couple of times, so I asked what he was like. "The man is a human computer," he said. "He can probably quote you the entire basic agreement."

In my time getting to know Michael at various union events or even through casual phone calls, I can honestly say I have seen zero instances to dispute my agent's assessment. However, I can also honestly say that while his knowledge of the basic agreement and labor law in general is impressive, it isn't even close to his best asset.

His best feature is, far and away, who he is as a person. He's a devoted family man. He often speaks of his wife, Diane, and his three lovely daughters, and you can tell how much he cares for them. Furthermore, he genuinely cares about every single ballplayer. Never once has he started a conversation with me in which the first topic wasn't about how my family and I were doing. I'm guessing he's the same way with every other player. Those who've taken the time to get to know him know exactly what I'm talking about.

[+] EnlargeMichael Weiner
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIMichael Weiner's leadership on the issue of PEDs has been pivotal, writes Brad Ziegler.
As far as his professionalism, there's one thing that has really stood out to me: He genuinely cares about improving the game of baseball. Don't get me wrong, he wants things to be as good as possible for the players. And he can get downright angry and ruthless when he feels like the owners are attempting to encroach on the principles we, as a union, have stood on since our inception. But he also gets the big picture: What is best for the game in the long run?

In my opinion, never has this been more evident than when dealing with our Joint Drug Agreement. Michael has listened to the players. We want the game clean. No more PEDs. Period. We want to be the era that, down the road, is widely accepted as the group of players who cleaned up baseball. We certainly want to punish those who are caught with something illegal in their system, even if it's not intentionally ingested with the mindset of gaining an edge on the field.

As for those who intentionally cheat? Ban them for a year. Or ban them for life. As for voiding their contracts, well, that time may be coming. Players are sick and tired of guys trying to beat the system, and at this point, we have no tolerance. We are tired of this being the focus of our sport, year after year. Baseball is an amazing game -- perfect in so many ways -- and we must keep the attention on the field, where it should be.

It has to be a tough spot for Michael to be in when it comes to this topic. He's supposed to represent all players and get the best possible outcome for them in every situation, right? No. Michael's response: "If they cheated, they should be punished -- I'm just here to help make sure they get a fair trial."

To me, that is someone who genuinely cares about our game and the way it's perceived publicly. We all leave a legacy in life, and he wants the game to be better when his time in the game is over than it was when he first got involved.

I recently had a casual conversation with an MLB general manager. We discussed Michael's medical situation, and he said something that really stuck out to me: "That guy is incredible. He's the best thing that's ever happened to this game."

And even if he said it in passing, I'm not sure he's far off.

Michael's legacy on this game has already been established. And whether he continues to build on it for the next 40 years, or if he's taken from this life sometime sooner, he continues to leave a mark on this game -- and on people's lives -- that won't ever be forgotten. It is an absolute privilege to work alongside you, Michael. And it's an even greater pleasure to call you my friend.

Notes and links (from Buster)

Hanley Ramirez will try out his right shoulder on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Dodgers never lose: After Zack Greinke's strong effort Saturday, they've now won 36 of their last 44. The Rays pulled off a hidden-ball trick.

• The Braves' winning streak ended.

Jordan Schafer was activated from the disabled list, and Fredi Gonzalez intends to use him. 

We had the Braves on "Sunday Night Baseball" the last two weekends, and our crew talked to Gonzalez about how he would structure his lineup down the stretch and into the playoffs. Gonzalez wasn't specific -- and he doesn't need to be -- but I walked away from those conversations convinced that his standards will be simple. He will play the best lineup he believes gives him the best chance of winning, regardless of contract size and track record. He reiterated that the Braves' collapse in 2011 changed the way he thinks, because now he's much more willing to make changes.

If B.J. Upton struggles early in September, he won't play as much in late September, I'd guess, and Schafer's presence gives Gonzalez an attractive alternative, especially against right-handed pitchers.

Brian McCann has a sore knee and was out of the lineup. The Braves' lead in the AL East gives Gonzalez the flexibility to liberally rest veterans such as McCann, and McCann has shown enough this season to demonstrate to teams that might be interested in him in the winter that he'll continue to be a productive player. He might be the most sought-after free agent of the winter, given that he could fit so many teams: Texas, Washington, the Yankees, Boston, San Francisco (with he and Buster Posey sharing catcher/first base duties), Philadelphia, the White Sox, etc.

Miguel Cabrera did it again. His current triple crown standing:

Batting average: .363 (first, by 33 points)

Home runs: 35 (he trails Chris Davis, who has 42)

RBIs: 109 (tied for first with Davis)

• White Sox GM Rick Hahn and the players believe in Robin Ventura, writes Paul Sullivan. 

Ryan Ludwick is nearing his return, and undoubtedly, the Reds need him to come back and produce. The Reds have been a middle-of-the-pack offensive team since the All-Star break. 

Jason Hammel is hopeful that his forearm issue doesn't keep him out a long time. 

Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes are getting more playing time, Paul Hoynes writes. 

• The Rangers regained first place with help from Alex Rios

Will Middlebrooks is getting a welcome chance to reboot, writes Nick Cafardo. 

Jayson Werth had a really big day

• The Astros are on pace to finish 52-110, with a run differential of minus-242. 

Jacoby Ellsbury led the Red Sox to victory. 

• The Rockies are collapsing, and it's open season on internal evaluations

Adam Eaton has been finding his groove at the plate. 

• The Phillies need to make a decision on Charlie Manuel, writes Bob Brookover. 

In some parts of the Philadelphia organization, it's already taken as a fait accompli that Manuel and some staffers will be let go. But it'll be interesting to see if the logic used in the re-signing of Chase Utley -- he's an important part of the team's history, and he is still productive -- will be used in Manuel's case. Because if the Phillies don't believe Manuel is the best person for the job now, they should've already fired him, and if they think that like Utley, he can still do the job, they should extend him.

Other stuff

• There is a reported BALCO and Biogenesis link: Alex Rodriguez.

The tide has turned when it comes to MLB cheats, writes Tom Haudricourt. 

Rodriguez is on a short leash with Yankees fans, writes Bob Klapisch.

• The ousted St. Louis radio duo of Jack Clark and Kevin Slaten are weighing their options

• Ken Griffey Jr. was part of the ceremony in which he was inducted into the Mariners' Hall of Fame. He's a really complicated person.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Dunn could fill Rangers' power void 

August, 6, 2013
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The A-Rod-palooza will go on for many more weeks, given the daily promise that Alex Rodriguez will say something that will make us shake our heads -- such as when he all but painted himself as a Founding Father fighting on behalf of the Constitution during his news conference Monday. Rodriguez will continue to be the big story, until he goes away.

But the greatest impact for any of the suspensions handed down was on the Texas Rangers, who lost Nelson Cruz, a slugger responsible for 20 percent of their home runs in the first four months and four days of the regular season. They asked around before the trade deadline and couldn’t find help, and in their desperation they convinced Lance Berkman to continue to try to play through injuries that forced him to contemplate retirement.

There could be one really interesting solution for the Rangers as they look to solve their power problem: Adam Dunn of the White Sox.

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August trade candidates across MLB 

August, 2, 2013
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Phil Hughes Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesA fly ball pitcher stuck in Yankee Stadium, Phil Hughes could benefit from a move.
The names have started passing through the waiver wires, and there will be a lot of deals this month, some general managers are predicting. More players will change hands as more teams wave the white flag on the 2013 season and try to save a little money or recoup a little value.

Below, some of the guys who are candidates to be traded this month, either because they get claimed by a team and a deal is worked out or because they pass through waivers and are subsequently swapped:

Starting pitchers

Phil Hughes, Yankees: They are not going to re-sign him, but they could give him a one-year qualifying offer after the season in order to recoup a compensation draft pick. If the Yankees deal him this month, they’ll want at least the value of a pick in return.

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An alternative to deadline deals 

July, 31, 2013
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There is a consolation prize for those teams not at the top of their respective divisions: In August, they get to play crossing guard before every tradeable commodity reaches the No. 1 team -- holding the power to stop them from getting through.

This means that the John Hancock of all waiver claimers, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman -- a founding father of a new culture that developed around waiver claims in the late '90s, along with former New York Mets GM Steve Phillips -- will have a chance to block all three teams that sit above New York in the AL East standings.

The Cleveland Indians will have a chance to decide whether the Detroit Tigers get a shot at anybody.

The Cincinnati Reds can stop the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates from making moves.

For at least the next 31 days, being out of first place can be a position of power.

This is the way waivers work, generally: As teams place players on waivers this month -- and almost every player goes through, as a matter of process -- teams have an opportunity to place a claim on each player. If a player is claimed by multiple teams, then the clubs with the worst record gets the claim. The Houston Astros will get first shot at everybody, and as of today, the Pirates -- with the best record in the majors -- get the last shot.

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The great white-flag debate 

July, 25, 2013
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Ervin SantanaJim Rogash/Getty ImagesShould the Royals sell Ervin Santana and store more assets, or hope he'll keep them in contention?
Before the trade deadline in 1996, then-Orioles general manager Pat Gillick assessed his team and decided to blow it up. He arranged trades of Bobby Bonilla and David Wells, believing that Baltimore’s organization needed an injection of prospects for its depleted farm system.

When you looked at that through the prism of the standings, it made complete sense: On July 28, 1996, the Orioles were 12 games out of first place.

But Baltimore owner Peter Angelos had a completely different perspective -- as someone who was focused on selling tickets, selling hope. And he thought it was a bad idea to raise the white flag on the season with more than two months to play because of what that said to paying customers.

That the Orioles surged back and advanced all the way to the American League Championship Series didn’t necessarily mean that Angelos was right and Gillick was wrong, because there have been plenty of examples of owners stepping in and killing deals for the same reason only to see their team fall out of the race.

But that example should underscore the reality that Major League Baseball teams aren’t run like Strat-O-Matic teams: They are businesses. Sure, the chances of the Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Phillies, who are both eight games out of first place, look really bad, and the same goes for the Seattle Mariners, 11 games out in the AL West.

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AL trade deadline preview 

July, 4, 2013
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Matt GarzaAP Photo/Morry GashThe Cubs were unlucky at the deadline last year. Matt Garza could make up for it in 2013.
Rival executives strongly believe that at most, Matt Garza has four to five starts remaining with the Chicago Cubs -- but probably fewer than that, because he has quickly developed into the most marketable, most sought-after starting pitcher, with a handful of American League teams involved in the chase. Garza had another strong outing Wednesday night against Oakland, and in his past 30 innings, he has allowed 3 runs, 19 hits, 8 walks and racked up 28 strikeouts.

Some teams view Garza warily, knowing that he was taken down by injury at the end of 2012 and at the outset of 2013. But as one AL official explained Wednesday, you have to assume that because Garza has so much at stake this year as a pitcher headed into the free-agent market, he will do everything possible to succeed. He has tens of millions of dollars at stake in the last half of the season -- and perhaps in October if his next team advances into the postseason.

Last year, the Cubs’ efforts to trade Garza were sabotaged when he got hurt. But this year, a dream scenario is developing for them: In a lukewarm market of starting pitchers, Garza has become The Target, because of how well he’s throwing and because of his history of pitching in the AL East and his past success.

Yesterday I took a look at the NL. Today, a rundown of where the AL teams stand, with just 27 days before the July 31 trade deadline:

Baltimore Orioles

They moved on Scott Feldman to ensure that they get somebody among the group of available starters, and in his first start for them Wednesday, he provided exactly what they paid for: six solid innings in a win against the White Sox.

The Orioles rank dead last in batting average from their designated hitters, at .205, and so they have some room for improvement, and some flexibility. I’ve thought (and this is pure speculation) that if the Phillies decided to move Chase Utley that there would be a perfect fit for him with the Orioles. He could play some second base, he could serve some in the DH role, and give them one more excellent grind-it-out hitter for an already deep lineup.

Boston Red Sox

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