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  Sun, August 1, 2004


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Deals make Boston better defensively
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun


ARE THE SOX GOOD ENOUGH?

Moving A high-profile player on deadline day isn't easy.

Improving your club by moving a soon-to-be-free agent is even tougher, yet that's what Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein did yesterday afternoon.

The Nomar Garciaparra era at Fenway Park is over, as Boston sent the shortstop, to the Chicago Cubs in a blockbuster, four-team deal.

Epstein adds Montreal Expos shortstop Orlando Cabrera and Minnesota Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.

Montreal winds up with shortstop Alex Gonzalez, the former Blue Jay, minor-league pitcher Francis Beltran and infielder Brendan Harris.

The Twins added minor- league arm Justin Jones.

Boston now is better defensively at both positions. Three years ago, Cabrera may have been the loser in a defensive argument with Garciaparra, but the former Boston star has battled an Achillies tendon injury and is not 100%.

Also a free agent, Gold Glove winner, Cabrera, could re-sign with Boston this winter. He has never driven in 122 runs as his successor did in 1998.

Garciaparra turned down a four-year, $60-million US extension in 2003, which sent the Sox looking and Boston pursued Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers. Epstein thought he had a deal -- even talking Rodriguez into taking a pay cut. That was not approved by the union.

All of that didn't make for a fun time in Sox clubhouse since some players had commented "how excited we are to have Rodriguez."

Boston also added Dave Roberts from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Sox are better today, especially in the field, than they were yesterday. That's the goal of any GM at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Now, Boston will battle two of the three American League West contenders (one will win the division), the Texas Rangers, the Anaheim Angels and the Oakland A's for the wild-card spot.

If they get to the post-season, are the Sox good enough to beat the New York Yankees?

The Yankees added right-hander Esteban Loaiza from the Chicago White Sox in a deal for Jose Contreras yesterday. Loaiza in New York? Humm baby.

Will we see Loaiza handle Yankee Stadium the way Ed Whitson did, will we see Loaiza the way he pitched for the Blue Jays or the White Sox?

As Woody Hayes used to say about the forward pass: "There are three possibilities, two of them are bad."

Boston had all kinds of clubhouse problems, associated with so many free agents -- Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Garciaparra.

On the other coast, the Dodgers shook up their clubhouse by moving Paul Do Loca -- a stellar defensive player -- setup man Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion to the Florida Marlins for starter Brad Penny and unproven Hee Seop Choi.

BEST AND WORST OF DEAL

SOME DEADLINE deals work, while others come back to haunt teams.

Some of the worst deals: The Boston Red Sox sent Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros for reliever Larry Anderson in 1990.

The Texas Rangers moved Sammy Sosa, Wilson Alvarez to the Chicago White Sox for Harold Baines in a futile attempt to make the post-season in 1989.

The New York Mets moved future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman in 1977.

The Philadelphia Phillies dealt Scott Rolen to the St. Louis Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin in 2002.

YOUNG STEPS UP

The Jays gave up infielder Michael Young to the Texas Rangers for Esteban Loaiza in 2001. Loaiza, who signed a two-year deal after the 2001 season, was 25-28 in 75 starts for the Jays. Young has filled Alex Rodriguez's shoes.

San Diego, in the hunt with Atlanta for the NL title, claimed failed closer Randy Myers and the $14 million US remaining on his contract from the Jays in 1988. He pitched 14 1/3 innings before being released.

And a few of the best: In 1997, with Jeff Conine struggling at first Florida Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski acquired Darren Daulton from the Philadelphia Phillies for minor-leaguer Billy McMillon. Jays manager Carlos Tosca, with the Marlins at the time, says Daulton is on of his favourite players. The catcher ripped the "country club" atmosphere in the Marlins clubhouse and Florida won its first World Series.

Pat Gillick added David Cone from the Mets for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson in 1992 and a year later -- just before the deadline -- he picked up leadoff man Rickey Henderson from the A's for Steve Karsay.

Minnesota GM Terry Ryan shipped Bobby Kielty to the Jays for Shannon Stewart and Dave Gassner a year ago, with each team paying the salary of their ex-player for the remainder of the season. Stewart helped the Twins to another division title.

The Cards acquired Mark McGwire from Oakland in 1997 for T.J. Mathews, Blake Stein and Eric Ludwick.

TEAM CANADA WILL BE WITHOUT MORNEAU

GOODBYE JUSTIN Morneau, hello Shawn Hill ... hopefully.

With the Minnesota Twins moving first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox, Team Canada has lost Morneau, the scheduled cleanup hitter when the team was announced, for the Olympics in Athens.

Only players in the minors as of midnight last night, are eligible to play in the Olympics.

Team Canada general manager Greg Hamilton hopes to replace Morneau of New Westmister, B.C., with Hill, the Georgetown right-hander, who made three starts for the Montreal Expos.

Hill had an elbow problem in his first start when he returned to double-A Harrisburg. Results from an MRI were negative and he'll throw two innings tomorrow. After that, if he comes out of a bullpen session Wednesday, he'll be cleared to join Team Canada.

Lefty Jeff Francis, who would be Team Canada's No. 1 starter, remains at triple-A Colorado Springs, where he is 2-1 with an 0.93 earned-run average in three starts.

The Rockies will decide if he goes to Athens or the majors Aug. 5, after his first start at high altitude in Colorado Springs.

ALL-STAR

Oshawa righty Chris Kemlo was named to the class-A Northwest League all-star game. Pitching for Yakima, in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, Kemlo is 4-1 with five saves and a 5.32 earned-run average in 19 games, striking out 28 in 22 innings.

ON THE CAPE

Mississauga reliever Chris Leroux has a 2.70 ERA while fanning 33 in 20 innings for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod summer league. Elsewhere, catcher Chris Robinson of Dorchester, Ont., and a former London Badger under coach Mike Lumley, is hitting .303 for the Hyannis Mets.

EX-BLUE JAY OF THE WEEK

DOUG DAVIS was toiling in the minor leagues, working to restore his confidence after being released by the Texas Rangers and the Blue Jays earlier in the season.

After pitching well in eight starts with the Brewers in the final two months last year, he missed the cutoff for salary arbitration by one day, which probably cost him more than $1 million US at contract time last spring. That earns him ex-Jay of the week honours.

In 30 starts since joining the Brewers last August, Davis has posted a 12-11 record and 3.59 ERA. He is 37-38 with a 4.61 ERA during his big-league career with Texas, Toronto and Milwaukee.

A TWO-YEAR DEAL

The Brewers signed Davis to a two-year contract that will guarantee him $4.75 million, with a chance to push that close to $6 million through incentives and escalators on Tuesday. Davis will earn a base salary of $2.05 million in 2005 and $2.7 million in 2006.

Davis, is tied for the National League lead in starts (22), is 9-9 with a 3.99 ERA.

If Davis makes 12 more starts this season, his base salary for next season will jump to $2.35 million. If he makes 33 starts in '05, his base salary for '06 will go to $3.2 million. He can also earn $400,000 in additional incentives.

Davis, 28, has never missed a start in either the minors or the majors. That durability was a factor for the Brewers.

In 12 starts with the Jays, he was 4-6 with 5.00 ERA.