The Count always looks forward to baseball trade talks. He can never resist adding a new bat. (Sorry. It was sitting right there.) Anyway, I know the baseball offseason won’t officially start until the World Series, when hopefully the gluttonous New York Yankees choke and keel over like an over-sized mutant ATM machine that spits out one too many withdrawals during free agency. But since agent Scott Boras has begun his pimping duties, I figured Braves fans should know something early. Matt Holliday? Ain’t happening. We count down . . .
If this makes you feel any better, it was Holliday, the solid hitting outfielder, who greased the skids for the Cardinals’ exit from their National League playoff series against the Dodgers. (Video below.) (UPDATE: The video has been deactivated, I’m guessing by Scott Boras’s secret police. So I’ve inserted a picture instead. So sorry.) You could say he kicked the entire city of St. Louis in the twins. (Baseball pun. See how I did that?) But what Holliday remains is the highest profile free agent in a generally dreary class this winter. That hasn’t escaped Boras. He just likened him to . . . Gold Glover Mark Teixeira? (Two guesses who negotiated Teixeira’s $180 million contract with the Yankees. If you need the second guess, take a seat.)
The Braves need outfield help. They need a bat. They’re going to need one even more in the near future than they need now, if Adam LaRoche can solicit a three-year contract offer from another team. It’s doubtful the Braves would give LaRoche three years because they’ve got a prospect first baseman, Freddie Freeman, standing in th on deck circle. It seems certain the Braves will need to trade for offense. Their payroll of $92 million to $95 million last season will not significantly rise. Too many two-for-one-nights. Too many empty seats in September. Too few purchases of Kenshin Kawakami replica jerseys. I bring up Holliday only because of the number of readers who’ve emailed me inquiring about his potential as a Brave. When asked about Holliday, Boras said what any highly successful blood-sucking expert from his chosen profession would say: He drew a parallel with Teixeira and said, “These guys are blue-collar superstars. They don’t hit 50 home runs, but they’re complete players. … There are differences between hitters and complete players. Matt Holliday is a complete player. There is, frankly, no one like him in the market.” That is true. No other left fielder can sing soprano.
This will be an interesting offseason for Braves general manager Frank Wren. He wants to re-sign pitcher Tim Hudson. But doesn’t know if he can. He wants to trade Derek Lowe or Kenshin Kawakami for a bat. But he doesn’t know if he can, and he has to see how things develop with Hudson first. He wants to re-sign LaRoche. But doesn’t know if he can, and if he can sign Hudson and trade Lowe or Kawakami for a bat then maybe keeping LaRoche becomes less crucial for the everyday lineup. The difference between things going right and things going wrong will be the difference in the Braves playing in October next season or wondering when this post-season drought ends. Either the dominoes fall in sequence or the Labrador runs through the room and knocks everything over. Wren probably was correct when he speculated last winter’s quest to remake the starting rotation caused more stress than this one will. But this off-season tips one way or the other very easily. At least Boras just made one decision easy.
Welcome to my annual rant: The NFL trade deadline probably will pass without a big-name player — or even what remains of Terrell Owens — from being dealt. Why? Because it’s Oct. 20. Potential sellers are only one-third of the way through their season. They don’t want to send a message to their fans, “We give up.” But how great would it be if this deadline was moved back at least a month? I realize football is a “team” sport and you’re not going to see a flood of left tackles moved at the deadline. But a more timely deadline would stir interest. And if there’s a team that believes adding a receiver, running back or pass rusher could put them over the top for a playoff berth, where’s the harm? I posed that question to Falcons president Rich McKay. He’s a long-time member of the NFL’s Competition Committee. Company guy. So I got the answer I expected.
McKay wrote in an email that moving the deadline often has been discussed but never voted on. Even then, he said, 24 of 32 teams would need to approve a change. He agreed that moving the deadline “increase the potential for more trades. However, ours is still the ultimate team sport which will always limit the value of in-season trades given the differences in schemes and terminology from team to team. Being able to plug in a player via trade in the NFL is not like baseball where a left fielder can be traded at 1 p.m. and start that night for the acquiring club.” As for McKay’s personal preference? “I would not favor moving the trade deadline,” he wrote. “We have been a league that has great success based upon our competitive balance. I would not like to see teams late in the season able to make trades that affect that competitive balance because they no longer are in the race.” I’m guessing fans in cities of bubble teams would disagree.
A co-worker of mine whose identity I will shield for his own safety suggested the Falcons should trade for DeAngelo Hall. I think that would be a great move by general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Right after he hits himself with a ball-peen hammer. You’ll love this. Coach Hall told the Washington Post that maligned coach Jim Zorn’s decision to bench starting quarterback Jason Campbell was the wrong move. Hall, I suppose, has become somewhat of an expert on quarterbacks, given that they keep burning him. “As far as the change of benching Jason in the second half, obviously that didn’t work,” Hall said. “So that’s not the change you need. I think if I was the guy, I would’ve left Jason in . . . I don’t think that was the right move. Coach made that move. Ain’t nothing I can do about it. He made that move, he had to live with it.” Yes, I do believe this is just the guy the Falcons want to add to the locker room. Presumably, the Redskins would have to throw a flamethrower and a book of matches into the deal.
And now for something completely different. The lowest common denominator of my readership — which would be the majority — is upset that I haven’t kept to my promise of posting weekly pictures of babe-a-liciouses for cheap page view purposes. Apologies. But some of my female readers were a little put off. Fortunately, I believe I have found a starlet acceptable to both sides. To mark the 20th anniversary of the “Simpsons,” Marge Simpson has posed for Playboy! I figure most guys prefer one-dimensional relationships, anyway. Granted, Marge didn’t play sports. But there was that one “Simpsons” episode when Springfield decided to legalize gambling in hopes of reviving the economy, and the church-going Marge dropped a quarter in a slot machine and won, and devolved into a gambling addict. I suppose then came the late-night drinking binges, the hookups with mob bosses and cosmetic enhancements. So let your eyes walk over this blue-haired wonder.
For the record, I know a few dirty words in Yiddish. But I can’t be certain which ones the Tel Aviv basketball coach uttered this weekend. The New York Knicks played an NBA exhibition over the weekend against “Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv” at Madison Square Garden. The game was to benefit underprivileged children in Israel. But the setting didn’t soften up Tel Aviv’s coach, Pini Gershon. Everything was fine until former Hawk Al Harrington was called for charging and argued the call, which for whatever reason led Gershon to argue with the official about something. Then Nate Robinson interjected himself into the debate — then a Rabbi! Gershon was thrown out of the game. But he would not leave the court. Oy. If you’ve got the time, here’s the video.
They probably would’ve gotten a little more attention if they had re-signed Ilya Kovalchuk. But that hasn’t happened yet. Look, it’s wonderful that the Thrashers are off to a strong start (4-1) and that Kovalchuk says he wants to stay and that general manager Don Waddell says negotiations are going great. But until Kovalchuk’s name is on a contract extension, this is a problem. I Googled Kovalchuk’s name Monday and kept finding news stories focusing on his perceived uncertain future, some speculating on whether he would be dealt at the NHL trade deadline (Boston seems to be the hot rumor) and others wondering if he would go to Russia. Don’t laugh. I mean, I don’t think that’s going to happen. When Russians come to play in the U.S., it’s usually for one reason: To get out of Russia. But there are no salary cap restrictions over there. It would be easy to see Kovalchuk landing a deal for as much as $15 millioin a year. Think of Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman, as a Scott Boros starter kit. He’s good. He’ll get what he can for his client. Waddell wants and needs to get this done soon, but Kovalchuk has all of the leverage. Until the deal is signed, it’s going to become a bigger issue and a distraction. But at least we can sleep easy that Peverley is in the fold.
Georgia is off this week. Kinda like walking the Green Mile before the Florida game in Jacksonville, isn’t it? But because I’m such a nice guy, here’s something to comfort you for next season.