0

FURMAN BISHER COLUMN: The Ides of August

Furman Bisher

Furman Bisher

Always puzzled me that the leading executives of major league baseball get their jeans in a knot around the last of July about arming up for the stretch drive.

It's deadline time, of course. Any trade afterward can only be made when the desired player has passed through waivers. So the press leaps into the fray, drops obvious names and baits the hook for teams in need of a pitcher here, a hot hitter there, or whatever.

All a beat writer -- that's the guy covering your local major league team -- had to do is drop the name of a hot pitcher or slugger whose team is in the doldrums, and it seems the local executive bites. It becomes a headline item, all of which brings me around to the seemingly odd exchange of Jordan Schafer for Michael Bourn. Not only did the Houston Astros get a centerfielder for a centerfielder, they also got three young pitchers out of the Braves farm system.

One of the three, in particular, has a pretty good looking future, Brett Oberholtzer, a lefthander. The Astros knew this.

He was the pitching prospect that turned the deal their way. I don't know much about the other two, and they aren't of great interest here.

What is of interest is that the Braves traded for another centerfielder who is almost a carbon copy of one they had. Both Schafer and Bourn bat and throw left-handed, both can run with deer, both can steal bases, both have about equally measurable power. Limited, not one of their qualities.

If you're trading, it's even-up to me. Some of the Braves players were sad to see Schafer go. Chipper Jones, who speaks his mind on anything, said, "I hate to see Schafe go."

A critic can find something wrong with nearly every deal a team makes. Consider switching Omar Infante et al for Dan Uggla. Yeah, Uggla has finally come to life. He has re-discovered his home run swing.

But look at his batting average -- .212. Infante was hitting .274 last time I checked and playing an equally efficient second base for the Marlins.

Another angle: The Braves could have had Kelly Johnson at second base for a $5.6-million salary. He has hit 23 home runs. Uggla has hit 20, and in the long run he'll pass Johnson. But he has long since passed Johnson on the payroll. Over five seasons his bill runs up to $62 million.

Whew!

I've run through a lineup of deals the Braves should never have made: Adam Wainwright and Jason Marquis for J.D. Drew and the Cuban odd-ball, Eli Marrero; and of course the block-buster, the treasures of the farm system for Mark Texieira and a pitching throw-in.

A pitcher, a Braves throw-in overlooked, Matt Harrison, has won 30 games in his limited career with Texas. So that is enough. Repetition changes nothing, and after awhile becomes boring, so I bore you no further.