Cruel as it might seem in one way or another, Tiger Woods has found a way to win back a portion of his critics, if only a few.
When he fired his caddie, Steve Williams, last week he rid himself of a most irksome presence. Williams left a trail of insulted galleryites, battered photographers and bullied golf writers in his wake.
No one was immune to his brutishness, and a few photogs had their cameras flung into a pond by Tiger's bag-toter.
Many a member of the press corps had said, "I could stomach most of Tigers' infernal attitude if you didn't have to put up with that caddie of his."
Never happened when Fluff Cowan was there.
*** Now, Carlos Beltran? And what damage would they have to do to their farm system this time?
Won't the Braves ever learn their lesson? Or do they get a kick out of seeing their farmhands succeed in other fields? John Schuerholz has said that the worst deal he ever made was trading Adam Wainwright and Jason Marquis for one season of J.D. Drew, well knowing Drew was only passing through.
But I contest him.
I charge that when he raided the farm system to get less than a season of Mark Teixeira was the worst of all. Or what about shortstop Elvis Andrus, catcher Jason Saltalamacchia, pitchers Nefti Feliz and Matt Harrison and a throw-in pitcher named Beau Jones? Salty has since been traded to the Red Sox, where he is the midst of a career revival, and on the way to a World Series.
That deal basically stocked the Texas Rangers for last season's pennant run. Andrus was the American League Rookie of the Year, Feliz -- one Bobby Cox said was the real steal -- was the Closer of the Year, and one lost in the welter was Harrison. Matt was the hidden gem, tucked away at Mississippi but detected by a Ranger scout. Now a winning starter in his fourth season.
Jones never rose above farm level, but four out of five isn't bad.
*** Oh, remember the name of Casey Kotchman? He was salvaged in the deal that sent Teixeira to the Angels. He was only here for a spell, and after bouncing around, coast to coast, now is having a sterling season with Tampa Bay, hitting around 80 points higher than Teixeira is with the Yankees, though Tex balances out with power and RBI.
But don't get careless with those farmhands. They can come back to bite you, one way or another, especially if Scott Boras is their agent.
*** And did it ever occur to you just how valuable Matt Diaz's righthand bat would be in the Braves' outfield lineup, where the Braves are overloaded with lefthanded bats right now -- Jason Heyward, Nate McClouth and Jordan Schafer.
Unfortunately they never offered him a contract after last season, during which he played a good deal of the time through injury.-