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Down The Line

July 01, 2007|Bill Shaikin

Royal necessity is the mother of invention

The Indians got fed up with Milton Bradley and traded him. The Dodgers got fed up with Bradley and traded him. The A's imagined Bradley would not sit comfortably on their bench and traded him before they could get fed up with him.

The Padres got him. That makes sense. They got him for a minor league pitcher, a cheap upgrade over Terrmel Sledge and Jose Cruz Jr. in left field. They're just asking him for three good months, and some help in beating up on the Dodgers, the hometown team that gave up on him.

But the Royals got him before the Padres did, and that appeared to make no sense. The Royals had agreed to trade a minor league pitcher for him, but the deal collapsed after Bradley reported he was injured. Still, they're not close to winning anything this year, again, so why risk controversy by importing Bradley into a young clubhouse?

The Royals weren't planning on keeping him, as it turns out, just showcasing him.

Buddy Bell, the Royals' manager, coached in Cleveland when Bradley played there and said he would have been fine with the deal. If Bradley could help win a game or two, great, but he would have been a disposable block in building a team up from three consecutive 100-loss seasons.

Dayton Moore, in his first full season as the Royals' GM, was willing to let Bradley play every day, hoping he could flip him for more young talent -- in a July trade to a contender, or via an extra draft pick or two if he left as a free agent.

"When you're in a situation like we're in," Moore said, "you've got to be aggressive and look to acquire talent with every opportunity you can."

Good for the Royals, usually charged with pocketing their millions from revenue sharing. If the Royals had paid the remainder of Bradley's contract and signed an extra draftee or two, the trade could have cost them $3 million to $5 million.

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Toast of the coast, the pride of Seattle

The Padres' Trevor Hoffman has 500 saves. The Angels' Francisco Rodriguez has led the AL in saves for two years running. The Dodgers' Takashi Saito has blown one save and strikes out 14 batters for every one he walks.

Yet the best closer on the West Coast might be the Mariners' J.J. Putz. He has 23 saves this season and hasn't blown one, posting a 0.95 earned-run average and holding opponents to a .130 batting average.

With Putz and Ichiro Suzuki (.364) in starring roles, the Mariners -- and not the injury-riddled A's -- have emerged as the Angels' stiffest competition in the AL West. The Mariners swept the Red Sox last week, and their bullpen has the lowest ERA in the division -- 3.48, compared to the Rangers' 3.59 and the Angels' 3.95.

Risk factor: The Seattle starters have a 5.30 ERA, so those bullpen arms could be burned out by September.

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Falling from grace, returning to grace

The White Sox, the World Series champions two years ago, are on the verge of falling into last place in the AL Central.... Sammy Sosa has driven in more runs than David Ortiz.... Russell Martin -- a catcher! -- has stolen more bases than Johnny Damon.... Kansas City swept the Angels last week, for the first time since they were called the California Angels.... Royals third baseman Alex Gordon, a preseason rookie of the year favorite, hit .326 in June after hitting .173 in April and .195 in May. "All he heard was how [bad] he was playing and how he shouldn't be in the big leagues," Bell said. "He just kept coming out and doing what he had to do to get better." ... Given the notorious delays in exiting the Dodger Stadium parking lot earlier this season, this might be the most interesting provision in the Dodgers' agreement to move into a new spring home in Glendale, Ariz.: City authorities are required to clear all 5,500 cars from the stadium parking lot within 25 minutes after a game ends.

-- Bill Shaikin

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