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Down The Line

July 15, 2007|BILL SHAIKIN

Start Miguel Cabrera's free-agency countdown

This isn't the only winter Alex Rodriguez can opt out of his contract. If he does not, he can opt out after either the 2008 or 2009 seasons if the Yankees do not raise his annual salary to $32 million -- or $1 million more than any other major league position player.

The clause protected Rodriguez against, ahem, salary inflation. Who knew, after all, how high the market might go in eight years? In the winter of 2000-01, Rodriguez signed for an average of $25 million per year, Manny Ramirez signed for $20 million and Derek Jeter for $19 million. But clubs have pretty much held the line since then. No one has signed for $20 million, or $19 million.

Ah, but that hold is weakening. The Giants gave Barry Zito $18 million per season last winter, and the Mariners just gave Ichiro Suzuki the same amount, prompting a glorious cross-country shouting match between Marlins President David Samson and Mariners General Manager Bill Bavasi.

Samson, to a Miami radio station, upon initial reports the contract might be worth $20 million per year: "There's no chance anybody is worth that. Ichiro has led his team to zero, nothing.... It literally will take the sport down, that contract."

Bavasi, at the news conference announcing the signing: "My mother always taught me that, if the only thing you have to say is, '[Expletive] David Samson,' then don't say anything at all."

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Tell your statistics to take a seat

We can't imagine Tony La Russa would have known this, but one statistic vindicates him for not using Albert Pujols to hit for Aaron Rowand in the All-Star game.

With two out in the ninth inning, and the tying and winning runs in scoring position, Rowand flied out.

But, according to Stats LLC, Rowand is batting .385 with runners in scoring position and two out. That ranks fourth in the National League, behind Mark DeRosa, Carlos Lee and Xavier Nady, with a minimum of 30 at-bats.

La Russa still made the wrong call. He said he needed to save Pujols for possible extra innings, because he could play infield and outfield.

No matter how many times Fox or Bud Selig might proclaim otherwise, the All-Star game is an exhibition, a celebration for fans, a showcase for the game's best players.

With all respect to Rowand, fans deserved to see Pujols against Francisco Rodriguez.

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No pennants, no regrets

In 2000, when Ken Griffey Jr. persuaded the Mariners to trade him to Cincinnati, he was mocked for saying he wanted to be closer to his family home in Florida.

He is in his eighth year with the Reds, with eight stints on the disabled list, one winning season and no playoff appearances. The Reds, an elite franchise when Ken Griffey Sr. played for them, have the worst record in the league.

If Junior had to do it all over again, would he?

"Sure, why wouldn't I?" he said. "I didn't think I'd get hurt, either. I got a chance to be a big part of my kids' lives, watch them grow up and still play baseball. I had the best of both worlds."

Griffey would look mighty fine in the lineup of a contender. The Dayton Daily News reported he would veto a trade to anywhere except Atlanta, Chicago and, maybe, Seattle. How about that: Griffey back where he started, next to Ichiro?

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Two weeks to the trading deadline

No contending team bothered to scout Dontrelle Willis on Friday, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Willis might not be available, or might not be worth it: In his last eight starts he's 0-5 with a 4.75 ERA.... Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi told local reporters he had no plans to trade third baseman Troy Glaus, in whom the Dodgers and Angels have mild interest..... The best available reliever might be Reds closer David Weathers, 37, who could help the Dodgers ahead of Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito.

--BILL SHAIKIN

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