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Down The Line

June 15, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

Imagine what the Rangers could do with a first baseman in their lineup -- say, Adrian Gonzalez. The Rangers' first basemen are batting .217.

In one of the most lopsided trades this decade, the Rangers traded Gonzalez -- and Chris Young! -- to the Padres in 2006 for pitchers Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. That was the first winter for Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels, and he got robbed.

He has done better. The Rangers lead the majors in runs, even with the hole at first base.

Wanted: Lone star with a live arm

Daniels traded for Josh Hamilton, a triple crown contender. He picked up David Murphy from the Red Sox for Eric Gagne last summer, and Murphy has driven in more runs than anyone in the AL West except Hamilton. He signed Milton Bradley coming off knee surgery, and Bradley leads the AL with a 1.077 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

But the Rangers might have been better off keeping long-struggling prospect Edinson Volquez and committing to him every fifth day rather than shipping him to the Reds for Hamilton. Volquez leads the majors with a 1.64 ERA; the Rangers are the only team with an ERA above 5.00.

Imagine what the Rangers could do with some pitching. Daniels' new boss certainly does -- guy by the name of Nolan Ryan.

Stability amid the SoCal fault lines

Jake Peavy's win over the Dodgers on Thursday marked the Padres' 1,000th victory under General Manager Kevin Towers. The scorecard since Towers took over in November 1995:

Padres: One owner, one general manager, two managers, four NL West titles, one World Series appearance.

Dodgers: Three owners, seven general managers, seven managers, one NL West title, no World Series appearances.

Winds of change in Florida

Lou Piniella managed his hometown Rays from 2003 to '05, but he tired of losing. The Rays' ERA in his three seasons: 5.26, 5.23 and 5.78.

"The most important thing they had to do is improve their pitching," Piniella said, "and they have."

These Rays have a 3.81 ERA, and it's not entirely far-fetched that they could face their old manager and his new team in October. Piniella returns to town with the Chicago Cubs this week, as the Rays try to leverage their success into an open-air ballpark with a retractable cover made of light fabric, loosely shaped like a sail.

"They've got this tent," Piniella said. "If a hurricane comes by there, they aren't going to need any tent."

Yearning for the sound of silence

The Braves' rotation took a hit last Wednesday, with John Smoltz undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, Tom Glavine going on the disabled list because of a strained elbow and Jair Jurrjens twisting an ankle. No wonder General Manager Frank Wren shuddered at the sound of his cellphone, fearing the latest news.

"I feel like I'm in the twilight zone," he told "I'm going to be like Pavlov's dog and have an aversion to phones ringing."

Health food of the week

Joe Ausanio gave up 12 home runs in his brief major league career, two of them to the Angels' Chili Davis. Now, as food and beverage director for the Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades, Ausanio sells the Chili Davis, a wrap filled with chili and fries, covered in cheese.

This is the Renegades' pitch: "Come out to any home game this season and see if you can do what Ausanio was unable to do -- handle Chili Davis."

The price, in honor of Davis' career average against Ausanio: $6.67.

-- Bill Shaikin

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