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Down The Line

August 02, 2009|Bill Shaikin

With Santana, there's a catch

The Dodgers acquired infielder Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians for minor league catcher Carlos Santana this time last year, to great dismay among fans that closely follow the Dodgers' farm system.

Baseball America promptly ranked Santana as Cleveland's top prospect. The magazine last month ranked him as the seventh-best prospect in all of baseball, in a top-50 list that included no one from the Dodgers.

At the time of the trade, the Dodgers explained their rationale: Santana would hit wherever he went, but they did not believe his defense would play in the majors, at least at catcher. The Dodgers would not have the option to use him at designated hitter, but the Indians would.

Fast forward to last week, when the Indians traded ace Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies for four minor leaguers, including top catching prospect Lou Marson.

"He has a chance to be an everyday major league catcher. That's hard to find," Cleveland General Manager Mark Shapiro said. "We think he is a championship-caliber receiver, catcher and field leader."

Marson should be in Cleveland within weeks. Santana needs at least one more year in the minors to work on his defense, Shapiro said. He would not say whether the acquisition of Marson means the Indians might move Santana to another position.

"This will open up multiple alternatives for us going forward," Shapiro said.

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The All-Star cleanup crew

Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez are among the greatest players of this generation. Without them, baseball would not have the drug-testing program that Commissioner Bud Selig trumpets as the toughest in professional sports.

In 2003, amid pressure from team owners and Congress, the players' union agreed to one year of survey tests. No player would be identified; no punishment would be imposed.

Unless 5% of players tested positive for performance-enhancing substances that year, baseball would not test in future years. No more tests, no risk of suspensions, until at least until the next round of collective bargaining and maybe beyond.

Yet Ramirez, Ortiz and Rodriguez apparently could not stay away from those substances, even when one year without those drugs might have meant many more with them. The three players reportedly were among several dozen that tested positive in 2003, triggering the imposition of a drug policy that Selig says has drawn the curtain on baseball's steroid era.

"It's unfathomable that those players thought they could show up and take those tests with no repercussions," said Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency. "It was a good glimpse at the culture of being an elite athlete in that culture and succumbing to it quite easily."

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Quote of the week

From Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, on the unnamed sources that disclosed last week that Ramirez and Ortiz had failed drug tests six years ago: "It's really embarrassing when your parents don't name you."

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Bad timing of the week

The Indians traded catcher Victor Martinez to Boston on Friday -- one day before they would give out Martinez bobblehead dolls and six days before they would give out Martinez backpacks to kids.

-- Bill Shaikin

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