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Down The Line

July 05, 2009|Bill Shaikin

Baseball's leading economic barometer

Joe Torre was managing the New York Yankees nine years ago when Jose Canseco showed up in his clubhouse, for no good reason. The Yankees' front office claimed Canseco on waivers to prevent another team from trading for him, and they were more than happy to pay off the $1 million left on his contract, even if he just sat on the bench.

What's $1 million to the Yankees?

This year, a lot. When the Yankees acquired Eric Hinske last week -- to fill an actual void on the bench -- they would not pay all of the $800,000 left on his contract. The Pittsburgh Pirates had to send along $400,000.

"Even though the Yankees are still spending more money than anybody else, it doesn't mean they're not aware of the issue," Torre said.

The Yankees' payroll has more than doubled in those nine years, from $93 million to $201 million. But nothing says recession better than all those empty suites at the new Yankee Stadium, even after the Yankees slashed the price of the best seats from $2,500 to $1,250.

So the strategy the Dodgers employed last July might extend throughout the majors during this July trading season: We'll trade you top prospects, but we won't pay off the contract, or vice versa. No franchise can get salary relief and rebuild itself with one July trade, as the Texas Rangers did so nimbly by trading Mark Teixeira two years ago.

The Oakland Athletics sent three good young players to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Matt Holliday and his $12.5-million contract last winter, before the economy crashed. The A's might now have to choose between trading Holliday for top prospects or for cash. If they do neither and take two draft picks, they might be on the hook for $7 million, to pay Holliday for August and September and then sign the draft picks.

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Dodgers might be All-Star oddity

The All-Star rosters will be announced today, with neither the Dodgers nor Angels expected to be represented among elected starters.

If Chad Billingsley is not selected as the starting pitcher for the National League, the 2009 Dodgers will become the first team to have the best record in its league yet have no All-Star starters since . . . the 2008 Angels.

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Putting things in perspective

Toronto's Aaron Hill began play Saturday with more hits than any major leaguer not named Ichiro Suzuki. He also had 19 home runs.

The calendar had not turned to July by the time Hill had set the single-season home run record for Blue Jays' second basemen, set by Roberto Alomar.

"If you don't win a World Series, no one looks at you," Hill told Toronto reporters. "He's got two rings, bottom line. I have to start by making the playoffs."

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Let's juice up the old rivalry

With Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain emerging as the top 1-2 pitching punch in baseball, the San Francisco Giants are atop the NL wild-card standings. The Giants have given up the fewest runs of any team in the major leagues.

They're searching for a left-handed bat. Their left fielders rank last in the majors in home runs. Manny Ramirez just got a hero's welcome.

So we're just saying: Barry Bonds, boys?

-- Bill Shaikin

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