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Baseball makes a sudden turn to the left (coast)

While Red Sox and Yankees sit idle and Phillies become sellers, the Dodgers, Angels, Giants and Rangers, all West division teams, get stronger at trade deadline.

July 31, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • The Angels acquired another strong arm for their rotation in Zack Greinke and the Dodgers added a lifetime .300 hitter in Hanley Ramirez this last week.
The Angels acquired another strong arm for their rotation in Zack Greinke… (Associated Press and Getty…)

Just when everybody was used to baseball's powers residing in the Eastern time zone, the nonwaiver trading deadline came Tuesday and baseball went all Horace Greeley on everyone.

The young men all headed west, or at least the biggest names did. Zack Greinke to the Angels, Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino to the Dodgers. Then, as if to respond, the Texas Rangers nabbed Ryan Dempster and the San Francisco Giants got Hunter Pence.

If you wanted to stay competitive in the West, the cost to remain in the neighborhood went up. And it was the Angels, Dodgers, Rangers and Giants responding.

The top teams in baseball's Western divisions got stronger and more dangerous, while the Boston Red Sox sat oddly silent, the deep-pocketed New York Yankees acted all modest and the Philadelphia Phillies made like the old Florida (now Miami) Marlins and unloaded salary for prospects. Wait, that's also like the new Marlins.

Not to get all provincial, but it was the Angels and Dodgers who led the way, who forced others to react.

The Dodgers last week landed the most significant position player to change teams in Ramirez. He's dynamic and, if he can stay motivated, can alter their lineup. The busy boys in blue also added a left-handed reliever in Randy Choate, a veteran right-hand reliever in Brandon League and then filled a gaping hole in left field with Tuesday's addition of Victorino.

While the Giants responded by trading for Pence, the Arizona Diamondbacks and General Manager Kevin Towers were unable to pull off a significant deal.

"You certainly watch what's going on, but I don't think there should be a knee-jerk reaction to counterpunch just because they've done something," said Towers, whose club is stalking the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West. "And sometimes you can do too much."

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who brought in four new players and tried to add Dempster from the Chicago Cubs, acknowledged that a team could add too many new faces.

"I guess you can, but you measure that versus having enough offense," he said. "I think our group in the room is very strong.

"At this time of the year, it means a lot that some other people walk into that room. It signifies that people are paying attention. . . . I think you run a greater risk by being stagnant."

The Angels were quiet Tuesday but landed the biggest difference-maker on the mound when they traded last week for Greinke, who was also prized by the division-rival Rangers. Now the Angels not only have an outstanding lineup, but a rotation that features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren,C.J. Wilson and Greinke.

This is not a team anyone would want to meet in the playoffs. It is a team the Rangers, who lead the Angels by three games, were forced to keep up with, not that Texas GM Jon Daniels would admit it.

"Whether the Angels got Greinke or not, they're good," Daniels told the Dallas Morning News. "They're very good. So is Oakland. Nothing happened in the last few days that changed our minds on those clubs. It's going to go down to the wire and all three clubs are going to fight for it, and we wanted to put our best foot forward."

The Rangers certainly needed starting pitching, but when your rival makes a significant move the pressure rises.

Other reactions:

The Pittsburgh Pirates added starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez plus first baseman Gaby Sanchez, an All-Star last year, and outfielder Travis Snider. They trail the Cincinnati Reds by three games and are now the best team in Pennsylvania. Unlike . . .

The Phillies. Ah, once they were great — 2008 World Series champions and '09 runners-up. Now they've unloaded almost any player found breathing in the clubhouse.

"It's the cycle of the game," Colletti said. "For the most part, everybody goes through it. You look at Philadelphia's run, I think they made the postseason in '07 and ran off probably the best five years in the history of a proud franchise."

The Giants added Pence to the middle of their lineup, and picked up needed infielder Marco Scutaro from Colorado. Offense was needed (again) and it arrived. A message that should have been received by . . .

The Red Sox. They're selling? Buying? Doing nothing? They looked confused. Where was Theo Epstein? Oh, yeah, unloading with . . .

The Cubs. The future is out there, somewhere. They traded starting pitchers Dempster and Paul Maholm, and wanted to move Matt Garza, who came up lame at the deadline. They couldn't move Alfonso Soriano, or get the prospects desired from the Dodgers. Maybe in a few years the moves they did make will look impressive. Which can't be said for . . .

The Marlins. How's that new stadium, new energy and new ballclub looking? They're 141/2 games out and bailing so fast the owners should go into hiding.

Of course, it's not like the nonwaiver deadline is the end of it all. Players will be sent through waivers, and some with huge contracts will go unclaimed and be eligible to be traded. Any player acquired by Aug. 31 would be eligible for the postseason.

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