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July 21, 2005
Down memory lane
Remember Mike Lansing?
If you do, you'll know why A.J. Burnett is not likely to become a member of the Boston Red Sox in the next 11 days.
Some history: The Marlins have put A.J. Burnett on the trade market and, as you'd expect, he's drawn more than a little interest. But they've also surgically attached third baseman Mike Lowell to Burnett's hip. If you want one, all suitors are told, you have to take the other.
For as good a starting pitcher as Burnett has become, that's how bad a position player Lowell has turned into. He hit 83 home runs from 2002-04, but his career has imploded this season: .230 batting average, .632 OPS, 4 home runs in 313 at-bats. Scouts are alarmed by his loss of bat speed, and few feel he's capable of any substantial recovery. Florida is paying dearly for this lack of production -- $8 million -- and he has two years left, at $8 million per, on his contract. Getting out from under Lowell's deal is probably more important to the Marlins than the loss of Burnett; hence the linkage.
It all brings to mind Mike Lansing and a similar deal back in 2000.
Back then, the Red Sox wanted pitcher Rolando Arrojo from Colorado. But the Rockies had similar groundrules: You want Arrojo, you have to take Lansing, who was making $6 million a year and had degenerated into a .250-level hitter with diminshing power who didn't walk.
The Sox bit. They took 'em both. Their reward: A .194 batting average from the time of the trade to the end of the season, and a .250/.294/.384 batting line in 2001. Sweetening the outcome even further was that Lansing apparently felt his skill levels were similar to those of Cal Ripken, and was greatly offended whenever Jimy Williams wrote out a lineup card without his name on it. He was, as I wrote at the time, one of the canisters of toxic chemicals that broke open in the Red Sox clubhouse late in the year and turned the 2001 season into one of the most stomach-curdling -- on, and especially off, the field -- in my lifetime.
Which is not to say that Mike Lowell will be a similar canister. But taking a guy you don't want or need, who makes a ton of money, and who isn't a quality player any more . . . you're just asking for trouble.
The Sox did it once, back in 2000. This is a new management team, with a new philosophy. They're highly unlikely to do it again.
Posted by Art at 12:30 PM | Permalink