Monday, November 24, 2003

Bailing Brave

Jim Salisbury used his On Baseball column in yesterday's Inquirer to explore the resignation of Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten, which he speculated "might have been a sign that he didn't like the direction that the Braves were headed." Time Warner is much more concerned about the balance sheet than Ted Turner ever was, noted Salisbury, adding:

Kasten, [John] Schuerholz and [Bobby] Cox have set high standards for the Braves. Maybe Kasten left because he felt that it would be impossible to uphold those standards under Time Warner. Many people in baseball believe this to be true. The Braves are changing, and Kasten didn't like what they are about to become.

Salisbury then offered thumbnail analyses of the N.L. East teams. Atlanta and Florida are expected to slash payroll and shed talent, the Expos are in way too tenuous a situation to take seriously, and the Mets are a disaster. He continued:

The only team in the NL East that appears to be in an optimum position to win is the Phillies.

They have a new ballpark. They have new revenue streams that have allowed them to bring in top talent (Jim Thome, Billy Wagner). They have a solid lineup that will only get better if Pat Burrell returns to form. They have three starters -- Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers -- whom they can win with. They finally have a game-over closer in Wagner.

All that's missing is that pitcher to fit in at -- or near -- the top of the rotation.

Implicitly urging the Phillies to aim higher than the middle-of-the-rotation kind of guy whom Ed Wade has hinted the team might pursue, Salisbury pegged Curt Schilling, Kevin Millwood, Bartolo Colon, Javier Vazquez, and Livan Hernandez as desirable targets. (The Schilling saga took an interesting, and lousy (for the Phils), twist today; see related post.) "The Phillies have to end up with someone, and that someone has to be a formidable talent," Salisbury wrote, "because the NL East is ripe for the taking and this team is one move away from being in the best position to take it."


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