Chatting well into the night


Ah, good old Jim Caple. We might not agree about everything, but he's always willing to chat with a fellow night owl ...

Jim: Rob, what did you make of the Mariners' lack of a move last week? I think they're an old team that starts off well because they're experienced veterans and fade in August because they're old. They needed a bat.

Rob: Pat Gillick blew it.

He says he "tried" to get a hitter. Who gives a fat #@$% if Gillick tried? Jeff Cirillo "tries" to hit, but what good does that do anybody?

The Mariners are very good and they might win the World Series. But I think Gillick's neglect of the 25-man roster borders on the criminal.

Jim: The fact that Gillick spent deadline day in Toronto didn't look good from a p.r. standpoint.

I know the Mariners are haunted by past disastrous midseason deals, and I know they operate under a tight (self-imposed) budget. But hell, if Billy Beane can work a deal under his budget constraints while every GM is pissed off at him, why couldn't Gillick get something done? This will come back to haunt them.

Rob: The budget issue isn't even really an issue. Many teams are now willing to trade a veteran and cash for a couple of prospects, and the M's have a goodly number of prospects (pitchers, mostly). Now, there's nothing wrong with treasuring your young pitchers, but you can only pitch so many of them, and the M's already have three or four guys locked into the rotation for at least the next year or two.

Gillick blew it, simple as that.

Jim: Agreed. I think they'll finish three games back. The only question is whether that will be good enough for the wild card.

Rob: Three? They'd have to lose seven games in the standings to the A's, which is tough to do in eight weeks (and yes, I know they did it last year).

I just don't see the A's scoring enough runs to make up that much ground; I think it'll still be close, going into the last week. And I don't have any idea who's actually going to win.

Jim: They've lost that many, or nearly that many, to Oakland in two of the past three seasons. I fear the fade is on the way.

Rob: That's true. But while you know I think the world of William Beane, they've been so good after the trade deadline that I think they've benefited from at least a bit more than their fair share of luck. And if the M's get some luck and the A's don't -- which isn't all that unlikely -- then a four-game deficit will be tough to make up. Especially considering that Beane's only move was picking up Jose Guillen, who might be 1) a budding superstar, or 2) one of the biggest four-month flukes in recent memory.

On a completely different subject, let me ask you this ... As somebody who's actually voted for the big awards, do you think Angel Berroa has a shot at Rookie of the Year? In April and May, everybody assumed the Rookie of the Year was Rocco Baldelli. In June and July, everybody assumed the Rookie of the Year was Hideki Matsui.

But now it's August, and Berroa has a higher OPS than both Baldelli and Matsui. He's scored more runs than Matsui, and driven home as many runs as Baldelli. All while playing what most people seem to think is outstanding defense at shortstop.

The only argument against Berroa is that he's not played quite as much as Baldelli or Matsui. But if I had a vote, I think Berroa would have it. Am I just a nutty Royals fan, or does he have a real shot?

Jim: You are, as always, a nutty Royals fan.

You know as well as I do how much publicity plays in these awards, and I think particularly so with Rookie of the Year. Matsui had the big buildup, the All-Star game, the New York media, the great team and he's played fairly well. He'll probably finish with 18-20 home runs and 100-plus RBI, with an average around .300. Baldelli had a great start and got a lot of attention, but is fading some. As for Berroa, he's got good numbers and he's coming on strong -- but he has to finish strong to overcome the leads the other two players had.

Right now, I would be tempted to vote for Berroa ... but I think predicting Berroa as the winner right now, with two months to play, is as foolish as predicting it would be Baldelli after April and May, or Matsui after June and July. There are still a lot of games to play and Berroa needs to prove himself in them.

Rob: Yeah, I think that's right. But you talk about publicity, and I think I've noticed the Royals getting more publicity lately, at least here at everybody's favorite Web site. It seemed like the Royals weren't getting any love until they almost fell into a first-place tie with the White Sox. But now it seems like they're popping up every day, or at least every day they win. I have to admit, though I get tired of Royals fans -- any fans, really -- who get worked up over how the national media covers (or doesn't cover) their favorite team, I do get a little thrill every time I can actually read about the Royals game without having to click on the Scores link first.

Jim: They're getting more pub now and they'll have to keep getting it to overcome the impression the earlier pub left with Matsui and Baldelli. I'm not saying he won't win -- far from it -- but early foot means more in these things than late finish. I still stand by my earlier obvious view -- it depends on the next two months.

Rob: And it probably depends as much on the Royals as on Berroa himself. If they fade, Berroa probably gets dismissed/forgotten by at least a few voters. But if they're in the race until the end, the Royals will continue to get publicity, as will Berroa (assuming, of course, that he continues to play well).

ESPN's early-morning replay of the Royals-ChiSox game just ended, so I'm off to dream sweet dreams of first place. Thanks for being on the other end of the wire.

Senior writer Rob Neyer writes four columns per week during the baseball season. His new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups," has just been published by Fireside. For more information about the book, visit Rob's Web site.