- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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The most pivotal name here in Trade Deadline Week 2008 has tried his best not to read all the rumors he's so good at inspiring. A lot of good that does him.
"People tell me about it anyway," Mark Teixeira said. "Even if I don't read it, people are going to tell me about it. So I hear all the rumors whether I want to or not."
Well, if Mark Teixeira is listening, here's what he needs to know about the next 72 hours or so:
He should keep a phone number of Allied Van Lines real handy.
On Monday afternoon, the Braves officially glued a ribbon on Teixeira's head and stationed him in their main display window. After gathering their chief decision-makers in Atlanta for a meeting Monday, they then began the process of informing other teams that they plan to trade Teixeira if they get the right deal.
The feeling of clubs that have spoken with Braves GM Frank Wren is that he hasn't seen anything lately that would convince him his team has a 41-17 run in it (which is what it would take to get to 90 wins). And neither has anyone else.
Wren followed his team to Philadelphia over the weekend, to try to get "a feel" for which way it was headed, he said. What he witnessed was almost incomprehensible -- a weekend in which the Braves blew leads of five-plus runs to the same team in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.
"I don't know how he could watch that," said an official of one club monitoring the Teixeira situation closely, "and come away thinking they've still got a shot at this thing."
Turns out that's exactly what the GM came away from that trip thinking. So for a team that started the year with win-the-World-Series aspirations, it's now Selling Time. And that means one thing:
Mark Teixeira -- not Manny Ramirez -- has just zoomed into the No. 1 spot on the Trade Deadline Names to Watch list.
That's going to mean a lot of familiar-sounding trade-rumor questions flying Teixeira's way. But at least he has his answers down cold by now. He got a lot of chances to practice them a year ago this time, when he was hanging out in Arlington, Texas, waiting for the Rangers to deal him to parts unknown.
"The only difference," Teixeira said, "is that last year, I was kind of ready to move on from Texas. But this year, I really want to stick it out with the Braves and see if we can make a run."
Unfortunately, his employers have been looking hard for signs that that run has begun, and they haven't quite seen a re-enactment of 1914, or even 1991, erupt before their eyes. The Braves are now 4-5 since the All-Star break, 9-12 this month and 23-34 since May 22. So over the past third of the season, they have a worse record than the Pirates, Royals or Giants. Not a good way to persuade a GM to conclude it's time to go for it.
And the Braves' players know the GM has been watching, too. Even Teixeira has apparently gotten enough second-half information to figure out that every game on the schedule this month had the potential to be the game that determined whether his team kept him or dealt him.
"We'd obviously like to win these games anyway," Teixeira said. "But I have a little extra incentive, because I'd like to stay. I realize that things are going to happen in this game that are out of your control. And over the next two months, a lot of things are going to happen that are going to be out of my control. But once I get to free agency, that's when I get to start making the calls."
That's true. But this week, it will be his general manager making the calls. And the teams, it appears, that are still in play when he dials that phone are the Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Angels.
When you analyze those three teams, however, the fit isn't perfect anywhere, the way it was last year when Teixeira found himself the object of the Braves', Angels' and Diamondbacks' transactional affection.
Last year in our division, the Phillies came back from seven down with 17 to play, right? The only problem is, we have three other teams in front of us. So if we're going to make a run, we need to start chipping away pretty quick.
Tampa Bay is looking for a right-handed-hitting right fielder, not a first baseman. The Red Sox don't have a place to fit David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell and Teixeira even if they unload Manny. The Angels love their first baseman, Casey Kotchman, and seem more focused on a low-level bullpen deal. And none of those teams would give up its first baseman for a two-month rental of Teixeira.
So that still seems to leave Arizona as the best fit. Despite reports that Atlanta would insist on getting Conor Jackson back for Teixeira, one source with knowledge of those clubs' conversations says those reports are "not accurate."
"'Insist' is not the right word," the source said. "For one thing, there hasn't been that much conversation. That would insinuate somebody walked away from an offer that didn't include him. And that's not the case."
Would the Braves take Chad Tracy and a package of other names? We're about to find out. But we've heard nothing to convince us it's out of the question.
In the meantime, the man in the middle of this rumor storm keeps hoping there's something he and his teammates can do to keep him in Atlanta and write another chapter in the Miracle Braves storybook.
"Last year in our division, the Phillies came back from seven down with 17 to play, right?" Teixeira observed. "The only problem is, we have three other teams in front of us. So if we're going to make a run, we need to start chipping away pretty quick."
No kidding. Like instantaneously.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.
Keep him or trade him? The Braves have decided to do the latter with Mark Teixeira.