Players find pressure cookers awaiting in Boston, New York
By Peter Gammons Special to ESPN.com
The Jeff Weaver deal was the right deal when the Yankees acquired him. So were Scott Sauerbeck, Scott Williamson and Jeff Suppan, as was Roberto Alomar when the Mets got him. "It can be different when they get to a New York or Boston because the experience isn't like anything else," one AL GM said. "I still think the Weaver deal was one of the best of the last three years, and there's no question the Red Sox did the best job at the deadline. Sometimes there's no way of knowing how someone will respond." And, remember, Brian Cashman once said that playing outside of the Northeast is "Club Med."
Jeff Suppan has a 7.04 ERA since coming to Boston in a deadline deal with Pittsburgh.
The furor hit in Boston when on two consecutive nights, the revamped Red Sox bullpen was beaten by Oakland's mail-order special. With a 2-0 lead on Aug. 19, Sauerbeck walked two lefties, then Williamson surrendered a three-run homer. The next night Grady Little was reluctant to go to Sauerbeck and Byung-Hyun Kim blew a lead to a string of Oakland lefties.
"It's hard to gauge the impact of going from a small market non-contender to a Boston or New York in a pennant race," said Bob Tewksbury, who besides mentoring young pitchers in the Boston organization is working on his Master's in psychology with the hopes of following in the footsteps of noted sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman. "I think it's easier when a player moves in the offseason. This can be a big culture shock."
"I think what can happen is that everything speeds up for you," said Suppan, another of the Boston deadline acquisitions who had three rocky starts before beating Seattle on Aug. 22. "You overthrow, you try too hard. It's a matter of settling back into a routine. I love being back here in a race, but it's an adjustment."
During this homestand, several Red Sox players expressed concerns about the negativity of the local media as it responded to two losses to the A's that, at the time, left them two games under .500 since the All-Star break. "What players have to understand is that the fans are booing performance, not them personally," said Mets GM Jim Duquette, whose goal is to try to acquire players who can handle New York. "It's easy to say that, but when Robby Alomar sees the back page of the paper and it reads 'Rob-E' and he's a sensitive person, it's not easy." There was no way Duquette would trade Steve Trachsel at the deadline because he knows he can pitch in New York.
The Yankees this summer acquired Jeff Nelson, Jesse Orosco and David Dellucci, all of whom seemed assured of being able to handle New York, by experience or personality.
"There's another factor that can't be overlooked," said Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, "and that's the difference in leagues. No, not the strike zone; that's no different. It's the lineups. Sometimes if a guy's been pitching in a National League small market without much pressure and he's thrown into the fire in the American League, he can get spooked by difference in the 7-8-9 holes. That to me is the biggest difference between the American and National leagues, and when a guy faces it for the for the first time, it can be a little scary."
Sizing up the money pool
There are general managers who predict that even with Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield and Miguel Tejada on the market that no player will approach a Jim Thome deal, in terms of average annual salary ($15 million) or length. One major agent doesn't buy that, but he does say no one will approach the last $17 million player, Jason Giambi. "What you will see," said one AL GM, "is that the era of the pitchers getting more than three years is over. Pat Gillick called that many, many years ago, and some teams fell in to the trap."
This is the way one club figures it: If one assumes that because of flat growth in the industry in 2003, that the Opening Day payroll dollars will be approximately the same in 2004 as they were in 2003 ($2,020,938,999). That means with $1,550,426,598 already allocated to players in 2004, less than $500,000,000 will be left for the remaining players
Understand, that includes:
Nearly 450 players yet to be signed currently on 25-man rosters;