Purgatory Online

Monday, July 19, 2004

Pointless controversy aside (yes, Schilling was throwing at Molina; yes, he should have been ejected; so?), the Angels had themselves a pretty interesting game yesterday. Lackey is beginning to look like he's coming into his own, and, up until melting down in Appieresque fashion in the sixth, looked like he would have his fourth straight quality start. Heck, even after giving up three runs in the sixth he technically had a quality start, but Scioscia's rather odd decision to keep him in to start the seventh sealed his (and the Angels') fate. Sometimes pitchers lose and regain control of a game, but rarely that late into it.

Lackey's improvement seems to be mirroring that of Jarrod Washburn, whose last two starts have been (1) seven innings of three-hit, no earned run ball against the Red Sox, and (2) a four-hit shutout of the White Sox. Prior to that, of course, he had a monumentally crappy start against Oakland, but before that, he had given up one earned run in fifteen innings of work. Even including that Oakland game, Washburn's ERA has plunged from 5.63 to 4.32 since June 15.

All of which leads me to conclude that the Angels will want to tread carefully when it comes to pursuing Randy Johnson. I think that it's unambiguously true that Johnson would help them down the stretch; he may very well be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home. But adding Johnson also means the Angels will have no less than seven starters; even if Ramon Ortiz is sent to Arizona as part of the deal, someone would still have to be sent to the pen. And that would be...Sele, I suppose, whose wonderful May is now a distant memory.

More to the point is the question of whether Johnson should be pursued at the expense of losing one or more of the system's prized prospects. Dallas McPherson, Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Jeff Mathis have all been mentioned as potential trade-bait for Johnson, whose contract runs through next year. How much do the Angels part with for Johnson's services for the next one and a half seasons?

Having given it a bit of thought, I'd offer this advice to Messrs. Stoneman and Moreno: you get damn few opportunities to get into the playoffs. If you can get a guy like Randy Johnson for a reasonable price, you do it. In this case, "reasonable" means they get Ortiz plus either Kotchman or McPherson or Santana. There's just no way you give up Mathis, who's considered the best catching prospect in baseball, especially now that Bengie Molina is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Losing any of the other three would hurt, but Kotchman and McPherson are replaceable, and Santana is still, despite his promise, a Double-A pitcher - nothing's guaranteed for him.

It's a tough call. But then, it's a tough world. Let's roll the dice.