I ended up watching most of the game between the Rays and the Blue Jays tonight. That might seem a bit obscure to some, but living in Canada I can watch pretty much every Jays game, and pretty much nothing from any other team. That was pretty fun in 1992 and 1993, but it has been kind of annoying for the last decade or so. Nonetheless, it was very interesting to watch the Rays in action, and they played a heck of a game in what was, for seven innings at least, a heck of a pitcher’s duel. The Rays ended up winning 3-0, but as I was watching it two things firmly established themselves in my mind:
1. I really, really like Matt Garza. The Tampa Bay starter had a complete game shutout, and he was never not in control. Shutting down the Toronto lineup isn’t as impressive as shutting down pretty much any other lineup, but it still counts. His win tonight moves him to 9-6 on the year. Unfortunately, the team is just 10-10 when he starts, and he is the only one of the five main starters for the team, impressively, who hasn’t been profitable on the year. He’s not that far off, though – he’s lost less than two units on the year, so he can turn things around on the year without too much trouble. He’s not the most consistent pitcher, either. Yet. He’s only 24 and in his third year, and he is clearly significantly better this year than he was with the Twins. He showed impressive maturity today, and I really got the sense that he is the kind of guy who is just building to a higher level. I don’t ever think he’ll be an ace, but he strikes me as a second or third starter type who could have a 12 or 15 year career. I like Delmon Young just fine, but I think that trading him for Garza is going to turn out to be a very nice deal for the Rays. Tonight’s game is an example of where a guy like Garza is a gem. He was up against Roy Halladay, so he was a juicy +141 underdog. That fits the public’s impression of him versus an ace, but given his skill and the play of his team it was a price just loaded with potential.
2. Strangely, I lost a bit of respect for Lou Piniella tonight. Lou is doing a solid job with the Cubs this year (though he should be doing a bit better given his roster and their talent advantage). He was a total and utter waste of oxygen in Tampa, though, Granted, this team is older and more experienced than the one he was at the helm of. On the other hand, though, Lou looked like he was mailing it in for much of his time in Florida and he got absolutely no more out of the talent he had than he could of with a minimum of effort. I guess what I’m saying is that I am not nearly as convinced that Piniella is a genius as I am supposed to be. On the other hand, I caught the last couple of innings of the Cards’ win over the Braves tonight. He’s had his troubles in the last couple of years, but I still think that if I was starting a team from scratch I would unquestionably have Tony LaRussa at the helm.
A couple of other brief thoughts from the night:
1. The Angels are obviously pretty serious about things this year. I like Mark Teixera as a player, and I think that he is an upgrade over Casey Kotchman, but I’m not sure he is enough of one to warrant the move. His biggest advantage is that he is a switch hitter, and he has decent power. Kotchman is a nice player, though, and he’s younger and cheaper. This will be a good deal for the Angels if they do well in the postseason, but it also has the real potential to be a good one for the Braves. The problem I have with it for the Angels, though, is that they have already pretty much totally wrapped up their division, so this deal will only pay off (or not) in October. I’d like it better if they had given up a player like Kotchman for a gain that would have been realized for three months.
2. I know I said I was done talking about basketball, but the news that broke as I am writing this is too much to pass up on. The Kings have traded Ron Artest to Houston for Bobby Jackson, a first rounder next year, and the rights to Donte Green. This is a very interesting deal. If Artest can be a good citizen in Houston then he will be a great addition. My only concern is that there are several egos on the team already, so it won’t be a seamless transition. Still, a decent risk for a team that was fairly competitive already. On the other hand, I love what the Kings got for Artest. It’s tough to get good value for a player when he has some obvious issues, and when everyone else in the world knows that you want to get rid of him. Jackson is a decent veteran presence. The draft pick could turn into a contributor. Green is a wildly talented guy. He’s far from a lock, but he is packed with upside. Good value given the circumstances.