In honor of my favorite holiday, let’s present the All-Halloween Team for 2005. This year’s team includes one current-day player (a certain star for the Anaheim Angels), one player from the 19th century, and one player who didn’t require a nickname to make the club. By the way, I’m still looking for a catcher to round out the monster squad, so if you have any suggestions, let me know.
First Base: William “Peek-A-Boo” Veach (1884-90)
Second Base: Julian “The Phantom” Javier (1960-72)
Shortstop: Leo “Spider” Cardenas (1960-75)
Third Base: Richie “The Gravedigger” Hebner (1968-85)
Left Field: Nick Goulish (1944-45)
Center Field: Jo-Jo “The Gause Ghost” Moore (1930-41)
Right Field: Vladimir “Vlad the Impaler” Guerrero (1996-current)
Starting Pitcher: Larry “The Creeper” Jaster (1965-72)
Starting Pitcher: John “The Count” Montefusco (1974-86)
Relief Pitcher: Pedro “Dracula” Borbon (1969-80)
Relief Pitcher: Dick “The Monster” Radatz (1962-69)
Happy Halloween, everyone.
In the aftermath of their slump-ridden, umpire-affected loss in the American League Championship Series, the Angels have set their sights on their No. 1 offseason priority: a bigtime middle-of-the-order bat who can take his place behind Vladimir Guerrero. They’d like to add at least one power hitter to their sporadic lineup and have identified free agent and personal tormentor Paul Konerko as their primary target. On the surface, a courtship of the White Sox’ Konerko makes sense; he is arguably the best pure hitter in a thinned-out free agent market, ranking ahead of the Padres’ Brian Giles and the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui. Upon further review, however, Konerko may not be the right fit for the Angels. The Halos already have Darin Erstad at first base, along with two top prospects who are cut from the same first basemen-DH cloth as Konerko: Casey Kotchman and Kendry Morales. In order to make room for Konerko, they could easily move Erstad back to center field (which is where he belongs, given that it makes more sense to utilize his defensive talents as an outfielder than as a first baseman) but that would still leave the Angels with an overload of first base-DH types. Kotchman and Konerko are strictly first baseman who cannot play the outfield, and while Morales has played third base in the Cuban League, he also projects as a more limited cornerman on the right side of the infield. Therefore, the Angels would be better off pursuing a free agent like Giles or Johnny Damon, both of whom are capable of playing multiple outfield positions. Either Damon or Giles could play left field for Mike Scioscia, enabling Garrett Anderson to rotate with Vlad Guerrero between the DH and right field slots. In the meantime, the Angels could still move Erstad back to center field, making them stronger defensively in two of the outfield positions while opening up playing time for either Kotchman or Morales at first base. Kotchman is ready to play in the major leagues right now and Morales isn’t far behind, at most a half-season of Triple-A ball away from his first big league audition… While the Angels figure to be aggressive in the free agent market, they also need to be concerned about holding on to some of their own free agent chips. Inspirational leader Bengie Molina and 40 per cent of the team’s starting rotation—Paul Byrd and Jarrod Washburn—are all eligible to enter the market place, and it’s possible that the Haloes could lose all three. The Angels would prefer to retain Molina, who had his finest offensive season after already establishing himself as the American League’s best defensive catcher, but they’ll set some budgetary limits on a player who might receive better contractual offers elsewhere. If Molina leaves, the Angels do have options; they feel comfortable that Bengie’s brother, Jose Molina, can play nearly as well defensively as his older sibling. And then there’s top prospect Jeff Mathis, whose athleticism and power might be good enough to overcome his otherwise questionable bat… of the pitchers, the Angels will probably make a stronger effort to re-sign Washburn, if only because he’s the only veteran left-hander on the entire staff. They’ll be more cautious with the 34-year-old Byrd, who’s been more inconsistent and injury-prone than Washburn throughout his career.
With the Yankees unable to lure Leo Mazzone to the land of failed pitchers, they’ve now turned to Plans B and C, which include White Sox pitching guru Don Cooper and former Bronx Zoo star Ron Guidry. A onetime Yankee and a native of Queens, Cooper is New York’s first choice, but the Bombers will have to wait until after the World Series to talk to him—assuming that the White Sox give them permission. If the Yankees want to hire a pitching coach faster, they may settle on Guidry. He has the kind of marquee value that George Steinbrenner loves, but there are some in the organization who fret over Guidry’s lack of experience; he’s worked only as a spring training instructor in the past and has never been a fulltime coach at either the major league or minor league level. If the Yankees can’t lure Cooper and decide to pass on Guidry, then they’ll probably hand off the pitching coach reins to former Red Sox manager Joe Kerrigan. A failure in his short tenure as a manager, Kerrigan has earned praise for his work as a pitching guru with both the Sox and the Phillies. Those high marks resulted in Kerrigan joining the Yankees’ organization in mid-season, as a kind of pitching coach-in-waiting prior to the inevitable departure of Mel Stottlemyre. A longshot candidate for the pitching coach post is Neil Allen, but he’s not favored by Joe Torre, who would prefer to see Allen remain in the bullpen or leave the coaching staff entirely… While the Yankees’ courtship of Mazzone ended in failure, it’s likely the Pinstripes will have two other new coaches in place very shortly, as Torre is forced to revamp his on-field staff. With the talented Joe Girardi primed and ready to take over as manager of the Marlins, the Yankees may move highly regarded advance scout Chuck Cottier into Girardi’s old position as bench coach. Another possibility is former Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, who remains close to Torre. A onetime manager of the Mariners, Cottier has the kind of knowledge of American League opponents that would make him a natural for the post as Torre’s chief dugout lieutenant. The Yankees are also likely to bring Frank “Hondo” Howard back to the coaching fold; Torre has long campaigned for the popular and enthusiastic Hondo to be one of his coaches, and he’ll probably get his wish as George Steinbrenner makes first base coach Roy White a scapegoat for a failed season… Speaking of Hondo, the Gentle Giant should be allowed to wear a uniform until the day he retires completely from the game. No one in baseball can surpasses the levels of passion and energy that Howard brings to a major league field, both before and during games. Hondo just wouldn’t look right wearing a suit and working in the front office. His place remains on the field and in uniform, and hopefully the Yankees will make it happen… The Yankees have also begun talks with former Phillies and Padres skipper Larry Bowa about becoming their new third base coach. In between managerial stints in Philadelphia and San Diego, the aggressive Bowa garnered a reputation as one of the game’s best third base coaches. Bowa’s feistiness and combativeness might make for a better fit as a coach; as a manager, he was often put in a position where he could criticize players, something that doesn’t happen nearly as often for coaches…
The A’s’ decision to pick up the option on Jay Payton’s contract has thinned out an already meager selection of free agent center fielders. With Payton off the market, the asking prices of Johnny Damon, Preston Wilson, and Randy Winn—and even an aging platoon player like Kenny Lofton—all figure to rise. Given the dearth of quality center fielders in both leagues, don’t be surprised if some needy team signs an athletic corner outfielder like Juan Encarnacion or Jacque Jones with the intention of converting him to center field.