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Tom Verducci's View

July 31, 2006
July 31, 2006

Table of Contents
July 31, 2006

2006 British Open
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  • At 30 and no longer able to turn to his father for advice, Tiger Woods is a man in transition on and off the course. In winning his 11th major, at the British Open, he recaptured his magic touch and provided a glimpse into what's still to come--even as he dedicated his play to Pops

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  • Written off after a meltdown in the mountains, Floyd Landis executed a bold and spectacular turnaround a day later and then cruised to victory

  • FAMOUS? NOT SO MUCH. THEY MAY NEVER MAKE AN ALL-STAR TEAM OR WIN A MAJOR, BUT BY MAKING IT TO THE BIG TIME AND STAYING THERE, TODAY'S JOURNEYMAN JOCKS ARE DOING JUST FINE, THANKS. THESE EIGHT ATHLETES SIT RIGHT SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SALARY SCALE FOR THEIR RESPECTIVE SPORTS. FOR THEM ...

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Tom Verducci's View

PEACE COMES TOTHE TORONTO CLUBHOUSE

This is an article from the July 31, 2006 issue Original Layout

Just as theAngels booted slugging outfielder Jose Guillen off the team after his tiradeduring the 2004 pennant race, the Blue Jays improved themselves by getting ridof malcontent infielder-DH Shea Hillenbrand (left). Despite his .301 battingaverage, Hillenbrand was designated for assignment on July 19 and then tradedto the Giants last Saturday. When asked if the deal made his clubbetter--Toronto also sent relief pitcher Vinnie Chulk to San Francisco, gotreliever Jeremy Accardo and saved about $2 million--Blue Jays general managerJ.P. Ricciardi responded, "Yes, because [now] we don't have a guy whoquestioned every lineup made out by the manager."

Hillenbrand'scomplaints about playing time led to his ouster. Manager John Gibbons chose notto start the righthanded-swinging Hillenbrand against the Rangers' KevinMillwood on July 19, because Hillenbrand had fared poorly against the veteranrighthander (0 for 7 in his career) and because Hillenbrand had missed fourgames in finalizing the adoption of a child. Hillenbrand, who said he wasalready upset that team officials had not congratulated him on the adoption,responded to being left out of the lineup by writing on a clubhouse board,"Play for yourself. Play for your contract. This ship is sinking." Anenraged Gibbons, tired of Hillenbrand's repeated grousing, challenged him infront of other players, apparently willing to fight him. Hillenbrand, accordingto a source familiar with the confrontation, did nothing. Now Hillenbrand willplay for his fourth organization in the past 38 months and carry a checkeredreputation into free agency this winter. And the Jays are pleased to be donewith him.

TAKING SEVERALFOR THE TEAM

Cardinals starterJason Marquis (right) has absorbed poundings this year of 12 and 13 runs tospare the St. Louis bullpen from overwork. Give him credit for doing so withoutcomplaint in his walk year toward free agency. The last pitcher to give up 12or more runs twice in the same season was Chubby Dean of the 1940 PhiladelphiaA's.

THE RUNDOWN

•What happened tolefthanded hitting in the NL? At week's end there were only two .300 hitters inthe league who were signed and developed by NL teams: Phillies second basemanChase Utley (.317) and Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe (.300).

•Clubs betterthink twice about trading for Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu (left), who isdue $15 million next year and a $2 million buyout in 2008. In 584 at bats sincethe 2005 All-Star break Abreu had hit only 14 home runs--just five of whichwere outside of cozy Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

•The ERA of WhiteSox starters is nearly one run higher this year (4.61) than last (3.75),leading to speculation that their heavy workload in 2005 is catching up tothem. They led the majors in innings pitched and then had the longpostseason.

ExtraMustard
by Baseball Prospectus

DOES LOSING SHEAHILLENBRAND HURT THE BLUE JAYS' LINEUP?
Toronto won't miss Hillenbrand in the clubhouse, and the team can do withoutthe 31-year-old infielder-DH's bat as well. Hillenbrand was not making much ofan impact at the plate: He had 14 walks, a .342 on-base percentage (52nd in theleague) and a .480 slugging percentage (30th). Hillenbrand's Equivalent Average(EqA)--a Baseball Prospectus calculation that measures a player's totaloffensive value per out--was only .275, seventh among DHs in the AL. (IndiansDH Travis Hafner leads the league with a .351 EqA.) Hillenbrand's departureallows the Blue Jays to expand the role of rejuvenated outfielder Eric Hinske,who despite a .274 batting average had better OBP (.360), slugging (.535) andEqA (.291) marks than Hillenbrand. Giants fans hoping that Hillenbrand, who'splaying first base in San Francisco, will help get them to the playoffs shouldbe warned: His current EqA of .271 ranked 16th among first basemen in the NL,and he's just average in the field.

• More from TomVerducci and Baseball Prospectus at SI.com/baseball.

PHOTOBRAD MANGIN/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGESPHOTOGENE J. PUSKAR/APPHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH