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Trying to Make Shuey Fit
2003-03-07 08:43
by Jon Weisman

The thing with Dodger general manager Dan Evans is, most of the time, he seems like a bright, thoughtful guy.

And then thereÕs the rest of the time É

We all have our blind spots Š I know I have mine. Thursday, we got to see more of EvansÕ, when he continued to rationalize the trade of top pitching prospects Ricardo Rodriguez and Francisco Cruceta to Cleveland last year for reliever Paul Shuey.

Interviewed by Ken Gurnick yesterday, Evans at first said, "When I make a trade, I don't get the chance to reconsider. If I feel right about the deal at the time, I do it and don't look back."

ThatÕs a fair position to take. Even if a trade doesnÕt make sense now, it seemed right to him at the time and maybe thereÕs no sense crying over it, at least to the media.

But then Evans did look back Š and it wasnÕt good. Gurnick wrote that ŅEvans defends the trade on the basis of need, and indicates that Rodriguez would not have enjoyed the same opportunity in Los Angeles that he will in Cleveland.Ó

There was also this quote from Evans:

"Shuey will help us over the next two years," he said. "There's no telling what Rodriguez will do. We all know Shuey. He's proven. If all of our starters are healthy this year, Rodriguez would be pitching in the minor leagues anyway. With our ballclub, a lot of games are decided in the sixth and seventh innings. When you have an offense that has struggled scoring runs and you have one of the best closers in the game, you have to keep the other team quiet in those middle innings to get to the closer."

Here are the problems with that train of thought:

1) There isnÕt any more knowing what Shuey will do, following his inconsistent adjustment to the National League, than what Rodriguez will.

2) It's nice to say that if the Dodger pitchers were healthy, Rodriguez would have been in the minors. Of course, because of the health of the Dodger pitching, Rodriguez would have had every opportunity to contribute.

During the run for the wild card last September, journeyman Kevin Beirne started three games for the Dodgers. Reliever Giovanni Carrara started one. Omar Daal approached his fifth September start having lasted only 14 innings Š and allowing 17 runs Š in his previous four. Even minor leaguer Victor Alvarez started once in September, though it was on the last day of the season after the Dodgers were eliminated.

This year, the Dodgers are considering Wilson Alvarez as a potential swingman. Are we to believe that Rodriguez would have no opportunity to contribute, as a starter or as a reliever? And what about years to come, as Kevin Brown, Hideo Nomo and Andy Ashby get even older? You can add Cruceta into the what-might-have-been category as well.

It shouldnÕt be so hard for Evans to acknowledge that this trade might have been rash. This was just a big-time false rationalization.

Evans might still be redeemed if Eric Gagne, who had an MRI on his back yesterday, were to miss significant time and Shuey stepped up brilliantly. And even with a healthy Gagne, itÕs not like Shuey canÕt be a positive contributor.

But with his team in a long-term payroll and starting pitching crunch, itÕs doubtful anyone will ever be able to justify that trade. I look forward to the day we see a sign that Dan EvansÕ blind spot is getting treatment.

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