— Q. Which teams helped themselves the most at the trade deadline?
— Stephen Shoemaker, Tulsa, Okla.
A. Several teams addressed needs in big ways — but for a change, the Yankees and Red Sox weren't among them.
In particular, I like what the Rangers, Phillies, Braves, Giants and Blue Jays accomplished. And I'm still taken aback by the Indians-Rockies deal, a risky proposition that could go either way for both teams.
The Rangers got exactly what they needed in Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, two top-shelf right-handed setup men with ridiculous 2011 numbers, both of whom can close out games if needed. Combined, they joined the Rangers with a 1.42 ERA, 111 strikeouts and 17 walks in 95 innings. How's that for providing Ron Washington with quality late-inning options?
In addition, the Rangers can choose to keep both in 2012, as Uehara has a $4-million vesting option, and Adams figures to earn about that much in arbitration. And the cost wasn't too prohibitive — two starting pitcher prospects they could afford to part with in Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin, plus Chris Davis, who's blocked position-wise, and Tommy Hunter, who will get a chance to reestablish himself in the O's rotation.
The Phillies got much more than just a right-handed bat in Hunter Pence. They've added another All Star to their collection, one who brings an all-round game besides being the perfect fit in the No. 5 spot after Ryan Howard. Pence didn't come cheaply, but let's face it, the Phillies have reached the point — at least for the next couple of seasons — where like the Yankees and Red Sox, anything less than a World Series title is a disappointment.
The Braves addressed a handful of needs by adding Michael Bourn — offense, in particular from a leadoff hitter, speed, and a center fielder. And they got him without giving up any of their top three pitching prospects. Still, you still have to wonder if they will produce enough offense facing the caliber of pitching they'll see in the playoffs.
The Giants won the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes, and the fact that he is the most-dangerous hitter in their lineup points to their need for middle-of-the-order production. But don't forget the much-needed middle-infield help in Orlando Cabrera and Jeff Keppinger.
The Giants can take on that kind of additional payroll for a half-season due to their financial success story going on at AT&T Park, and the real cost in terms of prospects likely only will be Zack Wheeler, who went to the Mets for Beltran.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is developing a reputation as a savvy dealer, and taking a chance on Colby Rasmus — very talented and still only 24 — could add to that. Yes, they had to take on Mark Teahen's money, and Zack Stewart was sacrificed, but you have to like the lineup parts for the near-future: Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Rasmus, Yunel Escobar, Travis Snider, J.P. Arencibia, Aaron Hill, Brett Lawler.
A. Technically, there is one: Former Braves owner Ted Turner, who fired Dave Bristol after a 16th consecutive loss in 1977, and then managed the team for one game (also a loss).
National League president Chub Feeney put a stop to Turner's stunt by instituting a rule prohibiting managers from having a financial interest in their teams. (Obviously, this was pre-Connie Mack, who owned and managed the Philadelphia A's for 50 years.)
But other than that, none that I could find. And if you go back in time, managers without major-league playing experience have been something of a rare occurrence — about a 1-in-8 ratio overall, with just more than 100 out of 800-plus managers.
That trend is changing lately, however, as there are eight active managers with no big-league playing experience: Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon, Jack McKeon, Jim Leyland, Manny Acta, Fredi Gonzalez, Terry Collins and Mike Quade.
Joe McCarthy and Earl Weaver are Hall of Fame managers who never played in the big leagues.
Q. Suicide squeezes and safety squeezes are almost identical plays, differing only in the point at which the runner leaves third base. My question is given the choice of the two, what factors are addressed?
— David Ross, Palo Alto, Calif.
A. There are a handful, actually: The bunting skill of the batter, the speed of the runner on third base, how tough the pitcher is to bunt on, and the game situation: score, outs, inning, etc.
It's up to the manager to gauge the risk involved given all of those factors, and decide which squeeze he wants to try. The better the chances — i.e. very good bunter, fast runner on third, a pitcher who is easier to bunt against — the more likelihood of a manager trying a suicide squeeze.
But the element of surprise plays a part in a manager's decision-making process, as well. That said, you rarely see pitchers attempting suicide squeezes.