Thursday, August 12, 2010


Rubbing his nicotine-stained fingers together with glee, GM-in-all-but-name Jack McKeon gave a brief press conference outlining his thoughts on a second day with a major trade, as the St. Francis Friars have traded C Benji Molina, minor-league free agent Fausto Carmona and a player to be named to the Pottsylvania Creepers.

Just days after using utility man Ben Zobrist to land Carlos Lee and some prospects, McKeon explained the linkage between recent moves.

"We knew," McKeon drawled, "that our most attractive piece to most teams early in the season was Ben Zobrist. What we didn't know is that he would hit 16 HR for us in the first half, and really become something of legend in these parts. That made trading him unpleasant, but the logic is pretty simple. While the club is improved over the one that broke spring training back in 2009, it simply doesn't have the pitching depth to compete with some other clubs even if we were to somehow reach the post-season....extremely unlikely, in my judgement, once we lost Shin-Soo Choo."

"So....we would need to move Ben in order to build for the future," McKeon said, waving his hands, and pointing to an imaginary cloud formation with his still simmering stogie. "But, if we did that, we would be losing some run production and versatility in the middle of the fact, quite a bit. So we had to have a deal in place to bring in someone who could offer some pop and play a middle infield spot. This led us to move a good young pitcher (Jason Vargas) to Madtown and pick up a couple of possible prospects at the same time as we got 2B Kelly Johnson."

"We then sat on that mix for a few weeks to see if we could get things going in the Central. Once Casselton's pitching got hot, though, we could see the handwriting on the wall. We would not only have to come back against them, but also beat out the defending champs in Pottsylvania, because the way three clubs in the East are playing, one of them would get the wild card. It's division or bust....and so, we folded. Having Johnson allowed us to move Ben, and collect some futures along with Carlos Lee, and we're going to give 'El Caballo' 4-5 weeks to see how he fits into our lineup."

"Meanwhile," continued McKeon, "acquiring minor-league C Tony Sanchez really boosts our catching depth at a time when both Taylor Teagarden and J.P Arencibia are ready to assume backup roles on the parent roster. That made it possible to dangle a healthy--but not entirely happy----Benji Molina. Benji wants to play full-time, and when he had to share time, he becomes, well, peevish. So it made great sense for us to offer him to Pottsylvania as part of a package that would allow us to get a veteran with the leadership we craved, in Jason Varitek. Chad Tracy was rotting away on the Creepers bench, and he gives us back some of the versatility we lost with Zobrist, as he has a left-handed bat, and can play either the IF or OF corners in a pinch. Finally, we added some more hopefuls in the future with SS Grant Green and LHP Zach Britton."

"I'm done at the moment," McKeon said, but his eyes twinkled. "Never say never, but we'll see where we're at. If players produce, fine....if not....well, there are other avenues for teams that still have cap room, and we can explore them at that time."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


With fans bearing 'Zorilla' placards lining up outside the parking lot, an impromptu rally bashing the latest move from the St. Francis Friars threatened to destroy the monastic setting of the ball club's headquarters. A man with a megaphone, later identified as a local pastor, was leading a mob in the making, chanting:


Within the Friars complex, septuagenarian baseball legend Jack McKeon was as tranquil as the team Chairman, Brother Johann, was tense. Savoring a new cigar, McKeon remarked to his nominal boss, "Settle down, Padre. I've been through this one a zillion times. I've traded players a lot more popular than Zobrist, and the fans come back as long as they believe you're on the path."

Peering through the curtains, the nervous Brother Johann, "I hope you are right. We are giving you full authority to make the moves as you see fit, because we are not---ach! baseball men!" This last was accompanied by a wince, as something thrown from the parking lot landed in the rain gutters.

"Damn guttersnipes!" barked McKeon, leaning backward and throwing open the window. "Hey!" he yelled at the crowd. "SAY BYE TO ZO-BRIST! I HOPE YOU GET A CYST! AND I DATED YOUR SIS!" McKeon slammed the window shut with a chuckle as even more alarming sounds percolated from the parking lot.

"Please, Please, Mr. Jack!" said the exasperated Head Friar. "After all, a soft word turns away wrath, as it is said in Proverbs."

"Yeah?" barked McKeon. "What about Phillipians? 'Whatever thou doest, do with all thy might!' For a guy who heads a renegade order of monks, you seem to have little faith. Now, I know that Ben Zobrist is a good player, and he's very versatile. But, we've traded him to Oakland United, a club at the bottom of another division, so he's unlikely to do much damage against us any time soon. Yes, he had 16 dongs for us, and was hitting OK, and playing all over the field. But we just don't have enough pitching or overall depth to do much more than play .500, and when Shin Soo-Choo went down, we went down."

"But....," and here the monk hesitated before wailing, "$9 million? NINE MILLION? And, maybe $18 million next year?"

McKeon's eyes twinkled. "You mean the salary of Mr. Carlos Lee, our new left fielder...or maybe first baseman....or maybe designated hitter?"

The Head Friar shook his head vigorously.

"Look, Padre," McKeon said patiently, "In BARB, we are guaranteed sufficient revenues as long as we don't exceed our salary cap due to the league's highly-favorable local media markets. So we are in no danger of losing money. What we are in danger of is losing an opportunity to move up. When I helped set up these rosters in the spring, I left lots of cap room to either assume salary in trade, or else eat contracts. Unlike some of the other clubs, which have very little wiggle on their cap, I don't care much about Mr. Lee's contract."

"It would be nice," McKeon continued, "if Lee returns to form and belts 15 bombs or so out in the second half, but even if he did we are not going to pay 'El Caballo' $18 million. He needs to hit right away for us if he wants to even stay on our roster. He was just the inducement to pick up prospects that Oakland was willing to deal...."

The Head Friar brightened, even though sounds like firecrackers and the wail of police sirens could be heard leaking through the office walls. "Can you tell me about them?"

"Sure," McKeon says. "We picked up three first-round picks: RHP Matt Hobgood, OF Donavan Tate and C Tony Sanchez...and the best part is, they are all hurt!"

"WHAT?" Brother Johann was now in full-blown panic mode. "INJURED? WHY, MAN, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY?"

McKeon cackled. "These injuries are just the kind of things I look for. RHP Matt Hobgood's a teenager with too much baby fat, and wears braces, and he strained a muscle covering first base. Poor Widdle Matty! 'Oh, Lordy, what will the Orioles do?' People panic. You're talking about a kid who can't buy a beer legally, in his first season as a pro. He's not going to excel, in all likelihood, right out of the box, and right now he's a good fit for us as a long-term project. I see him as a #3 starter for sure. OF Donovan Tate tore some muscle in his groin area in an ATV accident over the winter. Like that's going to happen again? He's still the best overall athlete from last year's draft. I like our chances. And C Tony Sanchez, he's a comer. He's got some hairline fractures in his jaw, and may not play the rest of this year? Listen, I've been around this game, and I know you don't hit with your jaw or catch with your jaw. It's not going to have any long-term impact on a guy who would've been up in the big leagues with just a few months of pro experience this year, I can tell you that."

"So," concluded Brother Johann with a doubtful look, "An $18 million reclamation project that you may move to first, and three minor-leaguers who've had setbacks this year, for our team's most popular player, not to mention home-run leader?"

McKeon beamed. "Now you're getting it! They don't call me 'Trader Jack' for nothing! I've been looking for something to do with my time, and I've found it!"

The Head Friar sank into a velvet chair, and feverishly clicked his rosary while the smell of McKeon's cigar wafted through the office.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


'Trader' Jack McKeon, the 79-year-old Special Advisor to the St. Francis Friars ballclub, was essentially given full-time duties by Brother Johann and the rest of the Friars Board of Directors in a top-secret meeting late Friday, following the club's fifth loss in their last six games dropped them four games under .500 and increasingly out of contention in the Central Division.

McKeon's response? "Kill them all," said the cigar-chomping baseball lifer, "if they can't help us get better. There are no untouchables in my world, and with plenty of payroll to spare, there is no player in the league I'm not willing to touch to make the right deals happen!"

To show that McKeon means business, he personally fired manager Felipe Alou, who had been brought in with the original management team but had shown little willingness to work with the club's young players despite a solid reputation of building careers with the Expos. "I have a lot of respect for Felipe, but in this business, we're all hired to be fired," McKeon said by way of not providing an explanation. McKeon indicated that third-base coach Mark Loretta would serve as interim manager until another could be found.