Saturday, June 25, 2011


There is an amusing benediction of sorts, for which any real baseball fan can appreciate the irony: "May you live in interesting times."

So it was that in late June, the St. Francis Friars confirmed that Jack McKeon, who had been serving as defacto GM for the organization, was named not only acting GM, but (in an interesting arrangement) the club's "co-field manager". As part of his increased responsibilities, McKeon will receive no additional salary but, as he assured reporters, "I will be getting an allowance for any additional Havanas I have to light up."

McKeon wasted no time in shaking things up, engaging in the rare 'Challenge Trade' with a team in his own division. Frustrated with the slow learning curve of Pedro Alvarez, "Trader" Jack dealt the second player selected in the 2008 amateur draft to division rival Philadelphia, along with minor-league OF Blake Smith.

In return, the Rebels somewhat curiously parted with a starting pitcher, RHP Ricky Nolasco (2-5, 5.60 in nine starts with the Rebels). Alvarez, attempting to earn playing time with the Friars, had found his route blocked by a pair of versatile (and productive) new starters, 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis and 3B/OF Jose Bautista.

With Youkilis hitting .335 with a league-leading 60 runs scored, and Bautista lead all of BARB with 19 HR, Alvarez found himself riding the bench. The rookie had gone 3-for-12 in brief duty before being sidelined by a minor injury.

"We don't think the kid's ready," said McKeon bluntly. "He's still a work in progress, swings at too many pitcher's pitches when he doesn't have to, still airmails throws on routine plays. He's got a guaranteed major-league contract ready to kick in, though, and it would be hard on the kid to have him up here and basically warm the pine. So, we think this is the best thing for him. He'll go to an organization where the player in front of him---A-Rod----is getting long in the tooth and will likely spend a lot of time in the future as a DH. We think a lot of him, and he's obviously the most talented player in this deal. But you can't make an egg without breaking a few omelettes."

"The big question is," McKeon continued, "is whether getting Nolasco, who has struggled, is going to help us. The sense I get is that Philadelphia thinks he won't help us all that much, because he's underachieved with them, and they would like to clear a roster spot for some talent that they see over the horizon. It's an unusual situation, dealing with a division rival. I asked GM Melkonian whether or not he understood that I was trying to steal his lunch money---which I am----and whether or not it made sense to basically sit down in the cafeteria and have lunch with me. Well, he has a different perspective, in which his organization has the pitching depth to make this deal. So, you know, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. We think having Nolasco helps us, even if he doesn't put up especially good numbers, because he is a young, affordable starting pitcher who can pile up K's in short stretches. If it doesn't work out with him in the rotation, perhaps he can fill a long relief role and we can give Correia more work. The bottom line is that we've had a lot of injuries to our pitching staff, and getting any arm at this point gives us a little breathing room. We'll know more about this trade by August."

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