- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

POINT/COUNTERPOINT

Each week, Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate an issue in major league baseball. This week’s question: Should players publicly plead for their teams to make deals?

BEN GOESSLING: We’ve seen this a fair amount this year, and we’re still almost a month from the trade deadline. Several Pirates players spoke out against the trades GM Neal Huntington made in the past month, and now Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is opining that their GM, Doug Melvin, needs to make a deal before the end of the month to keep Milwaukee in the NL Central race. As reporters, we love this stuff — it makes for good headlines. And it can be effective in putting a little public heat on a GM. But I’m not sure how much it actually accomplishes. I don’t think most GMs are looking at the state of their teams and sitting on their hands. Players aren’t privy to most of their discussions, which makes them just another voice in a sea of public opinion.

MARK ZUCKERMAN: I don’t think it does players much good to plead publicly for or against trades. The Pirates’ Jack Wilson had to apologize the following day — not exactly a position he wanted to be stuck in. If players want to talk privately with their GMs and offer their feelings on the state of the organization and what the club needs or doesn’t need, that’s fine. But taking their gripes to the media — while juicy — doesn’t help the overall cause. Besides, in the end these guys are just employees of the club. Unless you’ve got tenure or a no-trade clause, you can be shipped out anytime the GM feels like it.

BG: From a strategic perspective, I can see a guy like Braun doing it since he’s becoming the face of that franchise and signed an eight-year, $45 million deal last year. He’s not going anywhere, and what he says wields a little weight to the public. Closer to home, we’ve seen Ryan Zimmerman use the same collateral to drop a hint or two that the Nationals need to acquire more veterans. But I think you brought up an important point: The players are employees. It isn’t their job to acquire talent. And besides, many of them bristle at the notion of getting called out by a manager or GM in public. Fair is fair.

MZ: I’ve known of cases where a GM or manager approached a well-established player to get his opinion on a potential trade or acquisition. I think it’s important for front-office and coaching staffs to have that kind of relationship with a handful of established veterans because those guys have a better sense of clubhouse chemistry and a team’s real needs than anyone not in uniform. But those meetings are always done in private, not through the media. Public lobbying doesn’t accomplish much — and more often than not, it gets the player in trouble.

AWARD TRACKER

Looking at the front-runners for baseball’s season awards. This week: NL rookie of the year

Colby Rasmus, Cardinals

After the first month the Braves’ Tommy Hanson had in the big leagues, it’s tempting to give him the nod. But Rasmus has been putting up solid numbers all season (a .282 average with 10 homers and 32 RBI in 75 games) and has played all three outfield positions for the contending Cardinals, making just three errors. He has been highly touted in the Cardinals’ organization for a while and was a better second-half hitter in the minors. All that means Rasmus has to be the front-runner as the first half winds to a close.

Others to watch: Tommy Hanson, Braves; Randy Wells, Cubs; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

MLB POWER POLL

Rank, team Record Comment

1. RED SOX 49-32 They continue to use the most basic recipe for success: winning series.

2. DODGERS 52-30 Return of Ramirez off to a sluggish start (1-for-7 in three games).

3. YANKEES 48-33 Shaping up for another battle with Boston for AL East supremacy.

4. ANGELS 45-35 Hunter (.304, 17 HR, 63 RBI, .381 OBP) keeps getting better with age.

5. RAYS 44-39 Fighting to keep Yankees in their sights for AL wild-card berth.

6. CARDINALS45-39 Big series with Brewers, Cubs before they host the All-Star Game.

7. RANGERS 45-35 Won five straight to pull even with Angels; need to play better on the road.

8. GIANTS 44-37 Wild-card dark horse with Lincecum and Cain; trades coming?

9. TWINS 43-40 Recent surge, dome dominance have pulled them within two of Tigers.

10. MARLINS 43-40 Within one of Phillies in NL East; Johnson finally getting his due.

Records and stats through Sunday

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