When the Yankees finally announce all the moves they have made this winter, their roster will include 17 former All-Stars. There should be a sign outside the clubhouse: No Admittance Without Proof of All-Star Status.
"There's no question the quality of their club is unreal," the Philadelphia Phillies' general manager, Ed Wade, said.
Gary Sheffield will play right field, with Kenny Lofton in center. Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez will join the rotation, with Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill steadying the bullpen. All but Vazquez are former All-Stars, and Vazquez seems to create the most excitement among baseball people.
"I think he's one of the most underrated players in baseball," the San Diego Padres' general manager, Kevin Towers, said of Vazquez. "Of all the free-agent pitchers in baseball and all the guys available in trades, to me, he would be the most desirable guy. If I could have had my choice of any pitcher out there, Vazquez would have been it."
Towers saw Brown lead the Padres to the 1998 World Series, and he said that if he could have any pitcher for a big game, he would choose Brown. Jim Tracy, who managed Brown with the Dodgers the last three years, dismissed the idea that Brown's moodiness would be a problem.
"They'll like him every fifth day, I'll guarantee you that," Tracy said. "When you talk about a healthy Kevin Brown, what is there not to like? The object is to win games, and he provides you that opportunity."
Vazquez, 27, is four years younger than Pettitte.
Brown, acquired from the Dodgers for a package that included starter Jeff Weaver, will be 39 in March and is two years younger than Clemens.
Vazquez and Brown join the returning starters Mike Mussina, Josť Contreras, Jon Lieber and David Wells to form a six-deep rotation.
"I think it has a chance to be a terrific rotation, but it's hard to compare year to year," said Brian Cashman. "I think it has a chance to be one of the best rotations in the league, and that's what we aspire to every year. It's a rotation that should be in the top five in the league."
Vazquez has never pitched in the postseason, Brown has not done so since 1998, and Clemens and Pettitte had strong October track records. But Brown and Vazquez combined to pitch more innings last season than Clemens and Pettitte, and their combined ERA, 2.83, was much better than the combined 3.96 ERA of Clemens and Pettitte.
"I won't say they're better, because Clemens is going to the Hall of Fame," one National League manager said. "But they didn't give an inch with the guys they got."
Lofton is coming off a solid season, batting .296 with a .352 on-base percentage and 30 steals for the Pirates and the Cubs. He is more than a singles hitter, with 52 extra-base hits and the same slugging percentage, .450, as Derek Jeter.
"He's still got a young body, and he can run," said Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. "He was a real catalyst for us and he still looked like the prototypical leadoff guy. He knew when to take a walk, he would lead off innings with base hits and he knocked in runs when he had the chance."
END OF STORY
For the benifit of full disclosure, I left out the obligatory nonsense about volitile players, team chemistry, how it will all mesh, blah blah blah
We've heard it all before ... nothing new in that regard ... same ole, same ole
Miguel Cairo and John Flaherty will be big negatives. They never kick in for the coffee club nor bring bagels , sometime take up 2 spots in the players' parking lot, and are known to hog the shrimp cocktail at the postgame spread.