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SKIP'S SCOOPS: Trade buzz, HOFers

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The heightened trade activity of the last couple weeks has really demonstrated to me that the wild card is indeed a great thing for baseball. Clubs normally selling off players are acquiring them. You have Florida, of all teams, making a trade for . You had teams like the and talking about acquiring him, and now the get him? You also have teams like Kansas City talking about trade targets. This is unprecedented from the last few years.

Former major league manager Kevin Kennedy now adds another credit to his resume as a featured baseball columnist on FOXSports.com. Kennedy also serves as the studio analyst for , the baseball panelist on Fox Sports Net's "" and a weekend host on . Prior to his broadcasting career, Kennedy managed four seasons for the Texas Rangers (1993-94) and the Boston Red Sox (1995-96), compiling a 309-273 overall record.
Major league baseball is moving forward, and it's thanks in large part to the wild card. I was never too skeptical of the wild card because with 30 teams, you need a different playoff system to keep the fans intrigued, but if there was ever any doubt, last season convinced me when we had two wild-card teams in the World Series. And they were the best two teams out there. It's no longer about how you start, but how you finish.

Look at the standings now... we're less than a week from the dog days of August and you still have 19 teams with legitimate shots at the postseason. In the NL East alone, you have four teams all with credible playoff aspirations. Two-thirds of the teams in MLB believe they have a chance at October, and that's what I call progress.

Trade bait

Some trades you could see in the coming week:

to Boston. There's still interest there. After a hot start, Soup hasn't cooled down too much. He has a 9-2 record and he's won his last four decisions. He's an innings eater who will give you at least 200 innings pitched (he already has 132). He's comfortable in Fenway because he played there to start his career when I actually called him up in '95 as a former No. 1 pick out of Crespi H.S. in Los Angeles.

to the New York . It made a lot of sense before he went on the DL with a calf pull, but it probably won't happen now. Juan said he probably won't accept a trade to the , and they have returning. But if he were to end up in the Bronx for a couple years, he could break 500 HRs there. More likely, Juan might accept a trade to a lower-market club where the spotlight isn't as harsh, something with the lifestyle of Oakland or Kansas City.

to Oakland. The A's desperately need a bat because right now they're 13th in the AL in average, above only the . In fact, even the are hitting 16 points higher than Oakland right now. was doing well but now he's hitting below .300, and is out for six weeks. Giles is a guy who gives you 35 home runs and 100 RBI, can play center, left or right field and has a fun-loving personality that would fit in well with the A's clubhouse. But the will probably want a guy like in return, and that might be a no-go for Billy Beane.

Meet the traders

at , 1 p.m. ET: Strongest rivalry in baseball. When I coached the , it didn't matter if the game vs. the was in April, it felt like the World Series. And if the are ahead big in the 7th or 8th, you start to hear the Yankee fans come out of the woodwork at Fenway, chanting in a sing-song "19-18." But the are potent especially the 3-4 tandem of Nomar and Manny.

at , 1 p.m. ET: An important game for both teams, but especially the , who addressed both of their gaping holes by getting Lofton and Ramirez. Now the question is at 1B, where Karros should be the full-time guy while Choi needs to go play more in the minors.

at , 4 p.m. ET: Scioscia's club has to go on a 14-3 or 15-2 run if they want to get back in the race. Last year they were first in hitting, this year they're 8th. Eckstein was such a catalyst, but now his average and on-base percentage are down.

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A quick rundown of the top five general managers most likely to burn up the phone lines down to the deadline:

Billy Beane. See above. If Oakland can afford Giles, who's locked in a deal through 2006, this could be the blockbuster move of the summer.

Brian Sabean. The have a good lead in the NL West, but do they have enough starting pitching to go far into the playoffs? Foppert pitched well the other night, has done a great job, Schmidt is the veteran All-Star but Rueter's down and there are some holes in the bullpen.

Walt Jocketty. He usually pulls off something nice around this time of year. Last year there were issues at 3B and he got in the fold, a few years ago it was Mark McGwire, this season it's the need to address the starting rotation.

Brian Cashman. I like the move because it gives them a situational lefty, which they've missed since left. They're the , so they'll have to make another move, but I'm not sure exactly what more they really need now.

Theo Epstein. Boston will probably have to counter the Orosco move, and any other Yankee move. They got Kim earlier in the season, and now , but they're far from done.

Shady trade?

With reliever going on the 15-day DL Friday with an injured elbow, there could be some major issues regarding this week's trade with the . When you make a trade, you have a pretty good idea whether or not a player is healthy, and Boston claims Lyon was healthy when he pitched on Sunday, two days before the deal.

But you never trade a guy who is damaged. You just don't do that. It's unethical and it's not going to fly. If the file a complaint, it would go back to the commissioner's office as it did in the Mike Sirotka-for-David Wells deal a couple years back. More likely, however, it's frayed ligaments rather than torn ligaments, and the will just request another player to complete the deal. It will really hinge on the nature of the injury.

Hall of Fame salute

With Hall of Fame inductions this Sunday, a couple brief stories on this year's enshrinees:

Eddie Murray
I signed with the in 1976 and was sent immediately to Bluefield, West Va. Ray told me I could go from rookie ball to Double-A in one month. Well, in three weeks, I was called up to Charlotte... because they had just sent up to Triple-A a guy named Eddie Murray. I took his roster spot when he was promoted. I knew of Eddie because he had been signed a few year earlier by a California-based scout named Ray Poitevint, who later signed me. 

While I was catching down in Charlotte, Eddie was up in Asheville, where one day he was just playing around in batting practice and Jimmie Schaffer, the manager there, told him to take some swings lefthanded. Jimmie would always say if you're in a slump, try hitting lefty because it helps you relax and takes your mind off of it. Well, Eddie developed a lefty swing and hit a bunch of home runs in the second half. The following season he hit eight or nine home runs in spring training alone and made the major league club. The rest is history. Eddie Murray goes into the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest switch hitters and a guy who has 500 home runs despite never hitting 40 in a season. That's why they called him "Steady Eddie."

Gary Carter
My Gary Carter experience happened in the final year of his career when I was the bench coach for Felipe Alou at Montreal in 1992. Gary had come back to Montreal to finish his career there. It was the end of a pretty good season for the , but Pittsburgh had already clinched first, and so Felipe said he'd get Gary in the final game. He had a rough couple at-bats, and then he stepped up to the plate again in the 8th to face pitcher Mike Morgan, who Gary had developed a pretty good friendship with when they both played for the for a short time. The had a one-run lead with two on and two out. Gary said "God, if you're going to do something let it happen now." Sure enough, Gary hit a double into the rightfield gap to score two runs and win the game. And I'll never forget after the game, when Gary and his wife walked around the entire field waving to the fans - and this is when there were still 35 or 40,000 fans at Expo games - and thanking them.

Gary was on my FOX Sports Radio show last Sunday and said they only give you 20 minutes for your speech but he could go on and on. And he said something that meant a lot to me: "Kevin, I learned a lot from you during that year in Montreal." Considering it was his final year in the league, that really touched me. And I learned a lot from him. No catcher ever caught pop ups better than Gary Carter. When I was coaching we'd run drills where the guys would have to catch 100 popups a day, from the face down position with their gloves off. It's a very tough thing to do, but Carter was the best at it I've ever seen.

Who deserves to be in the Hall but isn't there? Jim Rice, who I hired as a coach when I was in Boston. He hit . 298 and close to 400 HRs. Andre Dawson is another one that's close.

Kevin Kennedy serves as MLB on FOX's studio analyst as well as the baseball expert on Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show Period." His FOXSports.com column will appear weekly.

Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, Athletics, Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Pirates, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Marlins, Scott Rolen, Brandon Lyon, Nick Johnson, Jerome Williams, Rich Harden

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