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You can blame Cox for Atlanta's shortcomings
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Around the HornManufacturing runs remains a concern for the Phillies. Jimmy Rollins, the team's leadoff man, has a .268 on-base percentage since Aug. 13 and .289 mark for the season. Shane Victorino, the most frequent No. 2 hitter, has a .250 OPB since Aug. 25. The Phillies' offense stagnates when Rollins and Victorino fail to get on base. Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth rank second and fourth in the NL in strikeouts, respectively. Raul Ibanez also has struck out more than 100 times.
Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com
Padres' 2010 payroll: At least $40 millionOver the weekend, I mentioned in my "Full Count" video that some in baseball suspect that the Padres will trade first baseman Adrian Gonzalez or closer Heath Bell and reduce their 2010 payroll to the $25 million range. Not true, according to one source with knowledge of the team's plans. While ownership has yet to give the front office a final budget, it is planning a payroll of at least $40 million for next season, the source says. That's good news for the Padres, whose 2010 obligations, including arbitration-eligible players, currently project to be in the low $30 million range. General manager Kevin Towers says the team can be a surprise contender next season, the '10 version of the Giants. The Padres' rotation will not be nearly as strong as the Giants', but their bullpen could be as good and their offense and defense better. A payroll of at least $40 million would allow the team to sign at least one free-agent starting pitcher to complement Chris Young, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and possibly Kevin Correia. The Padres have won six straight series, five against teams that were or are in contention. They prevailed over the Rockies and Nationals at home, the Giants, Dodgers, Marlins and Braves on the road. Entering Monday's play, the team's 27-17 record since July 28 was the fifth best in the majors. "There's certainly light at the end of the tunnel," Towers says.
The Rays: One more chance?The Rays' 11-game losing streak, which ended with an 8-4 victory over the Orioles on Monday night, will not fundamentally change the way the team assesses its future. In the Rays' view, their players remain talented, their window of opportunity remains open at least through next season and their chances of trading left fielder Carl Crawford or center fielder B.J. Upton remain quite slim. Crawford is under team control for one more season; the Rays can take one more shot with him and then recoup two high draft picks when he departs as a free agent. Another low-revenue team, the A's, employed a similar strategy earlier in the decade with players such as Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon. Upton, under team control for three more seasons, represents a more difficult call. His upside remains tremendous, but his makeup is a concern. The Rays still think he cares enough to become a great player. Teams such as the Angels and Royals would love to find out. The Rays could replace Upton with Fernando Perez, who missed virtually all of this season after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, or Desmond Jennings, who had an .888 OPS while spending about three-fourths of his season at Class AA and the rest at AAA. Another option for the Rays would be to trade Perez or Jennings to fill another need.
Dodgers' Billingsley fading fastThe Dodgers considered but decided against skipping the next turn of right-hander Chad Billingsley, who is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his last four starts. Billingsley's delivery is an issue, and some team officials question his makeup, too. Young players do not always progress in linear fashion. Billingsley has gone backward, as has catcher Russell Martin offensively, while center fielder Matt Kemp and right fielder Andre Ethier have taken a step forward. Thus, Billingsley and Martin are starting to face the same questions that Upton faces with the Rays: Are they willing to work like Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez? Do they want it badly enough? If Billingsley makes a mechanical adjustment, the other concerns about him might diminish. When he lands on his heel, he spins his toe toward first base while finishing his delivery. He needs to square up more toward home plate to get better finish on his pitches, one team official says.
Hey Charlie, easy on PedroPedro Martinez's 130-pitch outing against the Mets on Sunday night raised at least two questions:
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