By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 5, 2001
It worked once.
Looking to duplicate the results when Houston dealt for Randy Johnson at the trade deadline in 1998 and made the playoffs, Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker chose to take a far more risky chance by acquiring Pedro Astacio from the Rockies on Tuesday.
"This exercise is nothing more than a high-stakes poker game," Hunsicker said of the trade deadline scramble. "There are bluffs and at times you ask to see other players' hands. There's a time you have to fold.
"One of the most important aspects is to really focus on trying to be objective and not succumbing to pressure to make a deal and overvalue a particular player."
But that may be exactly what the Astros, second in the NL Central, did in rescuing Astacio from the Rockies and Coors Field.
Houston sacrificed a 17-game winner in Scott Elarton for Astacio, who has six wins this season, is 1-8 in his past 11 starts and is scheduled to make $9-million next season. It also got pitcher Mike Williams from the Pirates.
"We're looking at him as a two-month rental," Hunsicker said of Astacio, whose contract can be bought out for $1-million after the season.
If you're looking for trade deadline winners, check out the Giants, Athletics, Cubs and possibly even the Rays, who dumped salary and gained a promising left-hander in Nick Bierbrodt.
Andres Galarraga, Jason Schmidt, John Vander Wal, Jason Christianson and Wayne Gomes went to San Francisco and Jermaine Dye to Oakland, confirming both teams are serious about making wild-card runs.
"To a man, this is what we live for," Giants general manger Brian Sabean said. "We want to go for it."
PRESENCE: Never underestimate the power of a veteran.
Just ask the Giants and Cubs.
The Giants' July 26 trade for the 40-year-old Galarraga brought life to the locker room and a laboring offense. Though El Gato was batting .241 with one homer and nine RBI, the Giants were 8-0 through Friday since his arrival.
"I think Andres gives us a big lift with his presence in the lineup, even if he doesn't get a hit," pitcher Shawn Estes said. "We needed a little spark and he gave it to us."
The same is happening in Chicago, where Fred McGriff bolsters the lineup and steadies the clubhouse. The 37-year-old was batting .417 with a homer and two RBI through Friday. "Knowing we have a big stick beside Sammy (Sosa), the whole attitude here has changed," Cubs infielder Eric Young said. "It's like a point guard in basketball who makes everybody around him better. McGriff has made us all feel better about ourselves."
BEANBALL ETIQUETTE: Davey Lopes learned the hard way -- a two-game suspension levied Tuesday -- that it's not a good idea to threaten to "drill" an opposing player and talk about it publicly.
"I knew something was going to happen," the Brewers manager said.
Lopes couldn't help himself after Rickey Henderson broke for second base with the Padres ahead by seven runs Sunday. Lopes went to the pitcher's mound and lambasted Henderson.
"I just told him to stay in the game because he was going to be on his (butt)," Lopes said. "We were going to drill him, flat out. I told him that. But he chose not to stay in the game. I knew he wouldn't."
Henderson, who was removed after the inning, disagreed with the suspension.
"I don't think (it's) fair," he said.
GOOD EYE: Tony Gwynn's attention to detail at the plate hasn't waned, though injuries have relegated the Padres outfielder to a pinch-hitting role since he came off the disabled list July 3.
As he stood near the on-deck circle during Wednesday's game against Chicago, Gwynn paid close attention to pitcher Felix Heredia's windup.
"(He) was warming up on the first-base side of rubber, which meant he'd have trouble hitting the outside of the plate with his breaking ball," Gwynn said.
The eight-time batting champion promptly slapped a run-scoring double to give San Diego the win.
BY THE NUMBERS: Sixteen of the Indians' next 23 games are against the Mariners, Twins and Red Sox. The Twins have 17 games remaining against league's worst teams: Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Texas. ... Gisel Mora, wife of Orioles centerfielder Melvin Mora, gave birth to quintuplets -- Genesis, Christian, Rebekah, Matthew David and Jada Priscilla -- on July 28. The babies were 21/2 months premature but were healthy. ... Sosa and McGriff are the fifth duo to play together after hitting 400 home runs.
THE LAST WORD: "A lot of people say it's the ultimate honor and I'm not saying it isn't," said Pirates legend Bill Mazeroski, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. "But it's hard to tell because I've already had so many other great things happen."
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.