Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beckett-Ramirez trade a win-win

Carlton Loewer had a 6.09 ERA as a starting pitcher in 1998, his first full season with the Philadelphia Phillies. He had then a 5.31 ERA as a starting pitcher in April, May and June of 1999. He did show some spark -- he threw a complete-game shutout against the Padres in early May -- but he missed most of the second half with an injury and pitched exclusively out of the bullpen once he worked his way back to the major leagues.

His relegation to the bullpen, though, didn't sting that much. What really stung was the Phillies trading him to San Diego barely a month after the season ended. It stung so much, in fact, that his dad called Phillies manager Terry Francona to ask, "What did he do?"

He hadn't done anything. The Phillies had a chance to get an ace-type pitcher in Andy Ashby, and the Padres clearly hadn't forgotten the way Loewer had flummoxed them back in May.

"I felt so bad because he was a really good pitcher, a good prospect," Francona said from the Fenway Park media room on Tuesday afternoon. "But another team wanted him, and he helped us get Andy Ashby, who we thought we could plug in as a No. 1 or 2."

Fast-forward almost a decade. The story of the hurt feelings of Loewer -- who made seven starts for the Padres before hanging up his spikes in 2003 -- almost mirrors the hurt feelings Hanley Ramirez described to reporters in advance of this week's series against the Red Sox.

The Red Sox had Edgar Renteria penciled in at shortstop in the immediate aftermath of the 2005 season. What they didn't have was an ace pitcher who could put them on his back and win them a World Series. They swapped Ramirez, the top prospect in the organization, for Josh Beckett. They won a World Series two years later.

"We're trying to get an ace, and they don't grow on trees," Francona said. "To get a guy like Josh Beckett and a Mikey Lowell, you've got to give up some good players. We did that knowing Hanley is a superstar. We recognized that."

Ramirez still uses the perceived slight to motivate himself. If he were to be honest with himself, though, he'd probably realize it was a pretty big compliment for the Marlins to trade their ace for him.

Andy Ashby is good, after all, but he's no Josh Beckett.

"It's hard to explain to young players, especially," Francona said. "It doesn't mean you don't like them."

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