This Week in the National League

Dealing with Trade Possibilities and Bad Luck

As the trade deadline looms, hamsters are busy in the heads of countless players. Coaches, general managers, and even owners have the little critters working hard trying to figure out who's going where and what might be the best move. Do I make a deal? Do I hold off? Is this move worth it? If I trade him, am I going to regret it? What if we really start to make a run and just miss the mark because we cashed out too soon?

These guys are wheeling and dealing with millions of dollars, public relations nightmares, make ya or break ya moves, the livelihood of franchises, and, essentially, people's lives. So what do trade rumors do to the psyche of the players or the fantasy owner? Or worse, what does a stretch of bad luck do to a person when it hits while the hamster is in full stride?

I'm no psychologist. I really have no clue. But, like Fox Mulder used to say, "The answers are out there."

So where are they? Well, they're right in front of us and in the results on the field.

Players react differently to trade rumors and bad luck, be it when they are directly involved or watching the impact on a friend or teammate.

So let's see what answers have been right in front us this week...

Well, Preston Wilson landed in Washington last week as the Nationals attempted to add some muster to their not so mighty lineup. Aside from a dinger in his debut at-bat, it hasn't helped. And though the bleeding really began the week leading up to the All-Star break, they haven't been able to find a way to stop it. They've gone 2-4 and are starting to land on the losing end of the close games. Though their bullpen is tough, they still need more firepower and they don't have the pockets to bring it home. With a tough four-game series against Houston starting Thursday and tough divisional games on the road in Atlanta and Florida after that, it looks like the Nationals could be on the verge of heading south in the standings.

Speaking of Florida, there's not a team in baseball that's got the hamsters spinning as much as the Marlins. With talks of cleaning house like they just won the World Series, rumors are everywhere. And if a GM or a team lands the right Marlin in the right situation, it could be the difference between playing in October and watching games on TV. Just think what a guy like Juan Pierre could do in the Cubs leadoff spot ahead of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Just think what any move could do to boost Mike Lowell's spirits. And as for A.J. Burnett, who appears to be on the auction block with Lowell attached, well, he showed everyone he's ready to pitch, whether for the Marlins or anyone else. Tuesday night, amid hamsters spinning all around him, Burnett tossed six solid innings, giving up three runs and earning his sixth win.

Bad luck can bring out some interesting results in teams and players just as much as trade rumors can. And in baseball, bad luck might come in the form of a bad call, a bad hop, or a fan reaching for a foul ball, but typically it comes in the form of injuries.

The NL-leading St. Louis Cardinals got their first two bad luck breaks of the season as they lost Yadier Molina and Reggie Sanders to the disabled list. What do obstacles like that do to a Tony La Russa team? Well, it appears absolutely nothing. They just keep on winning. Albert Pujols keeps on hitting. Chris Carpenter keeps on dominating like no other pitcher in baseball. And the Cards keep burying their NL Central opponents. Though the Cubs have been trying to bounce back to get into the race, the Cards are keeping them double digits off the pace and could have an opportunity to make a statement this weekend at Busch Stadium. Toss in hopeful trade rumors that could bring the likes of Adam Dunn or Billy Wagner to St. Louis, and you've got a Cubs front office that doesn't know whether to pack it in for a year or try to make a run for the Wild Card.

Talk about bad luck? If you thought Craig Wilson was going to have a monster year this season, you were sorely wrong. A long stint on the DL changed that. But just after coming back and renewing hope in fans and Pirate players, he got hit in the hand, breaking a bone, and is probably finished for the season. He'll be one to watch next year to see how he reacts to this string of luck, so make a note of it now.

Injuries aren't always bad, though. They sometimes have an up side to them. Injuries can sometimes open the door for young talent to emerge earlier than later and then stay at the top. Or like the case of Mark Prior in 2003, a stint on the DL can sometimes be just what a player needs to rest up for a stretch run. In the case of Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson, Phil Nevin, and Mark Loretta, returns to the starting roster might be just what the Braves and Padres need to quit playing around with the competition in their divisions.

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