When New Guys Appear, Old Friends Gotta' Go

One of the interesting things in sport is to watch the daily "transactions" column. There are always athletes coming and athletes going. Sometimes, the real stories are in the "going" category. If often means the beginning of the end or the end itself for a professional athletes career hopes and dreams. And also the money from playing a kids game.

So Nomar Garciaparra is in. That probably means the end of Hee Sop Choi's big league Dodgers career, at least for now if not forever. The Dodgers will carry six bench players, seven at the most.

The group starts with backup catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., includes Olmedo Saenz, the very good pinch-hitter. Mexican infielder Oscar Robles probably has a sure spot, especially with Cesar Izturis out for a least half the year.

Outfield spares begin with Ricky Ledee, already signed to a multi year contract, and Jose Cruz Jr. if the Dodgers as expected sign a free agent outfielder or two. That's five.

Around in consideration for the last spot or two are Jason Phillips (likely gone before the week is out), Choi, Jason Werth, Jason Repko, Mike Edwards and last year's September surprise, Willy Aybar. Six guys -- one, maybe two slots.

Already gone from the DePodesta Dodgers are catcher Mike Rose (Tampa Bay), Jason Grabowski (Japan), Buddy Carlysle and Ryan Rupe (Florida), Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez (Oakland), Elmer Dessens (KC), Kelly Wunsch (free agent).

With the exception of Bradley and maybe Perez, the big paydays look gone as do any shot of being an everyday regular.

For the "going" guys, hanging on to a big league roster is the target, staying in the big time, getting another year in the pension system, riding planes instead of busses, big league meal money instead of minor league fast food emporiums, big leaguers shares of side money from any number of things.

Oscar Robles sure knows enough about how Mexican players eat and travel. Enough said.

Every day, some guy who was a star in his home town, his high school, his college gets dropped from a NFL practice squad, from an NBA developmental league roster.

For the baseball career minor league free agent who didn't get picked up in the Rule 5 Draft or signed on by another team, it spells the end of the line. If fat ladies ain't singing, there sure is a lot of humming in the wings. It is not a good feeling.

For pay and perks, nothing compares with the big leagues. We once asked Ike Ikuhara, Peter O'Malley's longtime amanuensis, the difference between the minors and majors and Ike simply said "the big leagues are the ONLY thing."

Big leaguers have people who do just about everything for them. Sign their autographs, pay their bills, pick up and tote their luggage.

A normal person couldn't begin to imagine the things big leaguers DON'T have to do -- like us regular bums have to do every day, every week, on the first and fifteenth of the month.

The big league MINIMUM is something most Americans have and never will make -- make that 99 per cent of all baseball fans, the guys who buy the tickets.

We are sure glad to have Nomar Garciaparra and Rafy Furcal and Bill Mueller.

But for the aforementioned fringe players suddenly on the spot this week, the arrival of Nomar and Rafy and Mr. Mueller carry ominous sounds of not so great news, news that for some will arrive this Christmas week.

And so is the wonderful world of sport.