D'backs signal new era by dumping L. Gonzalez

Nl Notebook

September 17, 2006|By Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

When building a baseball franchise, it's best not to be sentimental.

That's what new Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes and general partner Jeff Moorad made clear last week.

Left fielder Luis Gonzalez, the face of the Diamondbacks for the past eight seasons and hero of the 2001 World Series, became Arizona's first significant casualty of that philosophy.

Gonzalez, 39, was told Thursday that his $10 million 2007 option would not be picked up. That's not a surprise. The surprise was the timing of the announcement and the Diamondbacks' unyielding position that they would not negotiate a lesser deal in the offseason with their team leader, something he was hoping for.

"This wasn't a financial decision," said Moorad, who was Gonzalez's agent before entering management. "This was a decision about the long-term success of our ballclub and the fact that Josh and his staff have a plan to mold this club into a perennial contender."

The blueprint is to move former Oriole Eric Byrnes to left field in 2007 and go with promising rookies Chris Young in center and Carlos Quentin in right.

Gonzalez becomes a lame duck for two weeks before hitting the open market. And there will be interest in him. He'll never again be the guy who hit 57 homers in 2001, but this season he became the oldest player to reach 50 doubles. He keeps himself in great shape, has a career on-base percentage of nearly .370 and is widely considered one of the most community-minded good guys in the game.

So, would he be a potential fit in left field at Camden Yards in 2007? One Orioles official, who requested anonymity because of tampering issues, said: "We'd probably consider it ... but there are options we like better right now."

More old men

There are 19 players age 40 or older in the majors - and there would have been more had reliever Chris Hammond and designated hitter Ruben Sierra not been released during the season. Fourteen of the 19 are in the aptly nicknamed Senior Circuit. And five were traded to contenders this summer: Sandy Alomar, Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, Jeff Conine and David Wells.

This info, by the way, was provided by another baseball old guy, Orioles public relations director Bill Stetka.

Props for Girardi

As the Florida Marlins continued to hang around in the wild-card race, there wasn't much vocal management support for rookie manager Joe Girardi. That changed Tuesday, when general manager Larry Beinfest publicly credited Girardi with keeping the young team focused.

"They have been prepared every day. They play hard every day and the expectation is to win every day," Beinfest said. "Joe and his staff instilled that from Day One."

But there's still question as to whether Girardi, a Manager of the Year candidate, will be back in 2007 after he had a shouting match with owner Jeffrey Loria in August.

Quick hits

The San Diego Padres have never won a staff ERA title but are leading the league in that category. ... Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Ryan Howard is having the best season of any player he has been around, and that includes the Cleveland Indians' Albert Belle in his 50-homer, 52-double season in 1995.

Compiled from interviews and other newspapers' reports.

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