East Winds: Brave deals work

East Winds: Brave deals work

While wondering if the Birds will ever fly south for the summer, we savor those gentle East Winds and go with the flow ...

John Schuerholz has a perfect record as Atlanta general manager; the Braves started winning division championships a few months after he hit town, and haven't stopped. Kids born the night the Braves clinched the first link in the chain are just finishing seventh grade.

That doesn't mean Schuerholz is perfect. Consider his reach on Raul Mondesi, which has just been officially declared a goof. And jury deliberations continue in the matter of Dan Kolb; he's blown three saves and the guy he freed for the rotation, John Smoltz, has a losing (3-4) record, so we still have to see where this is headed.

But the man does all right. He's got an OPS (Outstanding Pulled Swap) even Barry Bonds can envy. Just ask his trading victims ... er, partners. Billy Beane of Oakland being the latest.

You've gotta get something to give up something so, to part with crack right-hander Tim Hudson, Beane twisted Schuerholz into parting with a trio of blue-chippers. Let's see the color of those chips now:

• Charles Thomas: The outfielder inflated his value by hitting a solid .288 as a rookie last season; in Oakland, he is 4-for-41 (.098), which puts him only on the shoulder of the Interstate.

• Juan Cruz: Went 6-2 with a sharp 2.75 ERA as a long man in the Atlanta bullpen, but has a 7.20 ERA in his first 20 innings with the A's.

• Dan Meyer: The lefty who, in Beane's eyes, was the key. He went 1-3 with a 6.62 ERA in seven Triple-A starts, then went on the disabled list.

Meanwhile, the Braves still circle the National League East lead with considerable contributions from some rookies Schuerholz managed to squirrel away, such as pitcher Kyle Davies and outfielder Kelly Johnson.

If Tag-Team Texas Hold 'Em becomes the next television rage, you'll want Schuerholz on your side.

National Escargot Day: Snail's pace? No. We're happy to report that on this occasion, last Wednesday, only two of 15 MLB games ran over 3 1/2 hours.

Jose Reyes: Playboy of the Eastern World. Always gets to third base. He went 159 at-bats without a triple, then ran to seven of them in his next 44 at-bats.

Orioles: Still marking their territory. Once the Nationals unveiled their mascot, a baby eagle dubbed "Screech," the Birds had to have their own Screech -- giving that nickname to bushy-haired rookie outfielder Jeff Fiorentino. The race is on for which team will be the first to have Dustin Diamond, the original Screech on "Saved by The Bell," throw out a first pitch.

Willis at bat: Boy, Jack McKeon must be really impressed with Dontrelle Willis, comparing him to both George Brett and Pete Rose. Oh, wait ... McKeon had Willis' spunk, not swing, in mind: "He just likes to play. In that regard he reminds me of George Brett and Pete Rose. He has their desire and love of playing."

Ricky, please lose that number: The Yankees have played 50 games this season without yet winning with fewer than four runs, which, the abascus tells us, ties a franchise record. Geez, the abascus should know better; this is about the dumbest stat we've ever heard of -- and we've seen more bad numbers than a Lotto player in a rut.

What's the point? Poor clutch hitting? Most of those 15 games with three-runs-or-less came in the Yanks' Clueless Phase; they lost them by an average of 8-2, so it isn't like there was any heartbreak involved. Loose pitching? The Yankees have won 10 games in which three runs would have sufficed -- but in which they totaled 68. Shame on them?

Brian Roberts: Joe DiMaggio can rest easy. For the time being. But don't put anything beyond this 5-foot-9 keg who is hitting in Ichiro territory with Sammy-like power. The Birds' second baseman takes a career-long 18-game hitting streak into Monday night's opener of a four-game series in Fenway Park -- but is within a few wide ones of having a 31-game streak.

Roberts' 12-game hitting streak was stopped on May 8, by the Royals, as they walked him twice. The next day, Roberts took off on his current 18-gamer.

Deviled Suzuki: Speaking of Ichiro ... don't blame the Devil Rays for him setting all these hitting records. The 3-for-14 series he just wrapped up in Tampa Bay was typical of his success against D-Rays pitchers ever since his original Mariners manager, Lou Piniella, switched sides.

Since the start of the 2003 season, Suzuki has hit .345 against everyone else -- and .232 against the D-Rays.

Brad Wilkerson: Missing Montreal? Hardly. But the Nationals' leading voice must find some irony in hitting 91 points lower at RFK Stadium than on the road, considering he'd hit consistently higher in Olympic Stadium as an Expo.

Aubrey Huff: "The bases were loaded, but my bat was corroded." Since the last month of the 2002 season, he's had more than 420 hits, but none of them with the sacks jammed. Hitless his last 17 at-bats with three men on.

"We have some nice parting gifts for you": Two-hit shutouts don't happen every day. Toronto got one last Sept. 1 from David Bush against the Yankees. That gem wasn't dialed up again until Roy Halladay mastered Minnesota on Sunday -- the same day Bush was sent by the Jays to Triple-A Syracuse.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.