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MFFL
06-23-2001, 12:20 AM
New York Times
June 23, 2001
Braves Ship Rocker to Indians
By RAFAEL HERMOSO


John Rocker, the Atlanta Braves' closer who gained notoriety two years ago for published remarks that were ethnically and racially offensive, sparking a firestorm of protest and condemnation, was traded to the Cleveland Indians, the team announced last night.

The Braves acquired the right- handed relievers Steve Karsay and Steve Reed and cash in exchange for Rocker and the minor-league infielder Troy Cameron, Atlanta's first- round draft pick in 1997.

The Braves spoke carefully about the trade after their 10-1 victory over the Mets last night at Shea Stadium. Manager Bobby Cox informed Rocker of the trade early in the game, allowing him to leave Shea without speaking to the news media. "John was as nice as could be," Cox said.

Chipper Jones, the Braves' third baseman, said: "I would say it puts some finality to some things. This team is a laid-back team that does things professionally and goes out and stays even-keeled. I think every one of us for the last two or three years has held our breath every day. That's kind of unnerving. But again, like I was telling you, he was a good guy and did his job to the best of his ability."

With the habit of sprinting in from the bullpen to pitch, Rocker, a left- hander, has long drawn attention to himself. With his fastball and hard slider, he saved 38 games for the Braves in 1999.

But he took on New York fans in the news media in September 1999 during a Mets-Braves series and again in October in the National League Championship Series between the two teams. He called Mets fans "a tired act."

After the season, in an article in Sports Illustrated, Rocker denigrated different groups, including homosexuals, AIDS patients, single mothers, African-Americans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Indians, Russians, Spanish speakers and riders of the No. 7 subway line, which runs to Shea Stadium in Queens from Manhattan. He also called a teammate a fat monkey.

The comments infuriated people around the country and earned Rocker a suspension from Commissioner Bud Selig for spring training and the first 28 days of the regular season in 2000 and a $20,000 fine. The players association filed a grievance and an arbitrator reduced Rocker's penalty to 14 days and a $500 fine.

By coincidence, yesterday's trade came while the Braves were in New York, and the Indians will start a series at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.

Cleveland leads the A.L. Central by a game and a half over the Minnesota Twins, but the Indians have an overworked bullpen. Bob Wickman, 32, a right-hander, has converted 15 of 16 saves for Cleveland, which has only one complete game from its starters in 70 games. The Indians used 13 relievers in the first two games of their series against the Twins this week.

Rocker, 26, is 2-2 with a 3.09 earned run average this season, with 19 saves. He has 36 strikeouts in 32 innings. His departure technically leaves the Braves without a closer. Kerry Ligtenberg saved a game, the only save recorded by a Brave other than Rocker this season. Ligtenberg, a right-hander, was the team's closer before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in 1999.

Although Braves General Manager John Schuerholz said Karsay would return to closing games as he did last season, Cox said he would close games by committee. Karsay saved 20 games for the Indians last season but lost the closer's job when the Indians acquired Wickman on July 28.

Rocker's success on the mound has not left him free of controversy. Two weeks ago at Yankee Stadium, he referred to reporters with a vulgarity. Four days later, Jones criticized him for escalating a benches- clearing brawl in Toronto. Last season, Braves outfielder Brian Jordan called him a cancer.

Despite Rocker's turbulent history, Schuerholz said the trade was made to add bullpen depth, not to exorcise Atlanta of Rocker.

"That hasn't been an issue at all this year," Schuerholz said.

When Rocker and the Braves traveled to Shea last summer, the Mets and New York City responded with more than 600 police officers, a taller fence closing off the visitors' bullpen and a canopy over its bench and mounds. Bomb-sniffing dogs from the New York Police Department's Bomb Squad patrolled both clubhouses before last night's game.

In his final appearance with the Braves, Rocker gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Derrek Lee in the ninth inning of the Florida Marlins' 3-2 victory Thursday.

"Now that Rocker's gone, I don't think there's much hype without him anymore," the Mets' Rick Reed said.

Flying Tiger
06-23-2001, 12:32 AM
I don't think it was smart for the Braves...but then again they hardley ever go wrong with a pitching decision.

Murphy3
06-23-2001, 09:10 AM
actually, when it comes to the bullpen, the braves rarely make a good decision.

the pen is what's kept them from winning a couple more world series championships in the past decade or so

LonestarROB
06-23-2001, 10:09 AM
Good trade for the Braves IMO. Rocker was a clubhouse cancer in Hotlanta and the 2 player(Steve Reed, and Steve Karsay) coming in are just as, if not better, then Rocker. Infact the numbers are very comparible. Good move for the struggling Braves. And hopefully Rocker doesn't tear apart the Indians locker room.

Flying Tiger
06-23-2001, 04:23 PM
What do you mean the Braves rarely make a good bullpen decision? They've had one of the best pitching staffs in the 90s.

LonestarROB
06-24-2001, 08:59 PM
Rocker fallout begins. Wickman haults contract extension talks. Says he'll leave Indians for another team next season.

Link (http://espn.go.com/mlb/news/2001/0624/1218085.html)

Murphy3
06-25-2001, 08:45 AM
flying tiger, they've had the best pitching staff because the starters could all go 7-8 innings consistenly.
when the bullpen was needed throughout the early and middle nineties, it usually let them down.
for years, they struggled to find a guy that could consistently close....
they've had all kinds of bullpen problems, which were covered up by having a tremendous starting staff.

MFFL
06-25-2001, 05:24 PM
murph's right on this one. The Braves have always had a dominant starting rotation. Until Rocker came along, their bullpen was always shaky.

murph - who was the Brave closer that suddenly couldn't throw strikes? I believe he was the closer before Rocker. That was the strangest thing, the guy one day just couldn't throw a strike to save his life.

Big Boy Laroux
06-26-2001, 07:53 AM
Mark Wohlers... i believe he's trying to make a comeback with the reds...

rick ankiel's having the same problems. he's young enough, though, that if he turns it around, he can still have a nice career.

Murphy3
06-26-2001, 07:56 AM
yeah..for years, the starting rotation covered up the misery in the braves bullpen.

MFFL
06-26-2001, 08:44 AM
Wasn't Wohlers an All-Star before that? Has anyone ever explained why he lost the strike zone?

Big Boy Laroux
06-26-2001, 08:54 AM
it's gotta be all-psychological. i know, it just seems that one day he just woke up and forgot how to throw strikes...

on a side note, i saw ankiel pitch a couple weeks ago here in nashville (memphis redbirds vs. nashville sounds). he lasted 2/3 of an inning. 6 walks. 8 pitches to the backstop. it was crazy. I felt sorry for the guy. i guess that's why they have sports psychologists...