'One of the luckiest people on the earth'

The first clue that my cell towers were intact came right around the trading deadline, approximately a month after my aneurysm. By that time, I had been transferred from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Cape and the Islands. I was perusing the morning box scores in the Cape Cod Times when I brusquely asked my nurse, "Linda, how did Austin Kearns get to the Nationals?"

Linda Stetharces-Caruso had no idea what I was talking about, but she knew me well enough to allow me to grab my BlackBerry and fire off that question, which two general managers answered within the hour. Some gaps have to be filled.

What I endured is trivial compared to 9/11 victims or the suffering of heroes like John McCain, but to get back to the point where Austin Kearns mattered was my return from what was a kind of life-and-death matter. Just to be able to type Kearns' name makes me one of the luckiest people on earth.

Honestly, I remember very little except that I got a splitting headache driving to the Gold's Gym in Mashpee, Mass. At 7 a.m. on June 27, I pulled into a parking lot to sleep. I remember very little about all the people who saved the life of someone whose sister, Anne Durant, died of the same type of aneurysm a decade earlier.

A wonderful person named Agnes Rockett-Bolduc watched me pull into a parking lot, tried to talk to me and immediately called 911. Within minutes, or, really, seconds, the guys at Mashpee Fire and Rescue had me in an ambulance screaming for the Falmouth Hospital, and Dr. John Mendleson, where they immediately diagnosed that I had suffered an aneurysm and needed to get to Boston. So Bill, Christopher and Tim were flying me in their helicopter toward Brigham and Women's Hospital in a matter of minutes.

And when I got to the hospital, I was in the hands of Dr. Arthur Day, who my medical friends insist is the best neurosurgeon in the country. Dr. Day was once a great friend to Ted Williams; the neurological ICU floor at Brigham and Women's is the 9th, for Ted. I had phone and e-mail messages from medical friends around the country that included the phrase "Boston hospitals," and Dr. Andy Whitemore has helped make Brigham and Women's a miracle building beyond comparison.

I will never know how the neuroscience nurses and staff took care of -- much less dealt with -- me, Dan Triggs, Pat Kelly, Kim Templeton, Mary, Richard, Adam -- with everything held together thanks to the strength of my wife, Gloria. She went through far more than me.

People offer me congratulations these days, but sitting here writing is not about congratulations; it is about thanks, care and incredible medical genius.

People offer me congratulations these days, but sitting here writing is not about congratulations; it is about thanks, care and incredible medical genius. Agnes Rockett-Bolduc, the guys from Mashpee Fire and Rescue, the Falmouth Hospital, the guys from Boston MedFlight and everyone at Brigham and Women's as well as the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Cape and Islands made it possible for me to be happier at the keyboard of my Sony Vaio than I've ever been before.

I was fortunate enough that I'd never spent much time in hospitals, so I never realized how much everyone in the medical world cares. The nurses and technicians at Brigham's were incredible. On the Cape, under the care of Dr. David Lowell, I had a speech therapist, Jeannine Annis-Young, who cut weeks off my recovery, as did my occupational therapist, Beth Kerr, and Kathleen Bobo, who got me back on the road to physical recovery. Understand, the more I came back, the more the trading deadline and pennant races drove me to distraction, which made life for nurses like Denise Meiners, Richard Erdman and Linda nearly impossible. Sorry, I have omitted dozens of names.

Still, all the support of ESPN and my friends of 30-something years in the media and baseball was enough to chill me for the rest of my life, beginning with those so close -- Jayson Stark, Tim Kurkjian, Bob Nightengale and the best boss I've ever known (from the Globe and ESPN), Vince Doria. Or my niece Debby, there at my side, every day. I don't remember much or all the good that was done, but I do remember waking up and seeing Rene Lachemann's face. I will never forget what Kim and Don Mattingly did, the daily call from Ozzie Guillen, Terry Francona never giving up trying to reach me, the reports from the Boston media and Mets officials at Pedro Martinez's grief, the signatures from Cooperstown -- sorry, I could go on forever and never get to Trot and Catherine Nixon and Darin Erstad. But I was reminded of what's real and what's political perception, and appreciate opening notes from George Bush and John Kerry in the same mail and believing, as I did before we became so fractionalized, in each man's goodness and dignity.

Thanks, to thousands more. To Fran at the North Falmouth Superette where I get my papers, water and vitamin water en route to Gold's; or Bob, who has worked the press room in Winter Haven for more than 30 years; or the best of friends like John Keenan -- who flew across the country -- or Eddie and all the guys in Pearl Jam, James Taylor, Paul Barrere and all of Little Feat -- to my co-workers, none more eloquent than Jon Miller.

No one who ever reads this is as fortunate as I, who knows that Gloria is the ballast of the family.

When Aug. 1 rolled around, I did look down the list of players who were traded and realized that we all put too much weight on that final month before the deadline. OK, the Phillies found the Yankees to take nearly $20 million off their hands in Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu, as Brian Cashman again wisely waited to get what he needed. The Cardinals got a much-needed starter (Jeff Weaver) and Ronnie Belliard to play second. Ned Colletti filled Dodger leaks with Greg Maddux and Julio Lugo. The Padres got Scott Williamson and Todd Walker (and eventually David Wells). The Tigers picked up Sean Casey. The Mets got Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez. The Rangers dealt for Carlos Lee, Nelson Cruz, Matt Stairs and Kip Wells. And Wayne Krivsky reconstructed the Reds' bullpen.

And no races turned in July or August on the transaction page.

"The story of the trading deadline and the last couple of free-agent classes should be titled, 'Revenue-sharing is working,'" says one baseball executive.

Indeed. Take a look at the free-agent starting pitchers from last winter who have won eight or more games:

In addition, I now have more than 100 suggestions about trading Matt Clement for Carl Pavano. From both sides of Hartford.

Then look ahead to this winter. After Barry Zito (to whom six years and $96 million was quoted in switching agents), Jason Schmidt and Daisuke Matsuzaka (considered a Yankee if they will pay the posting fee), there is Randy Wolf, Mark Mulder, Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, Tony Armas, Kerry Wood, both Wells and John Smoltz and Mike Mussina if the Braves and Yankees don't pick up their options, which is unlikely. Now that Mulder knows he was hurt from mid-2004 on and is having the problem repaired, he may be one of the most intriguing free agents.

Not that developing pitching is a simple matter either. The Yankees refused to discuss Philip Hughes. When the Josh Beckett deal discussions opened at the GM meetings last November, the Marlins asked for Jon Lester. Boston wouldn't discuss him or entertain trading Craig Hansen for Abreu this July.

But while the trade and/or free-agent cost of pitching is so high that young pitching is worth more than at any recent time, check the most reliable prospect projection gauge, Baseball America, for its top 10 pitching prospects going back to 1990:

The Unpredictability of Pitching
Baseball America's Top 10 Pitching Prospects, 1990-2006

1. Steve Avery, Atl
2. Ben McDonald, Bal
3. Kiki Jones, LA
4. Darryl Kile, Hou
5. Willie Banks, Min
6. Mike Harkey, Cubs
7. Roger Salkeld, Sea
8. Mike Stanton, Atl
9. Pat Combs, Phi
10. Rafael Valdez, SD

1. Todd Van Poppel, Oak
2. Roger Salkeld, Sea
3. Arthur Rhodes, Bal
4. Willie Banks, Min
5. Rich Garces, Min
6. Mike Mussina, Balt
7. Reid Cornelius, Mon
8. Kurt Miller, Pit
9. Anthony Young, Mets
10. Kirk Dressendorfer, Oak

1. Brien Taylor, NYY
2. Todd Van Poppel, Oak
3. Roger Salkeld, Sea
4. Arthur Rhodes, Bal
5. Frankie Rodriguez, Bos
6. Pedro Martinez, LAD
7. Mark Wohlers, Atl
8. Kurt Miller, Tex
9. Tyrone Hill, Mil
10. Lance Dickson, ChC

1. Brien Taylor, NYY
2. Todd Van Poppel, Oak
3. Jason Bere, ChW
4. Allen Watson, Stl
5. Tyrone Hill, Mil
6. Kurt Miller, Tex
7. Tavo Alvarez, Mon
8. Brad Pennington, Bal
9. David Nied, Col
10. Frankie Rodriguez, Bos

1. James Baldwin, ChW
2. Jose Silva, Tor
3. Darren Dreifort, LAD
4. Steve Karsay, Oak
5. Chan Ho Park, LAD
6. Brien Taylor, NYY
7. Jeff Granger, Kan
8. Bill Pulsipher, NYM
9. Salomon Torres, SF
10. Terrell Wade, Atl
(Overall list of prospects: Chipper Jones 2, Alex Rodriguez 6, Manny Ramirez 7, Derek Jeter 16)

1. Armando Benitez, Bal
2. Bill Pulsipher, NYM
3. Alan Benes, StL
4. Antonio Osuna, LAD
5. Paul Wilson, NYM
6. Billy Wagner, Hou
7. Dustin Hermanson, SD
8. Doug Million, Col
9. Scott Ruffcorn, ChW
10. James Baldwin, ChW

1. Paul Wilson, NYM
2. Alan Benes, Stl
3. Livan Hernandez, Fla
4. Jason Schmidt, Atl
5. Matt Drews, NYY
6. Billy Wagner, Hou
7. Bartolo Colon, Cle
8. Kerry Wood, ChC
9. Chan Ho Park, LAD
10. Rocky Coppinger, Bal

1. Kerry Wood, ChC
2. Matt White, Tam
3. Kris Benson, Pit
4. Bartolo Colon, Cle
5. Carl Pavano, Bos
6. Jaret Wright, Cle
7. Livan Hernandez, Fla
8. Matt Morris, Stl
9. Chris Carpenter, Tor
10. Braden Looper, Stl

1. Kerry Wood, ChC
2. Matt White, Tam
3. Kris Benson, Pit
4. Carl Pavano, Mon
5. Matt Clement, SD
6. Rick Ankiel, Stl
7. Brian Rose, Bos
8. Ryan Anderson, Sea
9. Matt Anderson, Det
10. Eric Milton, Min

1. Rick Ankiel, Stl
2. Bruce Chen, Atl
3. Brad Penny, Ari
4. Ryan Anderson, Sea
5. Matt Clement, SD
6. Roy Halladay, Tor
7. Bobby Bradley, Pit
8. Chris George, KC
9. Donnie Bridges, Mon
10. Matt Belisle, Atl

1. Rick Ankiel, Stl
2. Ryan Anderson, Sea
3. Mark Mulder, Oak
4. Kip Wells, ChW
5. Matt Riley, Bal
6. Josh Beckett, Fla
7. A.J. Burnett. Fla
8. Brad Penny, Fla
9. Wilfredo Rodriguez, Hou
10. Tony Armas, Mont

1. Josh Beckett, Fla
2. Jon Rauch, ChW
3. Ben Sheets, Milw
4. C.C. Sabathia, Cle
5. Roy Oswalt, Hou
6. Chin-Hui Tsao, Col

7. Juan Cruz, ChC
8. Jerome Williams, SF
9. Bobby Bradley, Pit
10. Chris George, KC

1. Josh Beckett, Fla
2. Mark Prior, ChC
3. Juan Cruz, ChC
4. Ryan Anderson, Sea
5. Dennis Tankersley, SD
6. Nick Neugebauer, Mil
7. Jerome Williams, SF
8. Jon Rauch, ChW
9. Carlos Hernandez, Hou
10. Ty Howington, Cin

1. Jesse Foppert, SF
2. Jose Contreras, NYY
3. Gavin Floyd, Phi
4. Francisco Rodriguez, LAA
5. Scott Kazmir, NYM
6. Adam Wainwright, Atl
7. Jeremy Bonderman, Det
8. John Van Benschoten, Pitt
9. Sean Burnett, Pit
10. Rafael Soriano, Sea

1. Edwin Jackson, LAD
2. Greg Miller, LAD
3. Scott Kazmir, NYM
4. Adam Loewen, Balt
5. Zach Greinke, KC
6. Cole Hamels, Phi
7. Dustin Magowan, Tor
8. Gavin Floyd, Phi
9. Chi-Hui Tsao, Colo
10. Angel Guzman, ChC

1. Felix Hernandez, Sea
2. Scott Kazmir, TB
3. Matt Cain, SF
4. Adam Miller, Cle
5. Chad Billingsley, LAD
6. Jeff Niemann, TB
7. Jeff Francis, Col
8. Jose Capellan, Mil
9. Mike Hinckley, Was
10. Edwin Jackson, LAD

1. Francisco Liriano, Minn
2. Chad Billingsley, LAD
3. Justin Verlander, Det
4. Matt Cain, SF
5. Jon Lester, Bos
6. Bobby Jenks, ChW
7. Scott Olsen, Fla
8. Joel Zumaya, Det
9. Mike Pelfrey, NYM
10. Jonathan Papelbon, Bos

It should be noted that Liriano was ranked 83rd among all prospects in 2003, behind David Wright (75), Prince Fielder (78) and Chase Utley (81). Frank Thomas was once ranked 29th, Mike Piazza 38th, Derrek Lee 81st, Vladimir Guerrero 85th, Jermaine Dye 88th, Scott Rolen 91st, Pedro Martinez 62nd and, this spring, Josh Johnson 80th and Matt Kemp 96th.

Yes, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Bartolo Colon, Matt Morris and Chris Carpenter are the only 100-game winners on the lists. But trade the next Johan Santana, Matt Cain or Francisco Liriano and deal with the ramifications.

Reality tells us there are no guarantees. Except that some day Jon Lester will be on that list of 100-game winners.