Memo to Cleveland Indians employees:
It's that time of year again. Please tell family, friends and pets to take a good look at you. If anyone on the ballclub owes you money, it may be wise to collect. Hide all important personal items.John Hart is on the loose.
After cleaning out the Cleveland bullpen, is the Indians general manager finished with his annual July trading frenzy? Or is he just getting warmed up?
"We are going to continue to examine other options as they present themselves," Hart said Thursday between two trades that reshaped the Indians' relief corps. "I'd have to say we are still in the very aggressive mode."
With the July 31 trade deadline less than a week away, Hart has already pulled off two deals that rid the Indians of two struggling relievers. First, Eric Plunk was sent to Milwaukee for Doug Jones, Cleve-land's career saves leader.
Then reliever Jose Mesa, who never recovered from his blown save in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, was dealt to San Francisco for setup man Steve Reed in a five-player trade. The Indians also got outfielder Jacob Cruz and sent pitcher Al Morman and infielder Shawon Dunston to the Giants.
It was vintage Hart. Every July since the Indians have been contenders under his leadership, he has made a trade. The Mesa deal and the one that sent Carlos Baerga to the Mets in 1996 will be remembered because they involved stars from Cleveland's 1995 World Series team.
And the messages they sent through the clubhouse were similar.
"This puts pressure on everybody," reliever Paul Shuey said. "You see guys getting moved in and out of here, and you're like, `I hope they don't boo me. I hope I keep doing well.' "
Hart insists he has yet to talk with Baltimore GM Pat Gillick about Roberto Alomar, the brother of Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar, who would solidify the Indians at second base and spice up a strangely subdued clubhouse.
Another name being batted around is Randy Johnson. Hart wryly calls the Big Unit "an intriguing guy" but says he believes Seattle is serious about not trading the left-handed pitcher.
That is not to say Hart isn't interested or won't try.
"The guy takes the ball every fifth day, gets in a fist fight, strikes out 12," Hart said. "That's OK. I guess he's healthy."
WALK THE PLANK, BUCKO: Some thought Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez got off easy by getting only a five-game suspension for throwing his helmet at Montreal pitcher Javier Vasquez during a bench-clearing brawl last week. Vasquez also got five games.
The brawl apparently lighted a fire under the slumping Pirates, who went on a four-game winning streak.
The inning before Ramirez charged the mound, Vasquez appeared to take a swipe at Ramirez's glove while being tagged out during a rundown play. Vasquez then hit Ramirez with a pitch during the third baseman's next at-bat.
Ramirez couldn't begin his suspension until Friday because Pirates catcher Jason Kendall was already serving a three-game suspension for fighting with the Dodgers' Gary Sheffield. Kendall's suspension ended after Thursday night's game.
NEW TOOLS OF IGNORANCE? Pittsburgh catcher Jason Kendall apparently is as comfortable behind a microphone as he is behind the plate.
When he couldn't sit on the bench in uniform while being suspended, Kendall spent several innings as a guest color commentator on the Pirates' radio network Tuesday night at Shea Stadium in New York.