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What was his crime? Well, he was 39

The worst thing about running a minor-league baseball team is that you have no control over your roster. Players come and go at the whim of the parent club. And if you're the Portland Beavers, there isn't much you can do about it.

The good thing about minor-league ball is that most fans don't pay much attention to rosters. They go to see family entertainment, root for the guys with 'Portland' on their shirts and get a free bobblehead doll.

Good thing they don't care much. If they did, their hearts would have been broken a couple of weeks ago.

That's when the Beavers Ñ rather, the San Diego Padres Ñ released veteran outfielder Brady Anderson.

Not that he deserved it. His biggest crime was that he is 39 years old. With that in mind, he was lucky to get a baseball job in the first place. But as a Beaver, Anderson was terrific. He batted .294, had a .455 on-base percentage and stole five bases. And that doesn't tell half his story.

In the clubhouse, dealing with teammates barely over half his age, Anderson was a mentor. A teacher. Someone who had hit 50 home runs in a big-league season just a few years ago and had the time to spend with young players. Time to help them learn how to be professional in their approach and their attitude.

Yes, the story is going around that he took the entire team out to dinner one night. Does it mean just a little more to know that they had steaks at Morton's? Obviously, his teammates weren't a cheap date.

'He provided a lot of insight, leadership and nonquantifiable things to the younger players,' says Mark Schuster, general manager of the Beavers. 'He was a great leader on the club. He was someone the younger guys could lean on. He makes your club better regardless of what he does on the field.'

So why was Anderson given his walking papers? That's easy Ñ the Padres are on a youth movement, and he doesn't fit into their plans. I mean, you can lose 90 games with young guys Ñ so you may as well. They play cheap.

The Padres had claimed utility man Jermaine Clark off waivers from the Texas Rangers and wanted him to come to Portland to play. So, there he is, playing. And struggling to hit his weight.

'We want to get at-bats for our younger players,' San Diego General Manager Kevin Towers says. 'We ended up keeping Brady longer than we were going to Ñ we were going to let him go after spring training, but he asked to come to Portland, and we gave him 30 days to get his bat going.

'We have to do what's best for our organization.'

Agreed. But I think someone is missing something here. No matter how good your managers and coaches are, players probably learn more from peers than staff.

Somehow, I would have found a way to keep Brady Anderson around my young players. These days, the San Diego organization can use all the true pros it can find.

Dwight Jaynes' sports talk show airs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays on KPAM (860 AM).

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