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While I can’t tell you exactly how the, what seemed like thousands of, Scott Linebrink trade rumors got started (and yes, I think it’s a small miracle that they’ve stopped, Linebrink’s long-anticipated trade notwithstanding), I have a pretty good idea.

It’s as simple as one microscopic note, a paragraph or even a single sentence, in some small newspaper of online publication somewhere, from a writer who’s throwing out stuff to see what sticks, or just plain guessing. That’s all it takes.

Tuesday’s online edition of the Daily Southtown (that’s South, as in South Side of Chicago) included an item by Nathaniel Whalen, in which the columnist speculated about Khalil Greene possibly becoming a member of the White Sox during the coming winter.

Khalil Greene, SS: General manager Ken Williams is good for one big trade per offseason and this could be it. Williams reportedly wanted Greene as part of a trade-deadline deal for Jermaine Dye, and he could finally acquire the quick, slick-fielding shortstop in an offseason swap with San Diego. The Sox would send Jon Garland — who nearly was traded last offseason to Houston — and Brian Anderson to San Diego for Greene, reliever Heath Bell and a pitching prospect or two.

It’s just one guy thinking aloud, but just you watch; this’ll grow into a full-blown trade rumor, with tremors being felt well into 2008. I have no idea if Kevin Towers and the ChiSox discussed Greene even in passing for a split second, but like in a child’s game of telephone, the idea that they did will be taken as a given, solely because it was posted by Mr. Whalen.

Meanwhile, Greene is looking at a possible 100 RBI season. He’s already topped his own records with 19 homers and 70 RBIs by a Padres shortstop, which, says Leah Tobin of Padres Media Relations, is 10 more dingers than were hit by Garry Templeton and Damian Jackson in 1990 and 1999 respectively, and nine more RBIs then Templeton recorded at the position in 1982.

Might Towers consider trading his always referred to as “slick-fielding” shortstop? Sure, he might. It’s possible.

The power numbers are significant, but so is the fact that Greene’s batting average and on base percentage have gone mostly down each year of his career as a starting player, from .273 and .348 in 2004, to .250 and .296 in 2005 to .245 and .320 in 2006, and to his current .240 and .275.

By the way, Greene actually is a slick fielding shortstop, but a lot of shortstops are slick-fielding. Like I said, I have no idea what Kevin Towers might have up his sleeve for next year. The one thing I do know is that just because some guy in Illinois mentioned Greene perhaps playing someplace other than San Diego next season, doesn’t make it even the remotest of possibilities.

— HOWARD COLE

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