Friday, August 1, 2008

The big baseball news

Have two future Hall of Famers ever been traded on the same day, the way Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey Jr. were traded yesterday? I doubt it. There's a lot of great analysis of the trades out there, including from Salon's King Kaufman,, Dodger Thoughts, and others.

I thought I'd look at the historical aspect. What truly great players--future Hall of Famers--were shipped off to new teams in mid-season? Here's what I've come up with (probably not a complete list, but a pretty big one):

Steve Carlton: Traded at the end of his career several times, mostly to non-contenders. He'd lost his effectiveness and was just barely hanging on.

Jimmie Foxx: Only 34 years old, Foxx's skills were shot. At 32, he'd hit 36 home runs. Two years later, he would hit 8 for two teams, the Red Sox and Cubs. The Sox were a second-place team when they released Foxx, and the Cubs picked him up off the waiver wire, probably in an attempt to boost attendance.

Rickey Henderson: He started the 1989 season as a Yankee, but that team was going nowhere while the A's were in the middle of a run of three straight pennants. The A's traded three non-stars for Henderson and went on to dominate the A.L. Henderson even won the 1990 A.L. MVP award. In 1993, the A's were descending, so they sent Henderson to the Blue Jays in a deadline deal. The Jays went on to win their second straight World Series with Henderson. He was traded again in mid-season in 1997 from the Padres to the Angels, but that deal had no impact on the pennant races.

Randy Johnson: In one of the great deadline day pickups, the Astros traded Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and a player to be named later for Johnson on July 31, 1998. Johnson, who had been unhappy in Seattle and pitched poorly for them, went on to post a 10-1 record for division-winning Houston.

Mark McGwire: In 1997, the A's weren't going anywhere and were looking to get something in return for McGwire, who was going to be a free agent after the season. They didn't get much from the Cardinals (Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein), and McGwire went on the following season to write his name in the history books.

Greg Maddux: On deadline day 2006, Maddux agreed to a trade from the going-nowhere Cubs to the contending Dodgers in exchange for slick-fielding shortstop Cesar Izturis. Izturis was a bust, and Maddux went on to post a 6-3 record for the Dodgers in the last two months of the season before departing as a free agent.

Willie Mays: According to Wikipedia, "In May 1972, the 41-year-old Mays was traded to the New York Mets for Charlie Williams and $50,000.[19] At the time, the Giants franchise was losing money. Owner Horace Stoneham could not guarantee Mays an income after retirement and the Mets offered Mays a position as a coach upon his retirement." Mays was pretty much finished as a player, and he popped just 14 home runs as a Met during his two seasons there. But he did get back to the World Series in 1973, so it worked out for him.

Willie McCovey: In 1976, the 38-year-old McCovey was coming off a decent season in which he slammed 23 home runs in 413 at bats for the Padres. But that season, he hit just 7 homers through August, and the Padres sold him to the A's, who didn't really need him to contend for the division championship. McCovey flopped in Oakland, going just 5 for 24, all singles, and the A's finished in 2nd place. After '76, McCovey signed as a free agent with the Giants, where he finished his Hall of Fame career.

Joe Medwick: Medwick was never a great player and doesn't really deserve his Hall of Fame plaque. He posted several good seasons in his 20s, but was washed up by 29. In June 1940, at 28, he was traded from the Cardinals to the Dodgers for a bunch of nobodies. When the Dodgers won the pennant the next season, Medwick was a solid contributor but not the star of the team, and after that he pretty much fell apart as a player.

Eddie Murray: In 1996, the 40-year-old Murray still had some gas left in the tank when, in mid-July, he was traded by the Indians to the Orioles for Kent Mercker. It was a homecoming for Murray, and the Orioles eventually won a Wild Card berth. As DH, though, Murray didn't contribute more than an average player would have: .257/.327/.439 with 10 home runs.

Mike Piazza: You probably remember this one: One day in 1998, the Dodgers traded Piazza to the Marlins, who sent him to the Mets a week later. Why the Dodgers did it remains a mystery to me. They were afraid of losing him to free agency because they couldn't afford to pay him what he was worth? The Dodgers? Are you kidding me? As I recall, this was the first big deal of the post-Peter O'Malley era, when they were owned by News Corp (Fox). And it proved a harbinger of the mismanagement that would ensue over the next five or six years of Fox's ownership.

Curt Schilling: In July 2000, the Diamondbacks picked up Schilling for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla. Schilling went just 5-6 for the D-backs, who finished a distant third. But the following season, Schilling pitched Arizona to a thrilling World Series victory over the Yankees. The other guys didn't amount to much.

Tom Seaver: On June 15, 1977, the Mets traded Tom Terrific, the greatest player in club history, to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman. The Mets were a franchise in total decline, while the Reds were trying to catch the Dodgers. It didn't really work out for either team. The Mets continued declining and the Reds never caught the Dodgers. Lose/lose for everybody, especially Mets fans.

Dave Winfield: The moribund Yankees dealt Winfield to the Angels in May 1990 for pitcher Mike Witt. Witt didn't do much for the Yankees, who themselves didn't do much in the pennant race. Winfield played well enough that season and several more to make the Yankees regret their treatment of him.

Clearly, the best deadline-day pickup in history is Randy Johnson, but I think Manny Ramirez has the ability to make a run at that title.

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