Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's Not the Size of the Trade That Matters...

Chris DeLuca at the Sun-Times has a piece today on his recommendations for getting more offense out of the Cubs lineup. The ideas were nothing especially earth-shattering, and I'm sure many people would enjoy arguing the merits of each idea point-by-point, but I'm not really interested in doing that. (Insert sigh of relief here.)

What caught my attention was his rationale that the Cubs are caught between owners and can therefore not make any big splashy moves in the remaining two months before the trade deadline.

"The best thing for the Cubs would be for the deal to fall through and for Zell to go back on his free-spending ways. But that seems unlikely."

I'm going to assume that he means Zell should go back TO his free-spending ways because otherwise the entire article makes little sense. But more importantly, why are fans and media-types so in love with the big blockbuster deals?

I had a hard time thinking of a major mid-season trade that actually resulted in a World Series victory for the team landing the big star. We've established that my brain isn't quite what it should be when it comes to salient details, so I did some checking.

Last year, Milwaukee landed C.C. Sabathia, Anaheim rented Mark Teixiera, the Dodgers got Manny Ramirez, Boston got Jason Bay, and the Cubs acquired Rich Harden. Those were all very big deals and not one of those teams won the World Series, the Phillies did. They traded for Joe Blanton, the "other" A's starter that was on the trading block.

I thought maybe last year was a fluke and looked back to the recent World Series winners and any deadline deals that propelled them to victory.

In 2007, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in spite of trading for Eric Gagne, who actually probably hurt the team's efforts in reaching their goal. Meanwhile, the Braves traded for Mark Teixiera and went home.

In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals paved their way to a championship with such crucial July acquisitions as Jeff Weaver, Ron Belliard, and Jorge Sosa. Carlos Lee going to Texas and Bobby Abreu going to the Yankees didn't stop those teams from playing golf sooner than they would have liked.

In 2005, a bunch of players were traded but none of them were really what you would consider blockbuster. But according to the MLB.com story on that July 31,

"Among the more notable players changing uniforms were Preston Wilson, Bret Boone, Joe Randa, Matt Lawton, Kyle Farnsworth, Jody Gerut, Jay Payton, Eric Byrnes, Shawn Chacon and Phil Nevin."

Not a single one of these "notable players" was acquired by the eventual champion White Sox.

In 2004, the Cubs landed Nomar Garciaparra and won the World Series. Oh, they didn't? That was just a dream? Crap.

Also that year, Carlos Beltran headed to Houston, and Freddy Garcia went to the White Sox. They all got to watch the Red Sox with their major acquisitions of Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientciewicz break their curse and become really annoying.

In 2003, the Cubs traded for Aramis Ramirez aand Kenny Lofton and won the World Series. Wait... they didn't? Seriously? How the hell could they not have won that year?

Shannon Stewart, Carl Everett, Aaron Boone, and the then useful and sought-after Sidney Ponson also failed to carry their new teams to victory. Florida landed Ugueth "What You Pay For" Urbina, who did a great job of staying the hell out of Josh Beckett's way during the Marlin's championship run.

In 2002, Scott Rolen went to St. Louis and Bartolo Colon went to Montreal. The Angels won the World Series by acquiring Sal Fasano and Alex Ochoa.

Fred McGriff didn't win with the Cubs in 2001 or in 1993 with the Braves. Randy Johnson didn't win a World Series with the 1998 Astros. Mark McGwire didn't win with the Cardinals in 1997.

I started to wonder how anyone, anywhere ever thought trading away major prospects for a single player of any talent level was the key to success, when I hadn't found any evidence to support such a belief.

I think the fascination with the major deadline deal bringing that "one guy" to put you over the top has to be rooted to the Toronto Blue Jays, who won the World Series in 1992 after acquiring David Cone and then again in 1993 after acquiring Rickey Henderson. Pat Gillick's back-to-back success has suckered numerous fans, reporters, and general managers into thinking that the key to a championship is the acqusition of one major stud player.

It may also have been due in part to the 1964 Cubs winning the World Series by acquiring top starter Ernie Broglio for the underperforming, "toolsy" youngster, Lou Brock.... damn it!


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