03 March 2009


While waiting for Shandler to post his projection updates so I could update my MASTER PROJECTION SPREADSHEET, I headed over to Fangraphs tonight after eating a ground beef Chimichunga from El Cid in world record time & found a discussion there dealing with one of those occurrences that baseball fans love to discuss: the lopsided trade.

In my life, whenever things have been exchanged between me & another person, there's always lots of room for interpretation & discussing "winners" & "losers" to those sorts of things lends an air of morality to these decisions that I find pretty sanctimonious. It truly is in the eye of the beholder.

There was a time when I was down at the baseball diamonds; must've have been 14; when I traded my "Life Is Too Short" cassette tape to Chad Heister for his "Straight Outta Compton" (Careful with that link... naughty words...). Of the 6,136 people who lived in Maquoketa at the time, approximately 4 of them listened to rap music. I was one of them.

The decision to purchase that Too Short tape was made in the same way that I'm sure a lot of kids who grew up in similar rural seclution made their decisions about "outsider art": I saw that Public Enemy thanked Too Short in the liner notes for Nation of Millions. I'd seen the video for the single "Life Is Too Short" on Yo!MTV Raps, so I wasn't completely naive about what I was getting. And at the time, I felt what was good enough for Chuck D was good enough for me. Who was I to say that Too Short wasn't an important figure in the still-blossoming rap game?

So, I bought the tape, listened to it once..... and didn't like it. It sounded dated & it hadn't even been out for more than a year. I may have been living in a small town in Iowa but even I could tell you then that Too Short was a mediocrity at best. To me, he sounded worse than if I had just picked up a mic & started blathering on about detassling corn. I had heard Rakim; I had heard Big Daddy Kane; I had heard LL Cool J; guys who sounded like they were trying to do it better, you know? Too Short? Please....

So you can sense my glee when Chad said he wanted that new Too Short tape... I told him I had it. If he wanted to trade something for it, he could keep it. So he tells me that he just got this new N.W.A. tape that he didn't really like & a deal was struck.

And let's just say that, to me, the difference between the two recordings was akin to the difference between reading an unmotivated high schooler's written interpretation of Leaves of Grass & reading Moneyball. Ice Cube and Too Short were not even on the same planet.

Thing is, Chad actually liked that Too Short tape. In fact, the next time I saw him, he laughed & said how totally ripped off I got in our exchange. Really? Well, all transactions are made for both people to "improve" themselves in some way, so who am I to say that I got the better end of the deal?

You would think that baseball, with it's winners & losers, would provide a sense of order to these sorts of transactions. There has to be winners & losers in baseball, right?

Well, in the Fangraphs post, the folks there are using mathmatics, the new gospel of the game, to try and decode what is actually the most lopsided trade of the last decade. And that's fine. The baseball math always helps to clear up misguided recollections of the past.

Baseball trades come in two flavors: trades where there is logical thought behind what both teams want from the trade & trades that were ill-conceived from the get-go for one of the teams involved.

One of the trades being argued about is the 2002 deadline deal that sent Barolo Colon from the Indians to the Expos for Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore & Cliff Lee. This obviously turned out great by any measure for the Tribe. And even though Phillips didn't do anything for them, he's turned into a wonderful player for the Reds. So, what? Was Expos GM Omar Minaya "smoking crack", in the parlance of our times?

Well, did you notice in the Times' write-up of the deal, the principal player going back to the Indians wasn't Sizemore, Phillips or Lee? They were mentioned later on. The "guy" going to Cleveland was Lee Stevens. Here's another interesting analysis from SI. Does this sound like a terrible trade idea to you? It doesn't to me. How about Baseball America?

Put yourself in Omar Minaya's shoes. You've been hired by MLB to stewart an organization that is waiting to die. You have one last chance to bring a winner to a beautiful & strange Canadian city that had never had a team win a postseason series & this other team wants to send you one of the best pitchers in baseball at the time when you are trying to out-pitch the vaunted Braves of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz & Milwood fame. Why not? It wasn't that Colon flopped after the trade; he pitched extremely well. The Expos just ran outta gas down the stretch.

And the Indians were just begining their "Lost Weekend" stretch after the boom years of Manny & Thome & the lot who needed to drastically cut payroll to minimize the financial crunch that was inevitable for a soon-to-be losing organization. Even though baseball history will tell you that the odds were stacked against the Tribe, maybe, just maybe, one of these kids will pan out.

Sizemore is the gem here, right? But at the time, he could have developed any number of ways. The guy was 19 for Christ's sake. What about Cliff Lee? The guy looked like he was finished to me after 2007, right? From '04 to '06, he was essentially a mediocre pitcher who gave up too many home runs. Then he went disasterville in '07 & looked to me like he was entering the "Journeyman Quad-A non-roster invitee" phase of his career. And Phillips disappointed the Indians so much that in '06, they left him off the 40-man roster. So, sure the results were lopsided, but at least the decision by both clubs to make the deal was sound.

Of course, now it's time to enter my "most lopsided trade of the last decade" into the mix because... I didn't write all that other stuff up there for nothing! So here it is:

3/23/2000 Angels trade CF Jim Edmonds to the Cardinals for Kent Bottenfield & Adam Kennedy.

Using Wins Above Replacement
Edmonds - 51.1 WAR from 2000 - 2007
Bottenfield - 0.1 (pitched 127 2/3 IP for Angels in 2000 with an ERA+ of 89 before being traded AT MID-SEASON!)
Kennedy - 17.2

The arrival of Edmonds in St. Louis was the reason the Cardinals won an average of 94 games per season & made the playoffs 6 out of those 7 years. He was also my favorite Cardinal.


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