Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline – Trade! Sell! Abandon Hope! – turns a perfect pastoral game into the dirtiest place in town. It’s the bathroom in a sketchy dive at closing time. (Step carefully, touch nothing, hold your breath as long as you can.)
And, so the Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, … have I left anyone out? … Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, and I can’t remember who else, sold or traded whomever they could, conceding the season, resigned to slide through the last 540 innings of summer as quickly and meaninglessly as possible.
Did your team just bleed out? Well, you’ll always have April, won’t you?
Hot teams feast on the bones of others, like vultures. But, vultures are pretty cool and, if you got to know them, you would find them sociable creatures who are simply recycling carcasses and protecting us from plague and terrible diseases.
General Managers are not vultures in the “pretty cool” sense.
They are cut-throat, not sociable at all. They move pitchers, swap batters, dump salaries, and make blockbuster deals like I change stations on the car radio (which is to say often and with little care).
Editor/Husband says I’m being too dark. “Remember Spaghetti Legs,” he says.
And, I smile wistfully, remembering the three heavenly months last summer with Andrew “Spaghetti Legs” Miller, the remarkable, shut’em down reliever, whom the Orioles greedily gathered up from the Red Sox, giving Boston in return a hot minor leaguer, who now is the Red Sox future, while Miller is now a Yankee.
Miller was a “rental.” By season’s end he was a free agent and the Yankees – of course, the Yankees – dangled pinstripes and bags filled with guilders, beads, and trinkets, and, just like that, Spaghetti Legs was gone.
But, not before he helped the O’s to the ALCS, which was amazing.
Sure, players expect to be jostled and juggled, wondering where they are going next.
Baseball has always done this. They sold and traded Babe Ruth, after all. Twice.
(Pitcher Octavio Dotel played for 13 teams during his 15-season career (1999-2013), making him the most travelled teammate in baseball’s modern era. Chances are he played for you.)
And, I like free agency that allows players to negotiate for their share of the millions that owners amass from their luxury boxes and $26 hot dogs.
“These are human beings, not pieces of meat. Really bothers me when I hear, ‘Are you buyers or sellers?’ Don’t use that around me. These are human beings that I am close with and I don’t look at them that way. I know it’s the reality of the business, but it’s not like we’re moving around slabs of bacon here. And I like bacon.” ~ Buck Showalter, Orioles Manager
I don’t like all the trading and moving people about like cattle at a stockyard, because it seems uncivilized and cruel – if making a few million dollars and moving from one comfy clubhouse to another can be deemed cruel.
What’s really cruel is the way it’s handled.
Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter was traded to the Chicago Cubs on Friday one minute before the 4:00 p.m. trade deadline.
Everyone thought it might happen. Baltimore’s bullpen is crowded, they need outfielders, and Tommy’s a free agent who’s having a not-bad season.
The trade deadline brought Hunter to the O’s in 2011. The 2015 deadline sent him on his way.
Tommy was gracious in his goodbyes.
But, here’s the thing.
The Hunter trade was leaked to reporters who promptly leaked it to Twitter, where I saw it scroll by on my feed at 3:59 p.m. … at the same time that … Tommy Hunter learned of his own trade through the same tweet.
Really? Tommy Hunter and I learn about his trade at the very same moment, from the very same source?
It seems a bit ugly and thoughtless. I don’t want to find out I’ve got a new job because my boss told a tweeter – and the rest of the world – before he told me.
And, Tommy’s not the only one.
On Wednesday night in the middle of a game, Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores learned he was being traded when fans in the stands who had seen Twitter rumors told him. He cried.
And, it broke my heart just a little.
That trade fell apart, which was just as well for the Mets since Flores hit a walk-off homerun for them on Friday night.
Good can come from trades. Some players now have post-season hopes – hopes they didn’t have a week ago. Some players find a change of scenery the spark they need.
Some players escape toxic clubhouses. And, some clubhouses escape toxic players.
(Good luck with Papelbon, Nationals.)
I just wish it didn’t seem so callous. So, cruel. So, business-like.
And, hello new Orioles outfielder Gerardo Parra. The O’s scooped you up from the Brewer’s fire sale.
It was a thing of beauty.
You may be a rental, but, like every teenage summer fling, we love you like crazy right now.