Interesting how baseball kicked off Trading Deadline Week, which now seems to have evolved into its own media event. Baseball chose to begin this exciting week with its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
At first glance, you’d think the two events were mutually exclusive.
Surprise! There’s more of a connection than you might think.
This year marked the first time that three pitchers entered the Hall in a single class. All three were involved in a trade during their careers.
And not just any trade: one so lopsided as to merit inclusion in the General Managers Hall of Shame.
On Aug. 12, 1987, the Braves traded dour Doyle Alexander to the Tigers for a young prospect named John Smoltz. While Alexander went 9-0 for the Tigers down the stretch, he failed miserably in the ALCS.
He lost the opener, allowing six runs in an 8-5 loss. He entered the eighth inning with a 5-4 lead but couldn’t hold it. He also started Game Five, losing the finale by allowing four runs and failing to finish the second inning.
In 1988, he went 14-11 with a 4.32 earned run average. In ’89, he led the league with 18 losses, and promptly retired.
Smoltz, of course, became a key member of baseball’s greatest regular season dynasty, and one of the greatest post-season pitchers in history.
Randy Johnson was traded by the Expos to the Mariners, along with Brian Holman and Gene Harris, on May 25, 1989. The Expos got Mark Langston and Mike Campbell. Essentially, it was a Johnson-for-Langston trade.
Langston pitched 24 games for the Expos, going 12-9 with a 2.39 era. He fled as a free agent when the season ended. Johnson would pitch for the Mariners for 10 seasons, win 130 games, and strike out 2,162 batters.
After his rookie season, on Nov. 19, 1993, the Dodgers traded Pedro Martinez to the won’t-get-fooled-again Expos for Delino DeShields.
In four years with the Expos, Martinez went 55-33 with a 3.06 ERA. In 1997, the “little guy” the Dodgers felt wouldn’t stay healthy pitched 13 complete games, went 17-8, and led the league with a 1.90 ERA. He also won his first Cy Young award.
DeShields? In three years with the Dodgers, he hit .241 with an on base percentage of .326. He did score 192 runs and steal 114 bases, but those sure aren’t Hall of Fame numbers.
And it didn’t end there. As the Hall of Famers in attendance were introduced, it was amazing to ponder how many of them had been traded in one-sided deals.
Like Orlando Cepeda. The Giants traded “Cha Cha” to the Cardinals for Ray Sadecki on May 8, 1966. Cepeda won the MVP award in ’67, hitting .325 with 111 runs batted in and 25 homers. He led the Cards to the World Series title that year and the National League pennant the next.
That trade kept on giving. In March, 1969, the Cardinals traded Cepeda to the Braves for Joe Torre, who produced six very productive years in St. Louis.
As for Sadecki, he went 32-39 in four years with good Giants teams that always finished second. He was traded to the Mets prior to the 1970 season, and then traded back to St. Louis after the ’74 season—for Joe Torre!
There was Lou Brock, traded by the Cubs on June 15, 1964 for Ernie Broglio (four lesser players were also involved.) Brock promptly led the Cardinals to the pennant, and hit a home run in the Game Seven World Series win over the Yankees.
Broglio went 4-7 that summer for the Cubs, then went 1-6 with a 6.93 ERA in ’65, and 2-6 with a 6.35 ERA in ’66. Mercifully, that was his final season.
The Cards weren’t infallible, of course. On Feb. 25, 1972, they traded Steve Carlton to the Phillies for Rick Wise. In two years in St. Louis, Wise went 32-28.
Meanwhile, for a Phillies team that only won 59 games, “Lefty” went 27-10. He also pitched 346 innings, and those two marks haven’t been touched since. Throw in a 1.97 ERA and 310 strikeouts, and you have your 1972 Cy Young award winner. Carlton anchored the Phillies rotation for the next 13 years.
The Mets sought to resolve their perennial problem at third base on Dec. 10, 1971, when they sent Nolan Ryan and three other prospects to the Angels for Jim Fregosi. In 146 games with the Mets, Fregosi hit .233 (with five homers!) They shipped him to Texas midway through the ’73 season, and then reached the World Series without him.
In eight seasons with the Angels, Ryan won 138 games, pitched 2,181 innings, and registered 2,416 strikeouts—including a record 383 in 1973.
Undaunted, the Mets tried to top the Ryan fiasco on June 15, 1977. They traded “The Franchise,” Tom Seaver, to the Reds for Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman, and Pat Zachry. Remember them? They all remained Mets for the next four to six years, during which time the Mets never won more than 67 games in a season, or rose above fifth place.
And there was Frank Robinson, traded by the Reds to the Orioles after the ’65 season. Reds GM Bill DeWitt, who called Robinson “an old 30” watched in horror as Robinson won the Triple Crown and was unanimously voted MVP while leading the Orioles to their first World Series win. He remained an Oriole mainstay through the ‘71 season.
In return, the Reds received Milt Pappas, who horrified DeWitt further by compiling a 30-29 record with a 4.04 ERA before being traded to the Braves on June 11, 1968.
So pay attention this week. Someone changing teams might just be a future Hall of Famer.