Talkin' about trades, winners and losers with Bill James
Today's topic is a winding conversation about baseball trades. The trade deadline has just passed, and as usual it looks like some teams really helped themselves, and as usual it looks like some teams did not exactly help themselves. It happens every year. But mostly we talk about the whole concept of trading players, what
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The 1922 Braves had a decent pitcher named
A week before that happened, the same thing had occurred in the other league. New York (the Yankees) had a problem at third base, so they went to Boston (the Red Sox) and bought/traded for
So you had the fans in about eight cities angry at New York and Boston for finagling these in-season trades to help New York win.
The reason for the trade deadline was kind of forgotten over the years, but the trade deadline itself remained, and remained June 15, I think ... into the '80s? '90s? I don't know when it changed. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago.
But in general, real life doesn't allow a school principal to say, "Mr. Johnson, pack your chalk and teacher's guides, you are going to a high school in Muskogee. We found a young 10th grade history teacher there we really like."
The teachers union probably would have conniptions about it, but in a strange way it might not. If you're going to trade for a 7th grade teacher, you probably want to have the best information you possibly can have about that teacher that you're trading for. What's his attendance rate? How many of his kids clear the state AEA (Annual Educational Assessment) standards? How does he get along with the other teachers? The mere fact that you MIGHT trade for him would probably push you to maintain better and better stats about his performance.
But, of course, we fully accept the idea of trades in baseball. We don't just
I think there's a syndrome there, that when you make a trade, the team which the public THINKS has lost the trade, most of the time, has probably won the trade in the long run. You're either looking forward or looking back. Looking backward, Broglio was 21-9 and 18-8; Brock was a .260 hitter. But looking forward, it was all different.
Now consider that Lee will make about half the money of Halladay ... it seems like one heck of a deal, for this year and for next year. But, hey, you don't really know how Lee will pitch in Philadelphia (though that first-game shutout does seem to offer a hint). And you don't really know what kind of pitcher
Two years ago they traded for
One thing that IS clear already is that the Kansas City Royals did not help themselves by picking up shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in a trade from Seattle. Not only is Betancourt hitting .113 in his first 16 games, but on Sunday the Royals had him bunt with two strikes (he bunted foul for the strikeout) and also pulled him for a pinch-hitter in the eighth even though the Royals were leading at the time and you would presume that they would want to keep him out there for defensive purposes (the Royals' stance is that he's an above-average defensive shortstop even though the advanced defensive stats suggest that he might be the worst in the major leagues).
I think this is true of trades as well, and that this adds a "debate" argument to baseball. The Royals trading for Yuniesky Betancourt is fascinating because it makes a statement about what the Royals value, and what they merely PRETEND to value.
One of the things that fascinates me about sports is that obsessive fans love their teams (and hate them at various times) and follow them closely and have IDEAS about what makes the team go. But, inevitably, we cannot be entirely sure. What does my team value? What does my team not value? What is the overriding vision -- if the general manager of my team had an unlimited amount of money and unlimited access to players, what kind of team would he build? A fast team with great defense and speed and pitchers who throw strikes? A team of sluggers and power pitchers? A team or gamers ... players who will coax more than most out of their own talents? Or would the GM build a blend of everything?
In the end, we don't know. Because pretty much every GM says the same thing. They all publicly value whatever it is that they all publicly value. Sure, we want players who get on base. We also want aggressive hitters. Yes, we want a hitter with discipline. We also want players who play outstanding defense. And players with power. And speed. But they have to be smart. And fundamentally sound. And don't get me started on pitchers.
But trades tell you what the general manager REALLY wants. I think that's why they're so emotional for fans. A good trade tells you that your team wants the same things you want. A bad trade tells you that you are rooting for the wrong team.