To most people, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, is just another day in the seemingly endless stream of days that flow through one’s life on the way to the Big Adios. However, this date means a heck of a lot more if you’re a baseball fan, team, player, writer or all of the above. It’s the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
And, on the whole, it was quite an entertaining day, indeed – a flurry of trade activity and inactivity that thrilled the senses and boggled the mind. Lots of smart moves intertwined with some very questionable moves and a lot of very questionable non-moves.
Since we can’t really know how all these trades will work out for months and, in some cases, even years, any grading now will be somewhat arbitrary. Some of you who have been reading my jibber-jabber for a while might remember, when faced with the problem of how best to grade each team’s performance at the trade deadline, I was equal to the task and concocted a grading system jam-packed with arbitrariness that would do the job. Excuse me while I whip this out:
The Baldwin Scale™.
The Baldwin Brothers – Alec, Daniel, Billy and Stephen – are as beloved a group of brothers as has ever existed. They are practically royalty in America – especially because they don’t do much work these days and rely heavily on their past accomplishments for anything they have now. These four brothers, whose successes and failures have been entertaining us all for decades, each have differences in politics, religion and vegetarianism, as well as varying levels of talent, handsomeness and craziness. And it is from these differences that I derive the Baldwin Scale™.
Alec – The most successful of the brothers Baldwin. He’s had his ups and downs in life. Hey, nobody’s perfect, buddy. He’s a cultural icon who now does commercials for Capitol One credit cards and pretty much any acting gig he’s offered as long as the check clears the bank and the craft services table is fully stocked.
Billy – The busiest of the brothers Baldwin. Of course you couldn’t name one thing he’s done in the last two years, but rest assured, this guy just keeps on working. And why shouldn’t he? He’s still got that handsomey handsomeness that makes you think you might be willing kiss a dude just this one time, just to see how magical it could be (not me, of course, other people think that about him).
Stephen – The most disappointing of the brothers Baldwin. Remember how cool he was in The Usual Suspects? Me, too. That was 17 years ago – very, very long years for Stephen. I thought I saw him once at a grocery store near here but it was just a pineapple, a half-eaten bag of potato chips and a fried chicken leg that someone dropped on the ground. Sure, he’s kind of a mess, but at least he’s not …
Daniel – The most disastrous of the brothers Baldwin. Don’t worry, I checked: Yes, he’s still alive. I am completely unable to remember any movie or TV show he’s ever been in even after looking at his filmography. If you came to Hollywood wanting to be an actor and wound up with his resume, you’d be considered a moderate success. But these are the Baldwins we’re talking about here and this one is definitely the worst-Baldwin scenario.
Also a reminder here that Adam Baldwin is not actually related, so we can’t use him. If you had to choose a Baldwin to be, this is probably the guy. He’s had a solid film and television career as far back as Full Metal Jacket and all the way up to TV’s “Chuck” and no crazy Baldwin drama.
While grading the teams, I’m not going to name each team’s general managers in order to spare them some embarrassment (really I just don’t know who all of them are and I’m sure you don’t either). However, we all know the team names, so let’s just stick with that. If you feel you must know who the general managers (hereafter referred to as “GM”) are, then you can go to www.google.com and find out. And if you think I should know who the general managers are and that it’s shabby writing to leave these kinds of details out, then you probably don’t like my writing and haven’t read this far anyway.
As before, let’s start with the bottom of the barrel because I like ending on a high note. Without further ado, here are the Trade Deadline Baldwins™:
Like Daniel himself, these teams disappointed me and pretty much everyone else in many various ways.
Orioles: I’m going to complain about a lot of other teams that didn’t make any trades before the deadline, but to me the Orioles are the worst offenders. They should have dumped some of their players. This team is not making the playoffs and is currently on a beeline to last place. So, trade your veterans to teams in need and get something back you can build with. There is a very thin silver lining – it could have been worse if they had traded for veterans themselves.
Nationals: Of all the teams that are already doing well right now, these guys needed to add a player to boost their team. Maybe they’re just so used to losing that they don’t know what to do when they’re winning. But they could look around and see what the other division-leaders are doing, copy that and then just pretend like it was their own original idea – kind of like Lady Gaga.
Padres: I would feel bad for this team if it wasn’t for the fact they get to live in San Diego – which has the only weather in the entire United States that people of L.A. envy. There was a lot of talk they would trade third baseman Chase Headley, but nothing happened even though they could have scored big for a player who really isn’t all that special. Normally I would put the Padres in the next section up and just give them a slap on the wrist. But this week they ridiculously signed their oft-injured closer Huston Street to a $14 million extension. I hate to get all math nerd on you, but now 1/8th of the team’s payroll goes to one player who pitches 1/30th of the team’s innings. So, unless he’s a great guy in the clubhouse, who cooks a mean BBQ and gives out happy endings, this is a waste of money.
Some good, some bad, mostly bad. Maybe not quite fire-able, but, yeah, just go ahead and fire them.
Rockies: My concern with this team is maybe they think they’re still in it this year. Was there anyone they could have moved? I don’t know. Does anyone care? I don’t think so. Do you remember before the season started when the team’s owner announced that manager Jim Tracy essentially had an infinity contract? I guess that was the Bath Salts talking.
Phillies: Boy, did this team turn into a stink burger fast, or what? Last year they won their division, and this year they’re in last place dumping anyone and everyone. They were rumored to be looking to trade away the struggling Cliff Lee and his entire 4-year/$100 million contract, but the deal fell apart when George Steinbrenner passed away a few years ago. I’m not pleased with what they got from the Giants for Hunter Pence, but since they basically stole him from the Astros last year, I guess it’s only fitting.
Oakland: I hate to be the ones to break it to these guys, but they are actually playing really well. But they need a shortstop and a second baseman to replace the zeros they currently have. I don’t think they should have gone all in, but they have so many trade-able pieces they could have done something. While I appreciate the conservative/cautious approach, they’re going to need to fill those positions at some point, so why not this year?
Blue Jays: Last year I touted these guys as the smartest guys in the room. This year I’m confused by what they’re doing. Maybe now they’re so much smarter than me that it’s all going over my head or maybe they don’t have any idea what they’re doing these days because they’re stuck in that division with three other monster teams and they’re overwhelmed by injuries and underperforming players. I know which one I think it is – but I’m biased because I don’t like feeling stupid.
Diamondbacks: Why you no make trade?! Sure, you’re in third place, but the two teams ahead of you ain’t so great. You’ve got some underperforming players and I guess it’s hard to figure out whether you are coming or going. Well, don’t just stand there. Do something. Trade some of your veterans and build for next year or get some players that will help you. To paraphrase a great philosopher: “Poop or get off the pot.”
Mets and Indians: You guys are out of it this year and everything that isn’t nailed down should have been traded. Do you even know how to build a playoff team? Take a long look at your teams as they are currently. Good. Let’s just be honest and admit these are not what playoff teams look like. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.
Mariners and Royals: You can’t be “rebuilding” forever. I know it’s easy for me to sit here and say you guys should have done more, but that’s because my chair is very comfortable.
In a way, you’d almost rather be a Stephen, because you’re out there mixing it up, but at least these guys didn’t screw everything up.
Marlins: A lot of people have their panties in a knot about Miami dumping players after blackmailing the local citizens into funding their stadium and spending like crazy in the last offseason. I love it (except for the blackmailing). You spend like nuts and then if it doesn’t work out, you trade away your players for quality young guys and salary relief.
Astros: Congratulations to the new Houston GM who is very clearly not the old Houston GM. He was able to dump just about every player who could bring even the slightest return. I would have ranked them in the Alecs, but there wasn’t much to actually trade away to start with. I feel it’s important to note that the former GM Ed Wade, who dumped the best Astros players on the Phillies year after year, used to work for the Phillies and now again works for the Phillies.
Giants: Everybody loves the trade they made for Pence. However, Pence’s numbers are very similar to the guy he’s replacing, so how is this an improvement? Sure, they didn’t have to give up much to get him, but maybe those resources could have gone to getting a shortstop to replace Brandon Crawford who still hasn’t figured out how to hit or a second base man or a hair stylist for Tim Lincecum. Typical Giants.
Yankees: Last year I was a little stunned that the Yankees didn’t do much. This year they didn’t do much again, but I’m okay with it. They kind of have everything they need with the exception of replacing the injured Alex Rodriguez at third, but he should be back by the time they make the playoffs.
Cardinals, Red Sox, Reds and Rays: The same goes for you guys. I would have preferred to see upgrades here or there, but it’s hard to say exactly what would have helped and with great players returning soon from injuries there’s no point in making a crazy trade just to appease the fans or the media. All they really want are wins and you’re doing just fine.
Twins and Brewers: I kinda like what you guys did. You’re not in it this year and you don’t have a bunch of assets to trade away. I would have preferred if the Twins found a way to trade Justin Morneau to one of the teams desperate for a first baseman (and they may yet) and for the Brewers to trade Rickie Weeks to one of the teams desperate for a second baseman (and they may yet).
There may have been some mistakes along the way, but I’m pleased with the overall results.
White Sox: For a team that has one of the worst collection of minor league prospects in the game, they really got a great haul for almost nothing. Kevin Youkilis and his “Ef you, Bobby Valentine” hitting, Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers all make this team a playoff contender.
Tigers: Here’s what I said last year: “They made solid improvements to make them just that much better and help them walk away with that terrible division they’re in.” Pretty much the same thing this year with the addition of Omar Infante and that pitcher whose name I can’t remember but who’s pretty good – though the White Sox should make sure the Tigers don’t “walk away” with the division.
Pirates: I love what these guys did. Again. They’re not built to win this year, but they added two young, cheap players with a lot of potential in Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez. And they didn’t have to give up much to get them. You’re getting there, Pittsburgh.
Braves: Last year they lost out on getting Pence from the Astros and got Michael Bourn from them instead. This year they lost out on Ryan Dempster from the Cubs and got Paul Maholm from them instead. Nicely done. Too bad Fredi Gonzalez is still the team’s mis-manager.
Rangers: Roy Oswalt has been a disappointment, so they went out and traded for Dempster. Their catching situation stinks, so they got Geovany Soto. But the reason they’re in the Alec section is because they held on to future stars Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt.
Dodgers: When I dreamed up this grading system, I never thought Ned Collettii would ever get as high as Billy, let alone Alec. Just so that my head does not explode, I’m going to assume that Ned’s been getting some help from new team owner Stan Kasten who is one smart dude. Los Angeles got Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino to boost their offense and, unlike past Colletti moves, the Dodgers were able to hold on to their top prospects.
Cubs: Almost a completely flawless trade deadline scenario pulled of masterfully. They didn’t screw anybody over, but they moved a lot of dead weight and pieces that were sure to go and they came very close to being the lone Alec if they had pulled off trading away Alfonso Soriano (which is Spanish for “very painful Albatross”).
As always, special thanks goes to the brothers Baldwin for existing and thereby helping clear things up at the trade deadline. Also like last year, this all took a little longer than I thought, but I’m assuming you made it this far if you are reading these words that I have typed.
Overall, there were a few more Alecs and Billys this year and the standard for the Daniels had to be raised to get some teams to qualify. I can only hope this bodes as well for the actual Baldwins as it does for baseball.