Sunday, July 31, 2016

Top 10 Worst New York Baseball Trades

This week, the Yankees went from having the best bullpen in baseball, a bulwark against totally falling out of the Playoff race, to not even having that.

They have traded Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for the already-failed-as-a-Yankee Adam Warren and seven guys who, at best, are 3 years away from making contributions at the major league level.

Not since the Philadelphia 76ers traded away Moses Malone and the top pick in the draft on June 15, 1986 has a sports team traded so much for so little so soon.

This is unacceptable. The Yankees had a chance at the Playoffs. It might not have been a good chance, but it was a chance. Now, they may not make the Playoffs again for years.


So, with tomorrow being the trading deadline, I wondered: What are the worst trades in New York baseball history?

The trading deadline was instituted in 1923, and was set at June 15 until 1986, when it was moved to July 31, except for years when that date falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, in which case it's moved to August 1.

Note: These are player-for-player deals, not free agent signings (so no Moises Alou by the Mets), refusals to sign a free agent (no Alex Rodriguez by the Mets), refusals to re-sign a free agent (no Reggie Jackson by the Yankees), purchases or sales.

And before I list the Top 10, let me remind you (or introduce you, if you're a relatively new reader of this blog) that I debunked the myth of perhaps the worst Yankee trade of recent memory: The 1988 trade of Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps was not a particularly damaging trade. Think of it as more of trading Jay Buhner for Paul O'Neill, and it becomes one of the best Yankee trades.

I'm also not going to include the most infamous transaction in the history of New York sports: June 15, 1977, the Mets trading Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, Pat Zachry and Dan Norman.

The Mets were horrible from 1977 to 1982, Seaver's time in Cincinnati, and having him would have made no difference at all. In contrast, Henderson was a good all-around player, Flynn a good-fielding 2nd baseman, and Zachry a decent pitcher. In the minds of Met fans (hold your jokes), it was devastating; in actual practice, it wasn't that big a deal, because the damage had already been done by previous trades.

I'm also not going to include the awful 1982 trade of Fred McGriff, Dave Collins and Mike Morgan from the Yankees to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. Murray was awful in his 3 Yankee seasons, Collins rebounded away from The Bronx, Morgan was still pitching in the majors as late as 2002 -- including in the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks, against the Yankees -- and McGriff hit 493 home runs, as many as Lou Gehrig.

Why not include this trade? Because McGriff was 19. He wouldn't debut in the majors until 1986. He was a 1st baseman. The Yankees had Don Mattingly, and lots of guys who could DH. They didn't really have a place for McGriff. What, were they going to move him to the outfield? He played 19 seasons in the majors, and never played in the outfield. So while this was a bad trade, it was not one of the 10 worst in New York baseball history.

Nor will I include the deadline trade of June 15, 1976 with the Baltimore Orioles. It is true that the O's having Scott McGregor, Rudy May, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey helped them a lot from 1977 to 1983. It is also true that the Yankees could have used them all, especially Dempsey, who could have succeeded Thurman Munson, from 1979 onward. But the Yankees got Ken Holtzman, Doyle Alexander, Grant Jackson and Elrod Hendricks, all of whom were crucial in winning the 1976 Pennant. Holtzman would also be key in the 1977 World Series triumph.

I couldn't find a trade that the Brooklyn Dodgers made that was bad enough to make the Top 10. I did find one for the New York Giants, though.

Top 10 Worst New York Baseball Trades

Dishonorable Mention. December 8, 1966: The Yankees trade Roger Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charley Smith.

The Yankee brass had treated Maris badly. Now, they traded him for a nothing infielder who had already failed with 5 teams, including the Mets. In terms of decency, this one is right down there with the '77 Seaver trade for the worst in New York baseball history.

Free of Yankee management and the New York media, and happy to play for a team and a fan base that made him feel welcome, Maris helped the Cards win the 1967 World Series and the 1968 Pennant, then accepted Cardinal and Anheuser-Busch owner Gussie Busch's retirement gift of a beer distributorship in sunny Gainesville, Florida -- quite a prize for someone who grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota.

As for Smith? In 2 seasons in The Bronx, he batted .224 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs. At age 30, the Yankees traded him, and after another year he had played his last big-league game.

I can't rank this trade any higher, because, while Maris won in St. Louis, keeping him in New York wouldn't have done him or the team much good.

Dishonorable Mention. August 27, 1992: The Mets trade David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and a player to be named later, who, 5 days later, turned out to be Ryan Thompson.

Cone was going to be a free agent after the season, and the Mets probably didn't think they could re-sign him, so they wanted to get something for him, and figured Kent and Thompson were good compensation.

It's easy to forget now that Cone wasn't yet a Met when they won the 1986 World Series. They got him from the Kansas City Royals during the following spring training. Well, with the Mets, he won the 1988 NL Eastern Division title... and that's it. Afterward, he reached the postseason 6 times, winning the World Series 5 times: With the Jays in 1992, and with the Yankees in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 -- against the Mets. Indeed, he was so successful with the Yankees, it's almost easy to forget he ever was a Met. He was 81-51 with them, 113-75 with everybody else.

Thompson didn't do much as a Met. Kent had some power, but provided little in the way of either wins or excitement. So the Mets let him go when he was 28, just moving into his prime. More about that later.

Dishonorable Mention. December 20, 1926: The New York Giants trade their 2nd baseman and Captain, Frankie Frisch, and Jimmy Ring to the St. Louis Cardinals for Rogers Hornsby.

At first, this blockbuster deal looked great for the Giants. Frisch had quit the team after Giant manager John McGraw berated him in front of his teammates for missing a sign. Giants management refused to step in and straighten things out between the manager and his best player. And Ring was a mediocre pitcher nearing the end of the line. In exchange, the Giants got Hornsby, also a 2nd baseman, and the best hitter in the National League.

The trade was great -- for the Cardinals. Hornsby's attitude was considerably worse than Frisch's, and McGraw had enough of him that 1st season, trading him afterward. The Giants didn't win another Pennant until 1933, after McGraw retired. Helped tremendously by a change of scenery, teammates and bosses, Frisch helped the Cardinals win Pennants in 1928, '30, '31 and, as player-manager of a team that became known as the Gashouse Gang, '34. This, on top of the Pennants he'd won as a Giant in '21, '22, '23 and '24.

Dishonable Mention. December 3, 1969: The Mets trade Amos Otis and Bob Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for Joe Foy.

Otis was a center fielder. The Mets had Tommie Agee in center. They didn't need another center fielder. What they did need, perennially, was a 3rd baseman. (This subject will come up again.) So they traded Otis, 22 and with 168 major league plate appearances under his belt, and Johnson (who you don't need to consider) for Foy, a 26-year-old New York native with power and speed, who'd helped the Boston Red Sox win the 1967 American League Pennant.

In Kansas City, Otis became a 5-time All-Star, a 3-time Gold Glove winner, a 2-time .300 hitter, an AL leader in doubles twice and in stolen bases once, and a 4-time postseason performer. In New York, Foy decreased his hitting and increased a drug problem that the Mets didn't know about before the trade. After the 1970 season, they left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. He was taken by the Washington Senators, played 1971 with them, and never played in the major leagues again.

If the Red Sox had finished the job in the 1986 World Series, as they very nearly did, we would now be talking about a 47-year title drought for the Mets and The Curse of Amos Otis.

Now, the Top 10. Or the Bottom 10, if you prefer.

10. January 22, 1918: The Yankees trade Urban Shocker, Fritz Maisel, Les Nunamaker, Nick Cullop, Joe Gedeon and $15,000 to the St. Louis Browns for Eddie Plank and Del Pratt.

Today, a man with a name like "Urban Shocker" would be welcomed with open arms in New York sports. (He was of French-Canadian descent, born Urbain Jacques Shockcor in Cleveland.) After the 1917 season, Shocker, a righthander, was 12-8, and didn't look like anything special.

Well, from 1918 to 1924, he went 126-80 for the Browns -- an average of 18-11. He won 27 games in 1921 and 24 in 1922. The Browns nearly beat the Yankees out for the Pennant in 1922, having probably the franchise's best team until they became the Baltimore Orioles and won their 1st World Series in 1966. Shocker's absence nearly cost the Yankees the Pennant in '22, and may have cost them the Pennant in '20 (20-10) and '24 (16-13). Never mind the other players the Yankees gave up: Getting rid of Shocker was a mistake.

What about what they got in return? Plank was a genuine Hall-of-Fame pitcher, with a career record of 326-194 before the trade. But he was 42 and never threw another professional pitch, retiring because the stress of the game had given him stomach problems. (The stress must have gotten worse: He died of a stroke in 1926, just 8 years after the trade.)

Pratt was a good 2nd baseman, and led the AL in RBIs in 1916. In 1920, he attained career highs for the Yankees in batting .314 with 108 RBIs. But the Yankees traded him anyway -- to the Red Sox for pitcher Waite Hoyt and catcher Wally Schang.

In his 1979 book This Date In New York Yankees History, Nathan Salant called trading Shocker away the worst trade in Yankee history to that point. But there are 2 reasons it isn't that bad: The fact that it was, essentially, Shocker for Hoyt (a Hall-of-Famer) and Schang (an All-Star-caliber player, had there been an All-Star Game back then); and the fact that they Yankees did get Shocker back from the Browns, sending them another star pitcher, Bullet Joe Bush, and 2 other guys.

Shocker helped them win the 1926 Pennant and the 1927 World Series, but had a bad heart, and died in 1928. He was only 38.

9. December 12, 1975: The Mets trade Rusty Staub and Bill Laxton to the Detroit Tigers for Mickey Lolich and Billy Baldwin.

Laxton and Baldwin (no relation to the Long Island acting family that includes a Billy Baldwin) are footnotes. The Mets needed pitching, and thought Lolich, a hero of 2 postseason runs for the Tigers, had something left, so they were willing to give up Le Grand Orange in his prime.

Lolich didn't have anything left. Maybe Rusty wouldn't have hit as well in Shea's dimensions and wind as he did toward Tiger Stadium's short right field porch. But the Mets missed his bat: He averaged 19 home runs and 106 RBIs over the next 3 seasons. This was one of the trades that made the Seaver trade a confirmation of the already-present collapse, not the start of one.

By the time the Mets got Staub back, he was fat and slow, and little more than an occasionally-good pinch hitter.

8. December 11, 1986: The Mets trade one left fielder for another, Kevin Mitchell to the San Diego Padres for Kevin McReynolds.

McReynolds got booed because the Mets weren't winning anymore, and, as someone who was not a member of their 1986 World Champions, he was a convenient target. His career stats and Mitchell's were very close, and he certainly didn't deserve the poor treatment he got. There were far worse players the Mets could have acquired.

But they shouldn't have gotten rid of Mitchell. The Padres soon traded him to the San Francisco Giants, and he became an All-Star, helping them reach the Playoffs in 1987 and the World Series in his MVP year of 1989. He batted .326 as a regular with the 1994 Cincinnati Reds, and was still productive as late as 1996. The Mets could have used him in their close-call seasons of 1987, '88, '89 and '90.

I have called the Mets' failure to win another World Series for almost 30 years now "The Curse of Kevin Mitchell." The trade isn't the biggest reason they didn't win another Pennant until 2000. (There were injuries, and there was substance abuse, and some guys just dropped off without a rational explanation.) But, like McReynolds, it is a convenient symbol.

7. December 27, 2001: The Mets trade pitcher Kevin Appier to the Anaheim Angels (as the team was then known) for 1st baseman Mo Vaughn.

With the Red Sox, Vaughn had been a good slugger and, despite his weight, a good fielder. But with the Angels, he was plagued with injuries, including missing the entire 2001 season. When the trade was made, the Angels' closer, Troy Percival, took an unnecessary shot at him: "We may miss Mo's bat, but we won't miss his leadership. Darin Erstad is our leader." Mo lost his cool, and launched a foul-mouthed fusillade against the Angels: "They ain't done shit in this game... They ain't got no flags hanging at friggin' Edison Field, so the hell with them."

Mo always hit well against the Yankees, and you'd think his game-winning home run against them in an Interleague game on June 16, 2002 would have endeared him to the Flushing Faithful. But his rising weight and his injuries kept him from being productive, and Met fans booed him. 2002 turned out to be the Mets' 1st losing season since 1996, and their never-finished Mike Piazza Era renaissance was over.

Vaughn last played for them, or for anybody else, on May 2, 2003. He was also later outed as a steroid user. However, he has done good work since retiring, rehabilitating urban housing in New York and Boston.

Appier? In his 1st season with the Angels, he helped them win the World Series. Now, there is a friggin' flag at Edison Field, or Angel Stadium of Anaheim as it's now known.

Just 16 days before this trade, the Mets made one with the Cleveland Indians to get Roberto Alomar. He got old in a hurry, and was terribly booed at Shea in 2002 and 2003. But the Mets weren't going anywhere anyway, and they didn't give much up to get him, so I can't put this trade on the list, even as a Dishonorable Mention.

6. December 2, 1971: The Yankees trade pitcher Stan Bahnsen to the Chicago White Sox for 3rd baseman Rich McKinney.

Bahnsen was the 1968 AL Rookie of the Year, and had won 14 games in 1970 and 1971. The Yankees sure could have used the 21 he won for the White Sox in 1972, as they finished just 6 1/2 games out of 1st place in the American League Eastern Division. Bahnsen also won 18 games in 1973, although the ChiSox fell apart and he also lost 21; the Yankees finished 17 back that season.

In contrast, McKinney, the man the Yankees hoped would be better at playing 3rd base and hitting than incumbent Jerry Kenney, proved even more inept: He batted .215 and made 8 errors in 33 games before manager Ralph Houk had enough and sent him down to the minors at the end of May. They dumped him off to the World Champion Oakland Athletics after the season, for an aging Matty Alou.

In Oakland, McKinney probably felt out of place among Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue. He only played another 147 games in the majors, last appeared at age 30, and had a lifetime OPS+ of 48 -- meaning he was 52 percent beneath the average hitter of that time.

If the Yankees hadn't made the trade, and kept Bahnsen and continued to trust Kenney as their 3rd baseman, and won the AL East, they probably would have lost the AL Championship Series to the A's. But at least their postseason drought wouldn't have seemed so long by the time Chris Chambliss hit that Pennant-winning home run in 1976, and team president Mike Burke, about to talk CBS into selling the team to George Steinbrenner's group, would have salvaged his baseball reputation before George came in and wrote the myth that he saved the team.

In the aforementioned book This Date in New York Yankees History, Salant rated this trade as the 2nd-worst transaction in Yankee history up to its publication in 1979.

However, still needing a 3rd baseman, on November 27, 1972, 6 weeks before George & Co. bought the team -- and with Indians president Gabe Paul probably making this trade knowing that he'd be Yankee president under Steinbrenner -- the Yankees sent Kenney, John Ellis, Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres to the Cleveland Indians for Jerry Moses and Graig Nettles.

Trading Bahnsen for McKinney was stupid. But trading Kenney, Ellis, Spikes and Torres -- and, effectively, Bahnsen -- for Nettles was good. So maybe it all worked out for the best.

Is this the worst trade in Yankee history? Such is the Mets' history that it wasn't even the worst trade by a New York baseball team that month.

5A. July 5, 2002: A 3-team deal. The Yankees trade Ted Lilly, John-Ford Griffin and Jason Arnold (a minor-leaguer who never made it) to the Oakland Athletics. The A's send Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena and Franklyn German to the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers send the A's cash. And the Tigers send the Yankees Jeff Weaver. From the Yankee perspective, this was essentially a trade of pitchers: Lilly for Weaver.

Lilly was considered a great prospect. He did well after leaving the Yankees, and lots of people said the Yankees never should have gotten rid of him. Wrong: He was never going to handle the pressure of pitching in New York.

Weaver sure as hell didn't. As a Yankee, he was 12-12 with a 5.35 ERA and a WHIP of 1.492. A whopping WHIP. He should never have been on the 2003 World Series roster: He almost prevented the Yankees from making the Playoffs that season. But Joe Torre trusted him in extra innings in Game 4. With one pitch to Alex Gonzalez of the Florida Marlins, Weaver turned a good shot at being up 3 games to 1 to losing the Series 4 games to 2.

Weaver's middle name is Charles. Since the 2003 World Series, however, in the tradition of what Red Sox fans call Bucky Dent, I have continually referred to him as "Jeff Fucking Weaver." The Yankees wasted little time in getting rid of him.

When the Dodgers made their 1st trip to New York to play the Mets in 2004, I bought a ticket -- just to yell at Weaver. The Met fans, who apparently never watch the World Series unless their team is in it (in other words, hardly ever), were clueless. I mean, more so than usual.

Then again, maybe getting rid of him was an even worse idea:

5B. December 13, 2003: The Yankees trade Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban and Brandon Weeden to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kevin Brown.

Brown had won the World Series with the 1997 Marlins and the Pennant with the 1998 San Diego Padres. Before that, he had pitched well for the Texas Rangers, especially against the Yankees. (Having him to start in Games 1 and 4, and maybe 7 if it got that far, was a big reason Padre fans and Yankee Haters thought the Padres would win the 1998 World Series. Instead, the Yankees swept.) The Dodgers signed him to baseball's 1st $100+ million contract for 1999, and he wasn't terrible: He won 18 games that year, and led the NL in ERA the next.

Although he would be 39 on Opening Day 2004, he was good the season before, and, having lost Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte to free agency, the Yankees thought he was worth a shot. But he only went 10-6. Late in the season, after a beating, he punched the dugout wall and broke his hand. Hi

He wasn't out for the season. The Yankees might have been better off if he was: Torre looked at his exhausted staff, and decided that Brown was the best choice to start Game 7 of the 2004 AL Championship Series. My 78-year-old grandmother might have been a better choice: It was the single most embarrassing game in Yankee history.

He went 4-7 for the Yankees the next year, was not re-signed, and retired. He was 211-144 with a 127 ERA+ and a 1.222 WHIP, but his very decent career had a terribly indecent last year and change.

Meanwhile, Weaver helped the Dodgers win the NL Western Division in 2004 and 2009. In between, he was with the St. Louis Cardinals, and helped them win the 2006 World Series. Think about that for a moment: Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski and Don Mattingly don't have a single World Series ring between them, but Jeff Weaver does. Jeff Weaver has as many World Series rings as Willie Mays, as many as Hank Aaron, as many as Tom Seaver, as many as Nolan Ryan, as many as Jackie Robinson.

The hell?

4. Joint Entry: The Javier Vazquez Chronicles. The Yankees made 3 trades involving the righthanded pitcher from Ponce, Puerto Rico -- and they got progressively worse.

On December 16, 2003, the Yankees traded Nick Johnson, Randy Choate and Juan Rivera to the Montreal Expos for Javier Vazquez. At first, this didn't look like a bad deal. Rivera was a nothing player. Choate was so bad out of the bullpen, I called him "Randy Choke." And Johnson was constantly injured and unable to live up to his promise. Vazquez went 14-10 for the Yankees in 2004, and made the All-Star Team.

But he gave up home runs. Some people thought he should have started Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS instead of Kevin Brown. Torre brought him in to relieve Brown when down 3-0. Instead, Vazquez gave up a grand slam to Johnny Damon that essentially ended the chance at a comeback, the game, the season, and the Curse of the Bambino. After that, he was nicknamed "Home Run Javy."

Before he could appear for the Yankees again, on January 11, 2005 he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks with Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey and cash for Randy Johnson. Johnson gave the Yankees the 2 most useless 17-win seasons any pitcher has ever had, choking in Game 3 of the AL Division Series in both 2005 and 2006, and then leaving. Navarro and Halsey never amounted to much, but Vazquez settled down a bit, bouncing around, at one point being traded for former Yankee Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.

On December 22, 2009, the Yankees traded Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, Arodys Vizcaino and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Vazquez and Boone Logan. You don't need to consider Dunn or Vizcaino. Just note that Melky, for all his difficulties (including getting caught using PEDs), would have been a big help to the Yankees the last few years, while Logan might have been the worst reliever in Yankee history, and Vazquez went 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA in 2010.

His contract having run out at the end of the season, the Yankees didn't lift a finger to re-sign him, and he pitched 1 more season with the Marlins, and retired. He was 165-160 for his career. He had 4 good seasons, and only 1 really bad one, his rookie year with the Expos, 1998. His other 9 seasons, including his 2 with the Yankees, 2004 and 2010, were mediocre.

But that last trade, giving up the Melkman for Home Run Javy and Logan's Litany of Losing, oy vey.

3. October 21, 1981: The Yankees trade center fielder Willie McGee to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes.

When the Yankees made this trade, Jerry Mumphrey, a decent player, was their center fielder, and McGee was about to turn 23 and had yet to make his major league debut. He was a prospect, but he was not being considered as the breakout star of 1982. Meanwhile, Sykes, a native of Neptune, New Jersey, was about to turn 27, but his career record was only 23-26. The Yankees thought he could be a good lefthanded complement to Goose Gossage in the bullpen.

Sykes was injured, got shelled in Triple-A ball in 1982, and never pitched again. In 1982, McGee helped the Cardinals win the World Series (including making a great catch therein), and finished 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He would go on to win the 1985 NL batting title and MVP, win another batting title in 1990 (despite being traded to the AL at the deadline), bat .300 as late as 1997 (age 38), bat .295 lifetime, collect 2,254 hits (more than Joe DiMaggio), steal 352 bases, win 3 Gold Gloves, and appear in 6 postseasons including 4 World Series (though he only won the 1, in 1982).

The Cardinals have unofficially retired his Number 51, and there are people who think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Certainly, the Yankees could have used him as their center fielder until Bernie Williams was ready, especially in the close-call years of 1985 to 1988. Awful trade by the Yankees.

2. December 10, 1971: The Mets trade Nolan Ryan, Leroy Stanton, Frank Estrada and Don Rose to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi.

Ryan showed a lot of promise, and pitched well for the Mets in the 1969 World Series, but had never found his control in Flushing Meadow. And they still needed a 3rd baseman: Ed Charles had retired, and Wayne Garrett was a placeholder at best. Fregosi was one of the best shortstops in the game, but the Mets already had Bud Harrelson, who couldn't hit to save his life, but was a very good fielder. So they figured they'd move Fregosi over to 3rd.

There was nothing wrong with wanting a healthy Jim Fregosi on your team: He was a very good all-around player. The problem was, by 1971, he was already dealing with the injuries that would curtail his career. He wasn't the answer for the Mets.

Estrada and Rose are footnotes. But Stanton became a good hitter in Anaheim. And Ryan? With the Mets, he was 29-38 with 493 strikeouts. After the trade, he was 295-254 with 5,221 strikeouts and 7 no-hitters. (It should be noted, though, that he made the postseason 4 times afterward and never won a Pennant, while he did win a ring with the Mets.)

Did not having Ryan make a difference? Met fans still complain that Yogi Berra, their manager in 1973, started Seaver on 3 days' rest in Game 6 of the World Series, instead of holding him back for a potential Game 7, and had to throw Jon Matlack in Game 7.

Presuming Ryan wouldn't have blown it for the Mets in the regular season or the NL Championship Series (that was the year he pitched 2 no-hitters and set a major league single-season record that still stands with 383 strikeouts), he would have been available for either Game 6 or Game 7. Maybe adding no Pennants and just 1 World Championship doesn't sound like much, but think of what having 3 World Championships, instead of 2, would have meant to Met fans. Unlike the trade of Seaver in '77, this one did hurt them.

But that's not the worst trade in Met, or New York baseball, history. The worst is one that tends to get forgotten. And we just passed the 20th Anniversary of it:

1. July 29, 1996: The Mets trade Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino to the Cleveland Indians for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza.

At the time, this looked like a great trade for the Amazin's: Baerga was considered, along with Roberto Alomar, 1 of the 2 best 2nd basemen in baseball; Kent, the most disappointing player at that position. Espinoza, a Yankee from 1988 to 1991, was a good backup shortstop who could also played 2nd and 3rd base. And Vizcaino was an old-style good-field-no-hit middle infielder. It seemed like a no-brainer.

It was, but not in the way the Mets or their fans expected: Baerga was a flop in Flushing, while Espinoza was near the end of the line. Now, the Indians didn't benefit much from the trade, either: After the season, they traded Kent and Vizcaino to the San Francisco Giants for Matt Williams. (Each team also included another player that didn't matter much.) Williams helped the Tribe win a Pennant, while Kent helped the Jints win one, reached the postseason 8 times in his career, won the NL MVP in 2000, and finished with 377 home runs, 351 while playing 2nd base, still a record. (His personality wasn't much, but he could hit.)

The Mets needed to win 1 of their last 5 games in 1998 to get the NL's Wild Card berth. They won exactly none. They lost the 1999 NLCS to the hated Atlanta Braves. They lost the 2000 World Series to the even more hated Yankees. Kent could have made a big difference.

Oh yeah, about that 2000 World Series: It was essentially decided in the 12th inning of Game 1, on a game-winning single for the Yankees by... Jose Vizcaino.

So this might be an even more damaging trade than Ryan for Fregosi. Certainly, it was more damaging than the trade that brought Kent to the Mets.

No comments: