A History of Mystifying Sports Trades

Trevor Rechnitz, Online EIC

How many of us have played the role-playing GM game at least once in our lives? We say “if I were running this team, things would be a whole hell of a lot different,” and then we put the footrest up, take another sip of our drink and keep cheering for someone to blindside Tim Tebow. In the good old days we managed our baseball card teams; now we run the fantasy football league. Some of us have grown into diehard Bay Area sports fans and may go on to have a real place in sports.

Even though we may hate some of the trades our GMs pull, sports, above all, is a business. Teams are doing what they can to win. However, to the demise of teams, fan bases, and franchises in general, trades often backfire.
For anyone considering a career in the sports management business, be weary of the following horrible sports trades (especially in the Bay Area). In the spirit of never making the same mistake twice, the analyzed trades are in chronological order.

First and foremost, arguably the worst trade in sports history: The Red Sox sold the Babe. Looking for cash to finance the musical “No, No, Nanette,” Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold baseball’s greatest player to the Yankees for $100,000, plus a $300,000 loan, in 1920. Ruth hit 54 home runs in 1920, three more than his three closest challengers combined. He hit 59 the following year. Starting in 1923, Ruth led the league in home runs eight of the next nine seasons, peaking at 60 in 1927.

With the sale of Ruth, Frazee became anathema in Boston (and still is). One night when he still owned the Red Sox, he and a young lady took a taxi to Fenway Park. The cabbie overheard his boasts about the team he owned and asked if his passenger really was the Harry Frazee. Frazee said he was. The driver flattened him with one punch.

Next, in more recent Bay Area history, the San Francisco Giants traded prospects Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan for Twins catcher AJ Pierzynski. With the Giants, Pierzyski hit .272 with 11 homeruns and 77 RBI’s and led the team in hitting in to double plays. He spent one season in San Francisco before leaving as a free agent. Meanwhile, Nathan had 44 saves for the Minnesota Twins and is now their all-time saves leader.

Although Giants fans should be more than happy with Brian Wilson closing out games, Nathan, if developed with the Giants, could have been traded for a mid-lineup power hitter, like Michael Bourne, or James Loney. Brian Sabean, the Giants general manager went home with his tail between his legs on this trade, and he took a harder slap to the face when Pierzynski left for the White Sox and won the World Series in 2005.Liriano is also performing well above where Sabean projected him.

Lastly, the motivation for this analysis on horrible trading, the Golden State Warriors traded Monta Ellis, Kwame Brown, and Ekpe Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks for Stephen “Cap’n Jack” Jackson and injury-prone center Andrew Bogut. There is no doubt that Bogut is a solid player when he’s healthy, but the Warriors didn’t make a significant upgrade at any position with this trade, and traded away consistent offensive production in Ellis and a somewhat coordinated big man in Udoh.

Originally, the Warriors wanted Dwight Howard for Ellis, and settling for Bogut is beyond dumb. In addition, Bogut and Jackson don’t fit in to the Warriors transition basketball style of play. The Bucks got an absolute steal on this one, in one of the most lopsided NBA trades since the Nets dumped Julius Erving.

As long as there are sports, there will be sports trades, and as long as there are sports trades there will be bad sports trades. I mean, if I had 5,000 words, I would start to write about the Oakland Athletics’ trade history. Bad sports trades make following teams and sports a challenge, but they’re part of the game. So to all of you disheartened Bay Area sports fans, stay positive, dream of October 2010, and send Monta postcards.