Monday, March 29, 2010

7 of the Worst Trades in Baseball History


The negotiations for trading players between major league ballclubs can be tense, drawn-out matters, because you just never know what you're actually going to get or give away (especially when it comes to prospects) until the deal is done. With 7 days remaining until Opening Day, here are my picks for 7 trades that I'll bet each club would love to have been able to take back:

#7: 12/9/82 Philadelphia Phillies trade FIVE players to Cleveland Indians to get Von Hayes

During his unremarkable stint in Philadelphia, Von Hayes was known as "Old 5-for-1" thanks to this deal. One of the baseball trivia questions is: Can you name the five players the Phillies dealt away for Hayes? Answer: Manny Trillo, Julio Franco, George Vuckovich, Jay Baller and Jerry Willard. The biggest names there, Trillo and Franco, were at the end and beginning of their careers respectively, and Hayes was a hot commodity at the time, but five players for one?

#6: 1/27/82 Philadelphia Phillies trade Larry Bowa and Ryne Sandberg to Chicago Cubs for Ivan DeJesus
Yeah, a month later, the Phils made an ever more lunkheaded trade, again sending away a supposedly aging veteran and an untested rookie to get a fair-to-middling player. In this case, Bowa put in some decent years with Chicago and Ryne Sandberg went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career. Ivan DeJesus? Not so much...

#5: 12/10/82 San Diego Padres trade Ozzie Smith to St. Louis Cardinals for Gary Templeton
Whatever was affecting the minds of the Phillie's brass when it came to trading in the winter of '82 was also in the air in San Diego. Smith was still early in his career, but his abilities certainly were not a question. Gary Templeton was a decent shortstop, but nowhere near The Wizard's level. What were they thinking?

#4: 7/31/97 Oakland A's trade Mark McGwire to St. Louis Cardinals for TJ Matthews, Blake Stein and Eric Ludwick

Fifteen years later the Cardinals were still stealing bargains from California-based teams, this time picking up one of the game's most noted (and most controversial) sluggers for the equivalent of a handful of magic beans.

#3 8/30/90 Boston Red Sox trade Jeff Bagwell to Houston Astros for Larry Andersen
Ah yes, the classic prospect-for-veteran trade. The Astros were looking for late-season pitching help, and figured, hey, it's only going to cost us one prospect. Bagwell turned out to be one helluva prospect, and Andersen still chuckles about being involved in this trade.

#2 12/9/65 Cincinnati Reds trade Frank Robinson to Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson
The Reds figured that at age 30, former NL MVP Frank Robinson's best years were behind him, but that he'd be enough of a name on trading market to bring them a few good prospects. Pappas was probably the best of the three they picked up, and he wasn't that good. Old Man Robinson? Oh, he just went on that year to win the Triple Crown and AL MVP honors for Baltimore...

#1 12/10/71 New York Mets trade four players for Jim Fregosi
One shy of matching the Von Hayes 5-for-1 deal in numbers, this may have been the worst trade ever. Fregosi would be much more successful as a manager than as a ballplayer, although he was no slouch on the field. Three of the four players the Mets traded (Don Rose, Leroy Stanton and Francisco Estrada) didn't accomplish a whole heckuva lot. But the fourth player they traded away in the deal? Some hard-throwing pitcher the Mets didn't feel had the control to be successful. He went on to prove them very, very wrong. His name was Nolan Ryan.

Any head-scratchers I missed? Share your favorite terrible trades in the comments section below!

New Wave for the New Week #59

Marilyn in M√ľnchen, January 1984Image via Wikipedia

The Music Industry doesn't like to take gambles, unless it's betting on a sure thing - or a reasonably good knock-off of a sure thing. For a period of time back in 1982-1983, there was no surer thing than Boy George's band Culture Club. George's pseudo-reggae/soul-crooner hybrid sound and scandalous (but not threateningly so) gender-bending had made him a world-wide star, and Culture Club's string of six straight Top-10 singles and two Top-20 albums on the US charts made that particular formula seem like a winner.

And so the Music Industry, hoping to cash in on that successful formula, went searching for the next Boy George. On these shores, they never quite succeeded; in the UK, however, they thought they had found him in one of George's fellow London scenesters, Peter Robinson.

Robinson went by the name of Marilyn, and was well-known (along with Boy George) in the British club scene as one of the "Blitz Kids," a group of regulars at Steve Strange's The Blitz nightclub, a venue that was a focal point of the early-'80s New Romantic movement: Strange was a founding member of the group Visage; members of Spandau Ballet first came together there as well.

UK-based Phonogram Records signed Marilyn in the hopes that he would realize the same sort of success as Boy George. Marilyn landed a cameo in The Eurythmic's video for "Who's That Girl?" and, perhaps more famously, became the answer to the trivia question "Who is that blonde in the yellow shirt in the 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' video?" People were starting to notice; Marliyn's name was popping up in various music magazines, especially in the UK. Now it was time to deliver the goods: an actual record.

Things began promisingly enough with Marilyn's debut single, "Calling Your Name." A catchy bit of bubblegum-soul that went Top Ten in the UK and Australia and hit #1 in Japan, "Calling Your Name" hinted that Phonogram's gamble had paid off.

It hadn't. Culture Club had run out of steam and the Boy George backlash had already begun by mid-1985 when Marilyn's debut album Despite Straight Lines landed on store shelves. Even worse, the album was terrible. Marilyn's thin voice was not even up to the bland formulaic Culture Club-lite music written for him. He received virtually no airplay at all in the US, and the album - and Marilyn - sank without a trace.

25 years on, Marilyn is little more than a New Wave footnote, still leaving people scratching their heads when they try to name all the artists involved on that old Band Aid Christmas record. The shame of it is, "Calling Your Name" is really a very good song that got lost in the muddle of a misdirected and poorly-timed attempt at a Music Industry cash-in. So, this week's NW4NW entry rescues "Calling Your Name" from oblivion for your listening enjoyment:


Marilyn - Calling Your Name
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