Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The worst trade ever made

I will always remember the day that Mike Piazza was traded by the Dodgers.

But it's not because the trade was epic in terms of the players involved, the moving of a franchise player, or even the colossal stupidity of the transaction. It's because I was in a hospital room on May 15, 1998.

My daughter was less than two months old and very ill. It was a difficult time but, thankfully, mercifully brief. Because of the upheaval at the time, I didn't pay much attention to the trade. I remember reading about it in a haze while at the hospital, thinking "well, that doesn't seem terribly smart" and moving on to more important matters.

This week marks the 13th anniversary of that trade, and now I can view it as it should be viewed -- as the worst trade the Dodgers ever made.

Yes, even worse than Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields. The Dodgers GOT pitching. How many times do they have a power-hitting, above-.300 catcher? Have you seen their lineup over the last decade?

Still, the Piazza trade wasn't about who the Dodgers lost, or who they received -- Bobby Bo (ugh), Gary Sheffield (good but cranky), Jim Eisenreich (a throw-in) and Charles Johnson (ammunition to trade for Todd Hundley later -- double ugh). It was about the moment. This trade signaled that the Dodgers were now like every other team. They made ridiculously short-sighted decisions, too.

I've written about this before. For years, I considered the Dodgers above other teams. Maybe only fans of the Yankees have been able to do this over the years. The Dodgers knew how to build a winning team, knew how to run a ballpark, treated their fans well, and treated their players and coaches well.

That was before Fox strolled into town (March 19, 1998), Piazza was traded (the afore mentioned May 15, 1998) and manager Bill Russell was fired (June 21, 1998). Thanks to Fox's scorched-earth policy, my team was now different forever. It would now have years of respectability, mixed with years of stupidity, all the while scrambling to stay afloat, much like every other team in the majors.

The Associated Press likes using the term "once-proud franchise" with the Dodgers when referring to the current Frank McCourt issues. I'd say AP is 13 years too late. L.A. began to stray from the Dodger way when the O'Malleys sold the team.

Recently, dayf sent me some cards, along with a few notes reminding me -- you know, in case I have somehow not been aware of the situation -- that McCourt is a piece of crap. But the cards he sent were illustration that McCourt is only extending the slow descent begun by Fox ownership.

That's because the bulk of what he sent were Piazzas:

I don't know why a Braves fan has so many cards of a noted Dodger and Met, but it helps me illustrate how far my team has fallen -- it all began with the Piazza trade.

Prior to Piazza's move to the Marlins, Dodger stars who came up through their system were not traded unless they were near the end of their careers. Players would leave through free agency (Garvey, Sutton, John), but L.A. would very rarely deal a homegrown player in the prime of their career. I can think of Frank Howard and Bill Buckner (maybe Maury Wills, too), and that's it.

Piazza, of course, went on to hit 250 home runs not with the Dodgers. Plus, he left his fellow Rookie of the Year award-winner, and former bachelor beach buddy, alone.

The trade really derailed any momentum that the franchise had at that point. I know they weren't playing up to their potential in the late '90s, but patience was not Fox's strong point.

Even with all the Rookies of the Year that the Dodgers had on their roster at that time, the Piazza trade helped to banish L.A. to a series of second- and third-place finishes.

Piazza's successor at catcher never panned out either. He was kind of a lazy ass. Cool auto card, though.

The Dodgers improved after Fox allowed McCourt to purchase a controlling interest in the franchise in 2004. But I think most of the credit goes to a productive farm system and player development. The Dodgers never have been able to get all the pieces of running a franchise to work in sync under the McCourts.

Today, very little is working. Although I still remain fiercely proud of my team, I fall back on history a lot more these days.

The history that I remember.

And the history that I don't (was dayf the only one who bought cards from these SuperTeams sets??? I have never seen them except in trades with him).

The Dodgers certainly endured crappy seasons under O'Malley ownership (late 1960s, 1979, 1992). But they were always able to bounce back.

Since the Piazza trade, I don't think L.A. has been able to bounce back. The trips to the playoffs in 2008-09 were nice, but was it an indication of something greater to come? I really have my doubts now.

Here are two more cards that dayf sent:

They are two 1971 cards for my set completion quest. I am down to needing just 20 cards to finish off the set.

I'm sure you noticed that neither player is a Dodger.

They have something else in common.

Both players competed for just one team throughout their entire career. And they both won World Series titles.

Piazza should have been given the same chance with the Dodgers.

Sometimes you just have to stop tinkering. Let things unfold and play out. You'll be surprised by what might happen.

Instead, we have people talking about Piazza going into the Hall as Met.

Thanks, Fox, for getting the ball rolling ... downhill.


  1. Nice write up, and thanks for the Piazza cards you sent me. I kind of thought that the Dodgers would be very good this year with all the pitching they have. They need another hitter though. I think Blake will help a bit when he comes back.

  2. The John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander trade still sticks in my craw.

  3. I think that is one of the main problems with baseball and generally all of sports nowadays. No more loyalty to the fans from both the players and owners.

    That is why I love Todd Helton, because he is a lifelong Rockie. Sure there were free agents that could have been an upgrade, but I am happy he stuck around and the ownership stuck with him.

    BTW, I think Piazza should be a Dodger in the Hall (either that or a Padre) hehe.

  4. I think about the Piazza trade a lot when someone sends me a stack of Piazza cards. Nice cards thought.

  5. Whew, the worst trade ever. At first I thought you didn't like the last cards I sent you !!

    Great post.When I think Piazza, I think Dodgers (I was a Dodger in Little League, They are actually my second favorite team !)