There is that great moment during Annie Savoy's (aka Susan Sarandon) soliliquoy at the beginning of "Bull Durham" when she laments that trades are a part of baseball, then invoking one of the most famous, Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson.
It was a swap that did not work out so well, although on paper, it looked like a good trade. Pappas was 27, going into those infamous peak years, and had been 110-74, 3.24 over nine years with Baltimore. Robinson, at 29, had spent a decade with the Reds, going .303-324-1009, but his success so exceeded that of Pappas (who was 30-29, 4.04 as a Red) that the trade surely did seem to work out pretty lopsided.
Not so different was Ray Sadecki for Orlando Cepada, one that caused a lot of local stir in Northern California when consumated. The "Baby Bull" was 27 when dealt, and had gone .308-226-767 over his nine years with the Giants while Sadecki was coming off a 6-15, 5.21 year, but a season earlier had gone 21-10, 3.68. Truth is both players had injuries around the time of the swap if memory serves, and at least locally, the Giants had Willie McCovey to play first, and a bevy of outfielders, so again, on paper it looked like a great swap.
Then there was Ernie Brogilo for Lou Brock. A year before the deal, Broglio was 18-8, 2.99 for St. Louis, and though his mark slipped to 3-5 just before the 1964 trade, his ERA wa 3.50. Brock, on the other hand, was .257-20-86 with 50 swipes for the Cubs before the trade over 327 games, never having achieved the great predictions made for the former Texas A&M star.
Again, on paper, the deal seemed right at the time. But, the reality is all three pitchers pretty much fizzled, while Robinson, Cepada and Brock all went on to Hall of Fame careers.
Not that fiascos are limited to let-down pitchers being swapped for future superstar hitters. Because what made me think of all this was the recent demotion of Jesus Montero by Seattle, after hitting .208-3-9 this year (and putting up an aggregate .252-18-71 over 164 games in the Northwest).
Of course, we all remember the big trade that sent the then biggest Yankees hitting prospect to Seattle in exchange for one of the most promising young pitchers on earth, Michael Pineda. Pineda went 9-10, 3.74 for the Mariners in 2011, and since being traded to the Bronx in January of 2012, the right- hander has logged precisely zero innings with the big club.
Pineda finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year competition in 2011, even, but these examples illustrate just how iffy both trades, and mining for prospects, can be.
For, we all are excited to grab Kevin Gausman or Tony Cingrani, or anticipate the arrival of Oscar Taveras, or feel envy for the guy who landed Jurickson Profar, recently promoted to fill the Ian Kinsler void.
But, the reality is that a trade, like drafting prospects, is largely a crap shoot. Sometimes, it is an educated one, but, well, sometimes educated people fail tests. Worse, sometimes smart people lack common sense, which is as bad as dumb people thinking they are smart (well, it generally means the same less than stellar results).
The question, though, is how do you know who will be good, and who won't?
I am not sure, for though I have had more than my share of successes picking prospects, I have also had my failures: Daric Barton, Dustin Ackley and of course, the guy who killed us all, Brandon Wood.
My friend Jeff Smith pointed to a team in his league that he thought would rock because the owner has neatly stashed Mike Zunino, Anthony Rendon, Billy Hamilton, Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha, A.J. Cole, and Zach Turner, among others. But, when I saw that team, I pretty much shrugged, for maybe one of all those players will establish himself within a year, and the rest could take three or four years, like Jeff Samardzija (whom I drafted in the XFL in 2006, excitedly activated for 2008, dropped in 2009 and watched blossom elsewhere in 2011).
As we all know, those baseball gods are some fickle folks. I know from the trades I just mentioned, and I know from some of the roto deals I have made myself. And, in fairness, I have had deals pay off and win pennants for me, but similarly, I have had trades simply destroy my teams for a couple of years (in fact in the XFL, I am still rebuilding trying to get over deals I made for Jason Bay, Francisco Liriano and Stephen Drew).
However, as with baseball itself, you just never know, and gambling as such is as much a part of the game as trying to take third on a weak arm.
Still, I have to wonder what both the Yankees and Mariners think of their swap in retrospect. I realize that to them it was business, and sometimes business deals pay off, and sometimes they don't. But, it is kind of funny that both properties, so highly regarded just a couple of years ago, are at the moment, total failures.
Of course, like Samardzija, both could emerge in a couple of years and realize the ephemeral potential. Or, worse, they could be swapped, and have their skills come to fruition for another team, probably a respective nightmare for both Seattle and New York.
But, well, it is part of baseball.