This has got to change. Those were my first thoughts when I went to MLB.com’s homepage and saw that the Veterans Committee had once again—for the third consecutive time—failed to vote anyone into the Hall of Fame. Clearly, this newfangled committee, which consists of Hall of Famers along with Frick and Spink Award winners, is not working out as intended.
It’s one thing to uphold high standards for election to the Hall of Fame. It’s quite another to keep the doors to the Hall of Fame completely closed when there are at least three deserving players and four or five qualified managers/executives who have met the established criteria for Cooperstown. In some cases, the selections should have been slam dunks. Lets’ consider the cases of Ron Santo and umpire Doug Harvey. Santo, by even the most conservative estimates, was one of the ten best third basemen in baseball history. If you’re one of the ten best anything in baseball, you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. As for Harvey, he was generally regarded as the best umpire in the National League for much of the 1970s and eighties (and possibly longer). He was nicknamed "God," for crying out loud. If that’s not worthy of the Hall of Fame, then it’s time to remove the memberships of Jocko Conlan and Nestor Chylak.
Thankfully, we’re not going to have put up with this "they’re not worthy" attitude of the current Veterans Committee much longer. Prior to the vote, Hall of Fame officials had already met to consider possible changes to the committee; now that the Vets have shown that they don’t know how to build consensus and reward greatness to those who deserve it—and that they want to keep Hall membership exclusive for their own personal gains—the Hall will move full throttle to implement some of those changes. The Hall will have to tread lightly here because the institution doesn’t want to be seen as undermining the Hall of Fame members. Yet, the Hall will clearly have to make a significant change because the Vets Committee’s stubbornness has brought untold negative publicity to the institution over the last five years, both in terms of media criticism and angry reactions from the candidates themselves.
So what is the Hall of Fame to do? Other than returning to the old Veterans Committee setup (which consisted of five Hall of Famers, five media members, and five executives) there is no simple solution. There is, however, no shortage of ideas. In the spirit of change, here are a few concepts that might be worthy of consumption:
*Change the attitude of the voters. The Hall should require that each voting member gather on Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown to discuss the vote. That way, Hall of Famers could make arguments and try to build consensus for the worthiest of candidates. The Hall should also make results of the votes completely public. That way, each Hall of Famer would be put in a position to explain why he snubbed Santo, Harvey, Gil Hodges, or Marvin Miller. Afraid of embarrassment, some of the voters might be tempted to do away with past grudges and vote with their conscience—the way it should be done.
*Change the voters themselves. A more radical change would involve a complete retooling of the Committee. If the vote were to be taken away from the Hall of Famers, it could be given to longtime members of the Baseball Writers’ Association and veteran major league broadcasters. Just for the sake of argument, any writer or broadcaster who has worked a major league beat for 20 years would be eligible to vote. Those voters would likely be far more lenient than the Hall of Famers. If the Hall doesn’t want to insult its members by taking away their right to vote, it could simply expand the committee by including veteran writers, broadcasters, and historians. The key would be to expand the voting body to include potential voters who aren’t ****-bent at keeping candidates out of the Hall of Fame.
*Hold a run-off. The Hall of Fame could conduct its Veteran Committee vote in two phases, a general election followed by a runoff. If the general election fails to produce someone with 75 per cent of the vote, then hold a runoff involving the top three finishers. Each Hall of Famer would then be required to vote for at least one person in the runoff, thereby increasing the chances of reaching a 75 per cent consensus.
None of these ideas are meant to guarantee that someone will receive the minimum 75 per cent of the vote. That’s not the point. The key is to make the 75 per cent threshold more attainable, especially with so many qualified candidates on the ballots. That will mean changing the attitude, or changing the voters. It’s up to the Hall to decide which is the best of those solutions. Clearly, the status quo isn’t getting it done.
I’ve done enough waffling on this issue; now it’s time to make a prediction. On some days, I’ve believed that no one will be elected in Tuesday’s Veterans Committee vote for the Hall of Fame. Other days, I’ve been tempted to say that for the first time since 2001, the Vets Committee will actually put someone new in the Hall. So it’s time to write down what I really think before I change my mind again.
After talking to some reliable Hall of Fame sources in an effort to gauge the general "mood" surrounding the election, I’m now willing to predict that there will be at least one new Hall of Famer by Tuesday afternoon. Let’s start with the players’ ballot, which contains the names of 27 retired stars. My sources tell me that either player/manager Gil Hodges or third baseman extraordinaire Ron Santo, and possibly both, will earn the 75 per cent of the vote needed for enshrinement. (It’s likely that only one will get in, but two is a small possibility.) One other possibility, though it’s a long shot, involves former Twin Tony Oliva, underrated as an all-round ballplayer. As for the composite ballot, which consists of 15 retired managers, owners, executives, and umpires, longtime union chief Marvin Miller stands the best shot at gaining election. Miller’s chances are probably less than that of either Hodges or Santo, so it’s still a very iffy proposition.
So why exactly the change in the voting by the Vets Committee, which consists of living Hall of Famers, along with winners of the Frick (broadcasting) and Spink (writing) awards? The Hall of Fame members are worried that if they don’t vote anyone in, thereby posting a third consecutive shutout in Vets Committee selections, the Hall’s board of directors will likely make a radical change to the voting process. One possible remedy would be to remove the vote from the Hall of Famers, which is something that Joe Morgan and company clearly don’t want. The Hall’s administration fears, and rightly so, that the Vets Committee election will become an embarrassment and lose all credibility with the public if zeros continue to be posted. The Hall is learning a hard lesson: if your standards are too high and no one is deemed worthy of election year after year, the fans and media will lose interest very quickly.
Frankly, there’s no reason for the Hall of Famers not to vote someone in. The players’ ballot has at least three worthy candidates in Santo, Hodges, and the criminally underrated Joe Gordon, while the composite ballot is chock-a-block full of excellent candidates. A landscape-changing executive like Miller, a pioneering owner like Charlie Finley, a four-time World Series participant in **** Williams, and an exceedingly well-respected umpire like Doug Harvey would all receive my vote, with no doubts and few questions asked.
I also hope that the Vets Committee has learned a lesson from last year’s special Negro Leagues election, when Buck O’Neil was bypassed, and last week’s Basketball Hall of Fame nominating committee, which overlooked Dennis Johnson. Both are gone now. If you’re going to vote for someone, vote for him while he can still appreciate the honor. Let’s have none of this, "I’ll vote for him the next time around." The "next time" might be too late to really matter.
Of the 42 men who are on the two ballots being considered by the Veterans Committee, there is no stronger candidate for election to the Hall of Fame than Ron Santo. Arguably one of the five greatest third basemen of all time, and certainly one of the 10 greatest to ever play the hot corner, Santo has long deserved enshrinement in Cooperstown. Along with Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt, Santo should be regarded as one of the icons of his position.
Let’s consider just a few of Santo’s accomplishments. A patient hitter with a keen eye at the plate throughout his career, Santo compiled a lifetime .366 on-base percentage. With 342 home runs, he managed a .464 slugging percentage, despite playing a good portion of his career during an era in which pitchers held an advantage over hitters. And it’s not like Santo was one-dimensional either. A five-time Gold Glove winner, the defensively superior Santo led the National League in total chances nine times and led the league in assists seven times. Those numbers indicate that Santo had good range, in addition to the soft hands and ability to start double plays that characterized his long tenure with the Chicago Cubs.
Except for footspeed, Santo clearly had it all as a ballplayer. He reached base, hit with power, and defended his position with a high degree of skill. Given his all-round brilliance, one wonders why he didn’t earn election to the Hall of Fame years ago. The question remains glaring: Why exactly has Santo been denied entrance to Cooperstown since his first year of eligibility in 1979?
Based on research and interviews, several factors may be at work here. Let’s consider some of the theories as to why Santo has been turned down so many times, first by the Baseball Writers and then by the Hall of Famers themselves:
*Santo never played in the postseason, either the Championship Series or the World Series. The lack of postseason exposure can certainly hurt a player’s chances at Cooperstown, but it should not be an overriding factor in keeping someone out of the Hall of Fame. It’s certainly a weak argument, given others who have taken up membership at the Hall. Let’s consider the cases of three of Santo’s longtime teammates in Chicago: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ferguson Jenkins. None of those Cub legends ever made a postseason appearance for Chicago, yet all made their ways into Cooperstown with relative ease. Of the three, only Williams appeared in postseason play for other teams, and that amounted to three losses with the A’s in 1975. If Banks, Williams, and Jenkins are in despite a lack of World Series experience, why not Santo?
*Santo lacked a "signature" to his career. Now we’re getting warm. For Robinson, it was his highlight reel performance in the 1970 World Series. For Schmidt, it was his home runs. For Wade Boggs, it was both batting championships and 3,000 hits. Santo, for all of his excellence across the board, did not stand out in any one area. His career batting average of .277 has been held against him by some writers who don’t seem to grasp Sabermetric statistics and principles. Santo’s ability to coax 90 to 95 walks a year, coupled with nearly 1-to-1 ratio of walks to strikeouts, haven’t struck a chord with old-fashioned voters. Bottom line—Santo’s career has lacked the sexiness that the baseball writers seem to favor in their elections.
*Santo was a showboat. This might be the biggest factor working against Santo. During the 1969 season, Santo clicked his heels after a number of Cubs victories, annoying many of his opponents, in particular the rival Mets. In an era where players were expected to conduct themselves in businesslike fashion, that was simply not accepted. In some ways, Santo has never really lived down those infamous "heel clicks"—especially after a tired Cubs team collapsed during the stretch run.
*Santo’s strong personality rubbed even his teammates the wrong way. Like the showboating, Santo’s personality conflicts may be hurting his cause. After inexperienced center fielder Don Young committed two costly errors in a July 1969 loss to the Mets, Santo criticized his teammate through the media. According to some Cubs observers, Santo’s outburst hurt Young’s development. Santo also had two severe personality clashes with teammates, one famous, the other obscure. He sparred with Rico Carty during his brief Cubs tenure in 1973, and then clashed with **** Allen after being traded to the cross-town White Sox. Santo criticized Allen for being lazy; Allen felt that Santo was egotistical and presumptuous, leading to a stormy season on the south side in 1974.
Unfortunately, none of these listed factors strike me as truly legitimate reasons to keep Santo out of Cooperstown. They are relatively small in context, and, in some cases, downright petty and irrelevant. The arguments in Santo’s favor—power, walks, defense, consistency—are much more powerful. Hopefully, the Veterans Committee will see it the same way and do what should have been done nearly 30 years ago.
One of the most interesting comebacks this spring is taking place with the Washington Nationals. Dmitri Young, who should have been part of the Tigers’ journey to the World Series in 2006 but instead found himself waived in mid-September, is attempting to latch on to a roster spot with the Nationals. In one way, Young picked the right team; the Nationals, who might be the worst club in the National League, need all the help they can muster. In another way Young picked the wrong team; Young is best suited to DH, but that’s something the Nats will only be able to use in inter-league games they play in American League ballparks.
The 33-year-old Young made news earlier this week by blasting the Tigers for failing to support him during his bout with drugs and alcoholism. Young’s outburst prompted an angry response from Jim Leyland, who felt Young was essentially shifting blame away from himself. Without knowing all of the particulars that went on in the Tigers’ clubhouse, I’m inclined to side with Leyland on this one. It was Young who initiated the problem by becoming involved with drugs and alcohol, and then got hit with a rap of domestic abuse, making himself unavailable to the Tigers during the bulk of the regular season. Like too many addicts, Young seems willing to point the finger of blame elsewhere, putting the onus on the Tigers when he should have focused on his irresponsible behaviors.
I hope Young can overcome his problems with drug abuse and alcoholism, and his recent diagnosis of diabetes, which he claims contributed to his mood swings last year. At his best, Young is a switch-hitter with power who is versatile enough to play first base or the outfield, and fill in at third base on an emergency basis. With Nick Johnson probably unavailable until about June, Young could beat out Travis Lee and Larry Broadway and stake claim to Washington’s first base slot on Opening Day. And then once Johnson returns, Young could play some first base against left-handers, while backing up the two outfield corners.
The opportunity is there for the taking. Let’s hope that Young stops talking about the Tigers and stops dwelling on the placing of blame, and instead takes full advantage of what may be his last chance in a big league uniform.
I’ve read more than one writer proclaim that no one cares about the relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Based on call after call being placed to New York sportsradio stations over the last 48 hours, it’s obvious that a LOT of Yankee fans care about the friendship-turned-rivalry. Now whether they SHOULD care, that’s another story.
While it’s true that the A-Rod/Jeter feud has been overblown in some quarters, it does reveal some interesting characteristics about the dynamics of the Yankee clubhouse. Jeter continues to be the fan favorite, but it’s A-Rod who’s been far more honest with the media about the state of their formerly close friendship. As the Yankee captain, it’s high time that Jeter either spoke truthfully about his problems with Rodriguez, or tried to mend fences with his infield mate, or attempted to do both. A six-year grudge is long enough, especially when it involves a teammate. And if Jeter isn’t willing to take that step, then Joe Torre should demand that the two have a closed-door sit-down. Unfortunately, Torre continues to take the approach that nothing is wrong, similar to the way that he and the Yankees handled Chuck Knoblauch’s throwing yips. Acting as if there is no problem will not make said problem go away.
And it won’t make the media stop asking questions about it. Until Jeter and Torre show some of A-Rod’s honesty, this issue will continue to see the light of day.
Spring training has barely begun, but we’ve already been inundated with stories about ballplayers trying to make transitions to new positions. For example, three teams in the National League Central are staging positional transplants: the Cubs are moving Alfonso Soriano from left field to center, the Brewers are making utilityman Billy Hall a fulltime center fielder, and the Astros are doing the same with second baseman Chris Burke, who will replace trade export Willy Taveras. The Pirates, overloaded with catchers, have begun working out prospect Neil Walker at third base. In the American League, the lowly Royals are giving serious thought to moving Mark Teahen to right field, assuming that super-prospect Alex Gordon hits well enough this spring to take over third base.
Given the tone of some of the articles, I’m wondering if we are making too much of these positional changes. Some writers and players would have you believe that learning a new position is akin to trying to pick up Sanskrit as a second language. I know it’s difficult, but is it THAT difficult? These are professional athletes after all, the best baseball players in the world, and many of them played different positions as they made their way through the amateur ranks. These kinds of positional changes have been going on for years in the major leagues (Ernie Banks moved from short to first, Pete Rose round-robbined his way around the diamond, and Paul Molitor did nearly the same in the seventies and eighties), but it seems like a position change today is greeted with a previously unseen amount of skepticism, derision, and a general hue and cry bordering on hysteria. Have players become so rigid in the contemporary game that any position switch becomes nearly an impossible task full of insurmountable obstacles? Are players today too pigeonholed into one specific role that they can’t adapt to fit a team’s needs or their own declining skills? If that’s the case, maybe teams need to demand more versatility and flexibility from their players in anticipation of switching their positions in mid-career.
I think one of the problems is this: there is a failure to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable position switches. For example, it would be illogical to ask a catcher to play shortstop, or require a first baseman to play second base, or have a shortstop don the tools of ignorance. Yet, none of the above players are being asked to make those kind of unreasonable transitions. There are switches that are far more doable. For years, old-time baseball men have considered it easier to move from the infield to the outfield, than it is from the outfield to the infield. That’s the transition that Hall and Burke are truing to make, from the middle infield to center field. Similarly, Teahen is trying to switch from the hot corner to right field. Walker’s transition for the Pirates is a little trickier, but we’ve seen past catchers like Joe Torre and Todd Zeile become serviceable third baseman. As for Soriano, his transition is more difficult, in that he’s moving from the less demanding position of left field to the more challenging station in center field. Still, Soriano is a terrific athlete who has enough speed and arm strength, in theory, to make a successful conversion. I wouldn’t bet against him.
By season’s end, I think most of these players will have made positive transitions along the defensive spectrum. They won’t become Gold Glovers, but they’re young enough and athletic enough to become adequate defenders at their new posts. And that’s really all that their respective teams are asking from them…
It was good to hear Cliff Floyd respond to recent criticism from right-hander John Thomson, a free agent who signed with the Blue Jays. Thomson said he chose the Jays over the Mets because he didn’t like New York’s outfield defense, specifically Floyd’s play in left. Well, Thomson turned out to be ill informed on several counts. If he had paid any attention to the Hot Stove League, he would have known the Mets had no interest in re-signing Floyd, who instead took his wares to the Cubs. And if Thomson knew anything about outfield defense, he would have known that Floyd has been no worse than about average for most of his career. Contrary to some written accounts, Thomson and Floyd have never been teammates during their careers, so it’s hard to figure why Thomson has shown such animosity toward Floyd this offseason…
It’s been a mostly dismal off-season for the Nationals, who watched a number of their veteran outfielders and pitchers depart via free agency and have to be dismayed by Nick "The Stick" Johnson’s slow recovery from a broken leg, but the team did make a positive move over the weekend. The Nationals signed free agent second baseman Ronnie Belliard, whose terrific postseason defense helped the Cardinals win it all last season. Belliard is currently stuck behind Felipe Lopez on the Nationals’ depth chart, but don’t expect that to last. Once shortstop Cristian Guzman resumes his swing-and-miss ways, the Nats will move Lopez back to short, creating room for Belliard at second base. That would give the Nationals an infield of Johnson, Belliard, Lopez, and Ryan Zimmerman—not bad for a last-place team.
Bernie Williams says he wants to continue his major league career with the New York Yankees. That is what his words say, but his actions indicate otherwise, making me question just how badly he wants to play in 2007. Thus far, he has refused to accept a non-roster invite, saying that he feels he deserves a guaranteed spot on the 25-man roster. He has also shown no willingness to adapt and make the necessary concessions to age by learning a new position, a move that would make him more versatile and convince the Yankees that he is worth keeping on the Opening Day roster.
As classy and gentlemanly as Williams has been throughout his pinstriped tenure, he is being just as stubborn in his declining baseball years. Let’s tackle the first issue—that of the spring training invitation. Williams is apparently too proud to accept a non-roster invite, but if that’s the best the Yankees will offer and Williams is committed to continue playing in the Bronx, why not accept the invitation? Doesn’t Bernie have enough confidence and belief in his own ability that he could win a job with a strong spring showing? Doesn’t he realize that an injury-prone veteran like Doug Mientkiewicz might get hurt during the spring, thereby increasing Williams’ chances of making the team?
Now the second issue. Williams is a limited player at this point of his career. He is an abysmal defensive outfielder, lacks the speed or baserunning instincts to pinch-run, and is only a strong hitter from the right side of the plate. So why hasn’t Williams done something to increase his value, like learning a new position? I’ll admit that I’ve never heard directly that Williams has refused to play first base, but whenever Joe Torre has been approached about the topic in the past, he has indicated that his veteran outfielder wouldn’t be comfortable doing that. That sounds like Williams once told Torre or someone else in the organization that he didn’t want to make the change. Again, I just don’t get it. Williams is a better hitter than Andy Phillips and a more proven commodity than Josh Phelps. If by learning a new position, you would increase your chances of sticking around for another year or two, why not do it? Why not at least try?
Williams can only gain from accepting Joe Torre’s latest plea to come to spring training and compete for a job. In a best-case scenario, Williams will make the team, become the story of the spring, and give himself one last hurrah in New York. At worst, he’ll struggle to hit in the Grapefruit League and the Yankees tell him it’s a no-go, giving him an opportunity to announce his retirement. There’s no shame in retiring during spring training. Mickey Mantle did it, and it didn’t detract from the legacy of a wonderful career in pinstripes.
Here’s hoping Bernie stops being stubborn and gives it at least one more shot before deciding that 16 seasons in the Bronx is enough.
Well before the days of Mariano Rivera, Sparky Lyle was the MAN when it came to New York City closers, or as we used to call them, firemen. When Lyle emerged from the bullpen, I felt like the Yankees had won. Even if Lyle entered a game in the seventh inning with the bases loaded protecting a mere one-run lead—something a current-day closer would never be asked to do—Lyle’s calm demeanor and wrecking-ball slider made Yankee fans feel that much more comfortable about the outcome of the game. The sight of Lyle stepping out of the Datsun bullpen car (or in later years, the Toyota) gave us fans the most legitimate reason to feel secure.
Lyle happens to be on the players’ ballot for the Veterans Committee election, with the results to be announced on February 27. He doesn’t have much of a chance at winning election—correct that, he has no chance of getting in this year—in part because his career faded a bit too quickly after its 1977 peak and in part because the Hall hasn’t been too friendly to closers over the years. Still, from 1972 to 1977, Lyle was about as efficient as any fireman in the game, rivaling more heralded ace relievers like Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, and Bruce Sutter.
Yet, none of those firemen were quite as colorful as Lyle. Fingers had the handlebar mustache, Gossage had the nickname, and Sutter the split-finger, but Lyle had a full repertoire of one-liners, practical jokes, and comical stunts. A list of Lyle’s hijinx could fill a chapter of a book, but let’s consider just three of his most innovative and memorable capers.
*Lyle once stole the waterbed that belonged to teammate and fellow left-hander Mike Kekich (an unusual character in his own right). During a game at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, Lyle arranged to have it hung from the scoreboard at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. The waterbed dangled in the wind for all of the fans—and Kekich’s teammates, of course—to enjoy during an otherwise uneventful game between the Yankees and Brewers.
*Lyle once had a casket delivered to the team clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. As no-nonsense manager Bill Virdon prepared to address his players in a team meeting, the casket creaked open slowly. Emerging from inside the casket was Lyle, who sat upright and then delivered his best Bela Lugosi imitation while slowly mouthing the words, "How do you pitch to Brooks Robinson?"
*Of all the Lyle pranks, his trademark stunt became his reaction to birthday cakes that arrived at Yankee Stadium. When a player celebrated a birthday during the season, the Yankees arranged to have a large cake delivered to the clubhouse. As soon as Lyle got wind of the cake’s impending arrival, he prepared to take action. Waiting in the clubhouse until the cake was placed on a table, Lyle then pulled down his pants, jumped up in the air, and proceeded to sit on top of the cake!
In spite of his destruction of birthday cakes, Lyle remained a popular player in the Yankee clubhouse. While several personalities on the Yankees clashed with each other, Lyle remained outside of the fray. Perhaps he was just too busy planning his next practical joke.
Spring training, which kicked off on Tuesday with the opening of camps for the Nationals and the Yankees, is one of the best times on the baseball calendar. If you’re a fan of the game, and can afford the travel and lodging costs required of a vacation in Florida or Arizona, it’s just something you have to do.
So what exactly is so great about spring training? Here are just a few factors that make the spring one of the most appealing times of the year.
Players are never more accessible than they are during the six weeks of spring training. They’re much more relaxed than they are during the regular season, making them far more approachable for autographs or simple conversation. The barriers between the players and the fans are fewer, from more laid-back security personnel to first-base and third-base stands that are located closer to the actual playing field.
*Minor leaguers and non-roster invites. The best storylines of the spring involve battles for spots in the lineup, or merely survival on the 25-man roster. It’s fun to watch a minor league prospect have to fight for a job, or observe a comebacking veteran battling to win a spot on the roster. With each at-bat and each inning pitched carry so much weight for those on the fringes, the drama only intensifies for the knowledgeable fan.
*Old-time ballparks. Although many of the newer spring training stadiums are becoming more major league in appearance, a number of spring sites still feature smaller, simpler ballparks that look like throwbacks to the fifties and sixties. One of my favorites is McKechnie Field in Bradenton, where the Pirates train. When you walk into that park, you feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine that’s brought you a game featuring Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski. For a fan of baseball history, it’s a terrific feeling that only a simple, old ballpark can evoke.
For Northeast fans like me who are enduring a storm that dumped 40 inches of snow on rock-hard ground in Cooperstown this week, the weather of Florida and Arizona can revive your personality. Even days with 60-degree temperatures are acceptable for those of us frostbitten by a long winter.
The New York Times ran an interesting piece last week about the lack of trades made during the winter. Only 35 deals have been struck, and with at least two teams involved per deal, that comes out to roughly two trades per team. And even that is deceptive because many of the trades have been low-level transactions involving minor league players or recent Rule 5 draftees.
So what has happened to the fine art of trading? Has it become a lost art? I think there are several factors at work here in what is really not a new wintertime trend, but something that has been going on for several years.
a) With 30 teams and talent spread around thinly, it’s harder to make trades. If you had fewer teams, a team would probably have more of a stockpile of talent at certain positions, making it easier to make a deal from that for something that would address a weakness. With so many teams, there just isn’t that much depth from which to trade. As a result, teams increasingly turn to free agency as the be-all and end-all of player acquisition.
b) It seems to me that most of the GMs today are corporate types who are conservative by nature. There really aren’t many aggressive wheeler-dealers like Frank Lane, Charlie Finley, and Jack McKeon in today’s game. And if there were, those types would probably have difficulty with the language in the complicated contracts of today, which also make trading more of a chore. One of the few GMs who strikes me as aggressive is Billy Beane, and even he has been quiet on the trade front over the past year.
c) As mentioned by Omar Minaya in the Times article, I think teams are very protective of their prospects, perhaps overly so. Even when a team has a depth of prospects at one position, it seems reluctant to trade some of the excess for help at another position. To quote Henry Blake, the attitude seems to be, "Better the devil you know."
And as long as that attitude remains, trades may continue to take a back seat to free agents, the waiver wire, and minor league call-ups.
And as long as that attitude remains, trades may continue to take a back seat to free agents, the waiver wire, and minor league call-ups.