Some players don't need to travel far after trade
Norris, who went from Astros to O's, is latest to be dealt to team he's facing
Logistically, a midseason trade can be problematic for a player. Within minutes, he can go from enjoying a relative comfort level with the team he's been with all year to a man on the run, needing transportation, hotel rooms and other instructions as to where to go to meet up with his new club.
The best remedy for this problem? Simple: Just get traded to a team that happens to be playing the team that just dealt you. That way, the distance from point A to point B is little more than a walk to the other side of the stadium.
Players, obviously, have no ability to make that happen. And the last thing general managers are looking at when they're brokering a deal is the schedule. But you'd be surprised how many times in history players have been dealt to a team they're currently playing. It's purely coincidental, sure. But it's not all that uncommon.
The most recent example is the Orioles-Astros swap that took place with about an hour left before the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline on Wednesday. In the visitors' clubhouse, Bud Norris, long rumored to be dealt, waited for word on his future. L.J. Hoes, not yet a household name and unsuspecting that he was on the block, went about business as usual in the home clubhouse.
A short while later, the two packed up, said goodbye to teammates and headed for the other side of the ballpark.
|6/30/11||Sergio Mitre||Brewers to Yankees|
|8/15/11||Delmon Young||Twins to Tigers|
|5/4/12||Ryan Spilborghs||Indians to Rangers|
|7/23/12||Ichiro Suzuki||Mariners to Yankees|
|8/5/12||Danny Valencia||Twins to Red Sox|
|7/31/13||Bud Norris||Astros to Orioles|
|7/31/13||L.J. Hoes||Orioles to Astros|
To add to the intrigue of this story, Norris is scheduled to face the Astros on Thursday in the series finale. Again, this wasn't the motive when Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette brokered the deal. But, oh, the deliciousness of it all.
Same could be said about the Ichiro Suzuki trade from last year. The deal came down in the middle of a series between the Yankees and Mariners at Safeco Field. A bizarre sequence of events began with Ichiro and Yankees manager Joe Girardi participating in a news conference at the ballpark, in front of a Mariners backdrop. Ichiro was then greeted with cheers at batting practice from Mariners fans, and the love-fest continued when the Japanese outfielder stepped in for his first plate appearance as a Yankee.
The ovation went on long enough for Ichiro to feel it necessary to step out of the box, give a helmet tip and a long bow to the crowd.
Happy endings are ideal, but not always applicable. Take Phil Garner, for example. He had spent six seasons with the Astros and although he had reached the proverbial "twilight" of his career, partly due to nagging back problems, he was surprised to learn he was traded at the Deadline in 1987.
Actually, surprised isn't the most accurate word to describe how Garner felt when learning what team he was joining. Furious was more like it. Soaking wet after being pulled out of the shower in the home clubhouse, Garner picked up the phone and heard the voice of general manager Dick Wagner: "You've been traded to the Dodgers."
Back then, the Astros-Dodgers rivalry conjured up about as much goodwill among men as you'll find between the Cubs and Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers and Yankees and Red Sox.
In other words, there was no love.
"I hated the Dodgers," Garner said. "We made it our life's passion to hate the Dodgers in Houston."
And it was in Houston where Garner had to join his new team. The Astros and Dodgers were in the middle of a series at the Astrodome, requiring Garner to pack up his belongings and trudge over to the visitors' clubhouse.
Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda did his best to soften the blow. "I've been trying to get you for years," Garner recalled Lasorda saying to him when he arrived. Garner appreciated the gesture, but it didn't help much.
During the game the next day, Astros second baseman Bill Doran connected for a base hit, and Garner's first reaction was to jump up and cheer.
"Then I remembered," Garner said. "I'm in enemy territory now."
Doug Mientkiewicz wasn't the marquee name in the blockbuster four-team trade that took place on July 31, 2004, which, in part, enabled him to make the very short trip from one clubhouse to another with relative anonymity.
That's not to slight Mientkiewicz's baseball acumen -- he was, in fact, a very serviceable first baseman at that time. But the four-team trade that involved Mientkiewicz also involved Red Sox superstar shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. When Garciaparra was shipped to the Cubs in a Deadline deal, the other players involved became, at least on a national level, mere footnotes.
Mientkiewicz's new team, the Red Sox, were playing his old team, the Twins, at the Metrodome. Mientkiewicz shuffled over to the visitors' clubhouse, suited up in his new gear and played that night for the Red Sox. He received a huge ovation from the fans in Minnesota.
Sometimes, the players involved in the trade -- and their teammates -- are the last to know when a swap has occurred. Consider, for example, the Tigers-Twins trade involving Delmon Young in August 2011.
The level of tolerance for fraternization between opposing players varies, but one element is universal in baseball -- any socializing while in uniform is to take place on the field and nowhere else.
That's what made Young's plight so strange. The outfielder was on the Twins' team bus from the hotel to Comerica Park, when he got a call from his general manager, informing him he was traded to the Tigers.
Young got off the bus and walked, alone, to the Tigers clubhouse. His presence inside initially didn't go well. The Tigers players thought he was just hanging around, a no-no for opposing players. They wanted him out. And it took a while for them to believe he really had been traded to Detroit.
Then there are the trades that almost happened and didn't. For example, while the Yankees were playing the Mariners at Safeco in 2010, the Yankees almost pulled off a trade for Seattle starting pitcher Cliff Lee. The deal appeared so imminent that Lee had already started preparing to shave for the news conference to comply with the Yankees' no-facial-hair rule. Then the deal fell through.
The news conference still happened, however, because soon after nothing came of the Yankees' efforts, the Rangers swooped in and snagged Lee, who was able to go to a contender and keep the beard.
But the best stories seem to come from a time so long ago that it's hard to find anyone who was around when the trade happened.
May 30, 1922: The Cubs and Cardinals were in the middle of a morning-day doubleheader (back then, the first games of a double dip started before noon) at Cubs Park. Max Flack, who lived three blocks from the ballpark, went home for lunch between games and arrived back to the Cubs clubhouse to find out he'd been traded.
Flack was now a Cardinal, swapped for outfielder Cliff Heathcote. The two did what any similarly-built men would do (Flack was 5-foot-7, 150 pounds; Heathcote, 5-10, 160): they traded uniforms and hit the field with their new teams.
A ballplayer's future mostly depends on how talented he is on the field. But there are cases where lot of his fate depends on not who he is, but where he is. Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good.