Manny the Marlin?

As rumors fly at the trade deadline, the big fish could head south while future Hall of Famers Griffey and Maddux weigh deals to contenders.


King Kaufman
July 31, 2008 8:45PM (UTC)

A big three-way trade that would send Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox to the Florida Marlins has been the hot rumor of the 24 hours leading up to Thursday's 4 p.m. EDT nonwaiver trading deadline. Various outlets are reporting various sources saying the deal is imminent, 50-50 or, in the words of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, "no news, nothing to talk about."

Consider the source on that last one and take it for what it's worth. The rumor mill has Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Jason Bay and reliever John Grabow going to Boston, Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida going to Pittsburgh and various prospects changing hands. Some rumors have the destinations for some of the players switched around.

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For all of Ramirez's antics, a trade looked unlikely just a few days ago, but he may have done enough this time around to force Boston's hand. Telling ESPN Deportes Wednesday that the Sox don't deserve a player like him could have been the last straw. If the Red Sox can net Bay and Grabow from a Ramirez deal, they probably won't lose much on the field, as David Pinto pointed out on Sportingnews.com Wednesday, but they'll cure a headache.

That sounds great, but don't forget that that headache was a big part of two World Series wins in the past four years.

One guy who won't likely be switching teams is Greg Maddux, who can veto any trade and has done so for the idea of a move from the San Diego Padres to the Philadelphia Phillies -- one hadn't been agreed upon, but the Padres sounded him out -- and insists he'll only accept a deal to a West Coast contender.

That essentially means the Los Angeles Dodgers, because the Los Angeles Angels don't need a starting pitcher and the Arizona Diamondbacks have shown no interest in Maddux, who has struggled in their ballpark over the years. The Dodgers have sniffed around Maddux, who pitched well for them in '06, a bit, but seem more interested in other things.

Not to advocate Maddux's giving up his rights, but his stance about a trade to a non-West Coast team, even one in a pennant race, seems a little loopy, does it not?

Maddux will be a free agent at the end of this season, so at the most we're talking about three months in another city, and that's if the team goes to the World Series. And half of that time will already be spent on the road no matter what team Maddux is playing for, although if he sticks with San Diego his time will be his own in October.

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He wants to stay close to home and his family and all that, but half of two or three months? That's too high a price to pay to miss out on what could be one last pennant race? It's not much longer than spring training, which is about five straight weeks away from home, assuming you don't live in Arizona, which Maddux doesn't. He lives in San Diego and Las Vegas.

Wanting to stay home with the family is fine and everything, but after 24 years of traveling around in baseball, playing in Pikeville and Pittsfield and Des Moines, Chicago, Atlanta, Chicago again, Los Angeles and San Diego and being on the road half the time and at spring training for five weeks every year, he can't do two months in Philly? Maybe three.

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What's interesting about Maddux's position is that he doesn't seem to be taking much heat for it. It wasn't too long ago that a guy on a last-place team who turned down a deadline trade to a contending team got roasted.

When Fred McGriff said no to a trade from his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the contending Chicago Cubs in 2001, Ken Rosenthal, then of the Sporting News, suggested the move would damage McGriff's chances of making the Hall of Fame. McGriff was a borderline case, Rosenthal wrote, and the voters -- baseball writers, including Rosenthal -- would hold the decision to stay out of a pennant race against him. Hall of Famers don't turn down a chance at first place.

McGriff eventually changed his mind and went to Chicago, a million bucks helping him see the light. The next year, long before he became a pariah over a positive steroid test, Rafael Palmeiro got raked over the coals for a similar move, turning down a trade from the Texas Rangers to the Cubs.

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Maddux is nobody's borderline Hall of Famer. He's a slam-dunk, first-ballot, inner-circle guy, an all-time great. But I have to think that a few years ago, he'd have been given a harder time about vetoing a potential trade to a contender than he's getting now. I'm not sure if that's progress or not.

Not long after the McGriff dust-up in 2001, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" did a program about players having a say in where or whether they're traded, and McGriff and others were asked about how much weight they gave to winning, money and family considerations.

B.J. Surhoff, who had been upset upon being traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Atlanta Braves in 2000, just before reaching 10-5 status -- 10 years in the majors, the last five with the same team, which gives a player veto power over all trades -- spoke frankly about championships not necessarily coming first.

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"That wasn't really a consideration, whether I was going last to first," he said when he was asked how he felt about learning he was going from a last-place team to a division leader. "Even though I was going to a first-place club, it was still very, very difficult. And you feel like you're being rented, in a way, and you don't have a choice."

Surhoff and others spoke about weighing personal and family needs against professional prestige, which in baseball means winning championships, and money. Surhoff basically said it depends on what's going on in your life.

Of course, this isn't unique to ballplayers. Lots of people, most people, make decisions every day in which they weigh their personal and professional needs and try to strike some kind of compromise. And most of us don't get roasted, or funny looks, or columns written about us, when we put a little more weight on the personal side, when we sacrifice a little bit professionally for our family, let's say. In fact, we usually get a pat on the back for it.

Then again, ballplayers really are different. Their careers are short. Maddux is an all-time great, a grand old man facing the end, hoping to pitch one more season. He's 42.

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They're also reaching for a goal that's crystal clear, which isn't true for most people. For most of us, there's no such thing as a yearly championship that, won once, can give us satisfaction for the rest of our lives, cement our place in history. Most of us don't have to think about our place in history.

So I think we expect ballplayers to make the decision Ken Griffey Jr. has reportedly made Thursday morning. Rosenthal, who now writes about a million words a day for FoxSports.com, reports that the future Hall of Famer has approved a trade from the also-ran Cincinnati Reds to the contending Chicago White Sox.

A key difference between Griffey, also a slam-dunk for Cooperstown, and Maddux is that Maddux has won a World Series and Griffey has not. Griffey has never even played in a World Series in 20 big-league seasons.

It would have been interesting to see if Griffey took more heat for a veto than Maddux has taken. If so, that might suggest that the difference between the reaction to McGriff in 2001 and Maddux in 2008 has less to do with Hall of Fame qualifications and more to do with skin pigment.

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But I suspect the reason is that attitudes are changing and there's a little more tolerance for a great athlete giving higher priority to his personal and family needs than to winning a championship. That's a good, kind, human development.

Still, if I were Maddux, all things considered, I'd rather have gone to Philadelphia.


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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