How the A.D.D. generation led to the best trade deadline ever

5 08 2008

Anyone who was following the blogosphere at around 4:30 Thursday afternoon was overwhelmed with information, snap judgments, and arguments over winners and losers. Andrew Johnson at FanHouse put it best:

Take a deep breath, baseball fans. The dust has settled after another trading deadline, and what a deadline it was. Three future Hall of Famers were moved. So was a reigning Cy Young winner and two former All-Stars. And we haven’t talked about Rich Harden yet. Undoubtedly, 2008 was the most entertaining trading season in recent memory for baseball fans.

Baseball trade deadlines are notorious buzzkills. While hockey usually sees dozens of moves at this time of year, and basketball is not immune to some major names switching hand both at the deadline and in the offseason. But baseball is always more conservative. Just two years ago the Nationals couldn’t even trade Alfonso Soriano while he was having his career year in a pitcher’s park. So why did this year nearly give Peter Gammons another aneurysm?

As weird as it may sound, the same forces may be in play that explained why this past year was the the worst year for quarterbacks in recent memory in the NFL. When a sport gets parity, as baseball has of late, the pressure is on to compete as soon as possible. Combine that with a cultural that has undeniably developed a shorter attention span, and you’ve got players being traded from losing teams even when they have multiple years left on their contract.

To understand how topsy-turvey this year’s trade deadline was, consider this: the Pirates may have had the best deadline of anyone. They certainly acquired the greatest quantity of talent, and with top prospects like Jose Tabata and Andy LaRoche, they may have gotten quality as well. Or consider how the Red Sox, in making without a doubt the biggest headlines by trading the second greatest right-handed hitter of a generation, may have just broken even at the deadline. It seems that losing is not an option for anyone anymore, even for the Pirates, who haven’t had a winning season since Barry Bonds had a mustache.

It used to be that when a quarterback was drafted, he had a good 3-4 years to prove himself. The team was built around him and pieces were brought in to make the quarterback better. But considering that Alex Smith has had four offensive coordinators in four years, or that the Texans refused to improve their offensive line after drafting David Carr, and suddenly the quarterbacks to blame, and they’re out of a job. Could similar forces be behind why just about every quality player on a losing team became available, from Matt Holliday to Joe Blanton? Is there any way Mark Teixeira has helped anyone by being on 3 teams in 1 year?

This argument is a dangerous one to make on a blog. It sounds like its dangerously close to Ted Stevens or—dare I say it—Buzz Bissinger territory. But it’s possible to make an argument that we’re more distractable and less patient without calling it the downfall of Western Civilization. Yes, we’re less likely to focus on a single subject, and that has effects on how we watch sports. That can just be a description—no judgment call judgment call necessary.

In this case, it has actually led to an awesome story. For the first time in years, the MLB trade deadline transcended the sports world, as the slew of moves and the trade of Manny Ramirez made international headlines in addition to just the sports section. Baseball has gotten as crazed and fast-moving as everything else in the media world. Don’t think of it as something special.




One response

5 08 2008

brilliantly stated

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