Friday, August 01, 2014

For Once, Believe The Hype

Dear Trading Deadline:

Thank you. Thank you for, for once, living up to the hype. Thank you for short-circuiting the increasingly hackneyed narratives of "Not a lot happened because too many teams still think they're in it" and "There were all of these great rumors being discussed and none of them came true so I'm disappointed". Thank you for shaking up multiple division races, showing us a trade between the Red Sox and the Yankees which retroactively makes that Godawful "Why Can't We Be Friends" commercial bearable, and thank you for teasing a doozy of an ALCS with the suddenly thermonuclear pitching staffs of the A's and Tigers.

For all intents and purposes, the trade deadline generates the heat for baseball that the draft does for the NFL and NBA. Trades in football are rare; trades in hockey so commonplace that it's hard to remember who's on the local team from week to week, and the salary cap in basketball is so weirdly constructed that basketball trades are largely about contracts first and second, players third.  (Seriously. Google the words "trade" and "expiring deal". I'll wait.) But so often it gets so hyped that it can't possibly live up to the insanity heaped on it; there simply aren't enough stars on the block to go around. So there aren't that many big deals, and the well-meaning but self-sabotaging baseball media does its thing where it expresses how disappointed it is that not enough happened and there has to be more excitement or the kids will never like baseball, and oy, the geshrying. More proof, if you ask me, that baseball is its own worst enemy, or at least in the top 5. But I digress.

This year, we got more than anticipated. Much, much more. After all, the conventional wisdom said that Rays ace David Price was staying put, with the team making a late charge toward the playoffs. Conventional wisdom said the A's were done dealing after emptying out their farm system and the loose change under the couch cushions in making a deal with the Cubs. Conventional wisdom said that the Red Sox would never make a deal with the Yankees, and that the Phillies would be backing the truck up, and that Kurt Suzuki was a goner. 

Instead, we got a bloody frenzy like a mosh pit at a GWAR show. Price? Moved. Lester? Moved. Lackey? Moved. Austin Jackson? Craig Adams? Yoenis Cespedes? Moved. Hell, even Sam Fuld - the greatest diabetic Jewish outfielder from New Hampshire in history - got moved. (And through it all, the Phillies hung back like a wallflower at that same GWAR show, perhaps slowly realizing that they preferred Train after all). Excitement, we got. Game changers, we got. Fun, we got, even if seeing Price go was heartbreak for Rays fans. God help the front office, incidentally, if they fall a game or two short of the playoffs; the "David Price would have been the difference" story lines will be thicker on the ground than invasive species in the Everglades.

So, baseball, thank you. And good luck topping this next year. The narrative will demand it.

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