December 9th of this year marks the 47th anniversary of one of the most talked about trades in Baseball History. On that day, in 1965, The Cincinnati Reds traded Frank Robinson, Hall of Famer, to the Baltimore Orioles for Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson. As the story goes, Reds brass deemed Robinson an ‘old 30’ and decided to try to get something for him while he still had his legs. Yeah, didn’t work out so great did it?
I bring up this bitter memory for one reason. Any Reds fan who wasn’t old enough to mourn the loss of Robinson hates this trade only because the Reds got fleeced, nothing more. Instead, for my generation, this trade is important because it makes us over look another. Of course, the trade I am talking about is the one involving Josh ‘The Natural’ Hamilton.
December 21st will mark the fifth anniversary of the Reds giving away Hamilton for Edison ‘Wild Thing’ Volquez and Danny Herrera. Hamilton himself is entering free agency this year and, if the baseball ‘experts’ are to be believed he will command nine figures to roam the outfield for whatever team he calls home over the next five to ten years. This much-maligned trade has been rationalized into the dirt, but there is no way around it. Even if Hamilton falls off the face of the earth and misses the Hall of Fame, his offense over the last five years and what it could have meant to this Reds team makes this trade worse than Robinson for Milt.
Yes, I said it. This one was worse.
Volquez had one good season for the Reds before being part of the package for Latos. I have heard many argue that Latos makes this trade sting less, but what makes you think the Reds would not have found another piece to include last offseason to get Latos if we had never acquired Volquez? The Padres didn’t come to the table demanding Volquez, they wanted Alonzo and the recently suspended Grandal. Remember back in 2000 when the Mariners wanted Pokey in any trade for Griffey? We ended up keeping Pokey and getting Griffey all the same. That’s how Baseball works.
No, there is no way to make this one hurt any less than it already does. Hamilton helped the Rangers to two World Series appearances over the last three years, averaging over 100 RBI in every season. With the Reds hurting for help in left field and in the middle of the order, it is not too far of a stretch to think that, had the Reds held on to Hamilton, those would be their World Series appearances.
At the time of the trade, the rational was that pitching is harder to find than hitting, which is true. The Latos trade was built on the same principal and this one seems to be working out just fine. The problem is, Hamilton is not just some bat. Hamilton is Robert Redford in ‘The Natural’ and the lights of Great American Ballpark should have been bursting at the impact of another Josh Hamilton homerun.
I am no general manager, I’ll be the first to admit that. I don’t dream to be one on any grander scale than Fantasy Sports and my Play Station Three. But I’ll tell you this. If I have a piece of Gold in my hands and someone offers me a bag that could contain platinum, I hold on to the gold. Because, in the end, you may end up trading that gold for Milt Pappas.
Or I may have my metaphor confused.