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July 31 was swap day in Major League Baseball, as players around the league were tossed new hats. Contenders and pretenders distinguished themselves with moves big and small. The Red Sox acquired Victor Martinez, the White Sox got the strained ankle of Jake Peavy and the Twinkies picked up the red hot and dirt cheap Orlando Cabrera. No doubt the talking heads are tearing apart these deals and the messages that they send to their fans – we’ll get right on that in our next podcast. Here though, is a column that takes a look at the blatantly obvious yet consistently ignored aspect of all of these trades – the players.
While it seems like stating the obvious to say that players are changing teams, dissecting that movement is an aspect of the game that is highly understated. Fans might only see them donning new caps, dressed in new grays and whites, and sporting new batting averages and ERA’s – but the change is much deeper.
Imagine showing up to work only to find your desk boxed up – you’ve been laid off? Nope – traded. Not only will you not be working with the same people you have for years, you’re moving across the country. You’ll have to prove yourself over again, meet new friends, learn a new office, and find a place to live. Years of friends and relationships cultivated tossed out the window. You’ll have to change your job duties; perhaps you worked in accounting, now you’ll be working on information security. Oh and by the way you have basically one day to make all these changes.
After watching this video of former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson, it really hit me what kind of change a trade makes for a player. Masterson, who was drafted in 2006, has been a member of the Red Sox since he the age of 21. While he spent just a year and a half in the big leagues, he was a big piece of the team’s pitching staff, offering flexibility as a starter and reliever. He put up a 3.16 ERA in 2008.
The trade signifies a serious change for Masterson. He’ll have a new team. He’ll also have to move to Ohio. He’ll wake up August 1 not getting to see the same faces he’s seen over the past three years, not seeing the same places even. He’ll have to make new friends, adjust his game day activities to a new coaching staff and a new system and likely even make the conversion back to a starter.
The impact isn’t felt only by the players who move, but also the players who don’t. Fellow Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen was said to be in tears in the clubhouse when he heard that Masterson had been traded. General managers have a tough job moving players for talent reasons, clubhouse friendships and influences further cloud the impact of shipping guys out.
Sure these guys make millions of dollars. Trades can be great for players mired in losing situations or pining for playing time. But they also toss people’s lives into the blender. For every guy sent to a winner there is one (or in the Victor Martinez trade’s case three) on the way back to a loser. So give the guy a break if he takes a few games before he gets a hit, or if he gives up a run or two in his team debut. After all, he’s swapped more than just a hat.
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