Tuesday, July 18, 2006

As Trading Deadline Nears, Some Players' Hands Will Be Wringing

Imagine going to work everyday, and not knowing whether your boss will ask you into his (or her) office and say something like, "We've decided to make a move. You're to report to (fill in the blank of any city) immediately. They're expecting you at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Thanks for everything."

Now imagine reading in the newspapers, or hearing on the radio, that this scenario will quite possibly play out soon -- today, tomorrow, next week. The media has you going to Detroit, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. Pick one. Any day could be your last day at your familiar office, with its familiar faces, and its familiar commute. Your bags lie open in your bedroom -- awaiting quick deposits for an airplane jaunt to wherever.

Such is the life of the player on the block -- the trading block, that is.

This is the time when baseball engages in careless, reckless mentioning of players and their apparent destinations. The interleague, non-waiver trading deadline is July 31st. Less than two weeks. Only 13 more shopping days!

It's also the time of year when MLB splits itself, like an amoeba, into two distinct parts: the buyers (teams with a chance at the playoffs) and the sellers (teams who have long ago given up on even a .500 record).

The Tigers, it's presumed, are buyers this season -- the first time in years. This means they are the potential destination for any number of players that fit their needs -- which are also presumed. The need du jour for our Bengals is a lefthanded bat. It's been said for so long that even if you didn't believe it at first, you might be tempted to believe it now.

The Tigers badly need a lefthanded bat.


Fortunately, Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski is not one who's easy prey to hypnosis.

Regardless, the names keep bobbing to the surface: Bobby Abreu. Alfonso Soriano. Matt Stairs. To name a few. These players, and other like them, playing for teams who are now hopelessly out of the fun, will be haphazardly mentioned by the "trade rumor quacks," as the Detroit News' Jerry Green so eloquently named them in an online column earlier this month. They'll be headed for Detroit, or New York, or any other city that one of the "quacks" deems fitting.

But not just the quacks will chime in. Real writers -- genuine, card-carrying members of the media -- can't help themselves, either. They get caught up in all the pre-deadline hype, too. So they will also trade players, pumping for certain deals in their inch-wide spaces full of india ink.

And the players whose names are being tossed out there like so much shark bait will profess to keep their focus and play for the team to which they currently belong, but you can't tell me it doesn't affect their performance. And you are wrong if you don't think many of them are glad that they are staying put after the deadline passes.

"How can he be happy to stay in Kansas City? The team stinks!"

True enough. But all the fans see is a player in a different uniform. They don't know about the last-minute travel arrangements, or the kids left behind, or the learning of a new city with new streets and freeways and places to eat. They don't think about the mostly unknown faces in the new clubhouse, and the fact that he'll have to live out of a hotel, maybe throughout the rest of the season.

Baseball trades are still some of the most exciting, breathtaking, season-altering transactions in pro sports. It's fun for fans of the "buyers" to see their new acquisition, adorned in the home team whites. Besides, he might just help win a playoff spot along the way.

But they aren't always loads of fun for the players so dealt.

But why should we care, right? They make enough money.

So ... wanna start a rumor?

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