Sunday, August 06, 2006

You're Traded! So, What Are You Waiting For?

For Sean Casey, all of the remaining contests of the 2006 baseball season become away games.

Oh, he’ll wear the creamy white home uniforms along with the rest of his new Tigers teammates when the team is in town and performing at Comerica Park. But don’t you believe it. Casey is destined to be on the ultimate road trip, baseball style: he’s the traded player.

The Tigers nabbed first baseman Casey last week at the trading deadline, pilfering him from the perpetually last-place Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for a tube of linseed oil and a box of baseballs. Okay, it was actually for AA pitcher Brian Rogers, but for the moment there’s hardly a difference to the Tigers; Casey didn’t cost them anyone that matters right now.

Casey: from the outhouse to the penthouse

Fans read of trades and they dissect them – slice and dice them forthwith. And the folks who become experts because they wear announcer headsets and carry notepads and pens will declare winners and losers of such trades before a single inning is played by the involved players with their new clubs. We must have instant gratification. Forget that the true value of any baseball trade worth its salt isn’t determined until several years hence.

But baseball trades generate excitement, and there’s anticipation when your team’s newest player is shown on the tube wearing the good guys’ jersey and joining the cause. Casey is now a Tiger – going the worst to first route in the process – and he wore his whites for the first time Friday night during the Tigers’ thrilling, come-from-behind win over the Cleveland Indians. But he’s going to be the visiting player from here out. As will be Bobby Abreu, and Ben Broussard, and Greg Maddux, and anyone else who was dealt like baseball cards in recent days.

“Home” will be a hotel room, the “dresser drawers” will be a suitcase. Meals will be prepared and served by room service, and transportation will be a taxi cab. Wives and girlfriends and children will be miles and miles away, perpetually. There’ll be no such thing as the comfort of their “own” bed.

The deal for Casey was completed around 10 a.m. Monday morning. The announcement came around 10:30. The Tigers were in Tampa to begin a series with the Devil Rays. When the game began that evening at 7:05, Casey was there, in uniform – wearing #12. With the Reds and then the Pirates, Casey wore #25. But Dmitri Young is #25 in Detroit. So a #12 jersey with “CASEY” stitched on it is hastily made up. The game is played, the Tigers lose, and Casey never gets off the bench. Then it’s back to the team hotel, and only then can Sean Casey get to know his teammates.

There’s the video game-playing Brandon Inge. The prank-playing Vance Wilson. The Latino contingent: Placido Polanco, Omar Infante, Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez. The easygoing Todd Jones. And, of course, the venerable manager.

“I’ve always been a big Jim Leyland fan,” Casey tells the Detroit writers and radio guys of his Pittsburgh roots and Pirates affection. He is reunited with Young, a teammate in Cincinnati and who he calls his “brother.”

“Playing with Young again, and playing for Leyland – this is great,” Casey gushes. You’d gush, too, if you were going from the outhouse to the penthouse.

The next night, Casey wears #21. He reverses the 12, for reasons only he knows. He starts, plays first base. He slugs a two-run homer. The Tigers win. Back to the hotel.

Ben Broussard, late of the Cleveland Indians, was traded to the Seattle Mariners the Friday before the deadline. And guess where the Mariners were playing that night?


So Broussard had to merely go to the visitors clubhouse that night, and wear a different uniform. Convenient, yet surreal.

But not as surreal as being traded for yourself.

In 1987, the Tigers – in the thick of a divisional race with the Toronto Blue Jays – traded for veteran relief pitcher Dickie Noles, in late September. Noles was a king beer drinker who had some good years in the National League. He was acquired from the Cubs for the famous “player to be named later.” He saved a couple games, and helped the Tigers snatch the division from the Jays in the season’s final week.

In the offseason, the Cubs were still owed that “player to be named later” for Dickie Noles. So the Tigers sent them – cue fanfare – Dickie Noles.

Noles-for-Noles. I’d like to see the hindsighters analyze THAT trade. How much more even-steven can you make a deal, anyway?

Or how about Greg Kelser? With the Pistons, he was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics. Said his goodbyes, traipsed off to Washington state. The Sonics decided to give Kelser a physical. Oops – a bum leg. Return to sender. Can you imagine the Pistons’ countenance toward Kelser as he walked back into the team’s lockerroom?

“Ummm … hope you didn’t take that whole ‘trade’ thing seriously,” they might have said, channeling Don Adams’ Maxwell Smart.

But then the Pistons traded Kelser anyway, a season or two later, to the Sonics after all. The player the Pistons received was a pudgy, streak shooting guard named Vinnie Johnson.

All hail the bad physical.

Johnson: a Piston thanks to Kelser's bad leg

Trades are a part of pro sports, but can you imagine reporting to work one day and your boss telling you that you’ve been dealt to Portland, for example? And that you’re to be on the next flight? And that you’ll not be able to come back home to fetch your things until the next time your new group flies into Detroit – several weeks hence? And oh, by the way, the Portland people need maximum performance … tonight.

Not so much fun anymore, are they?

So when you see Sean Casey dressed in his home Tigers whites, know that he’s a hometown player without a hometown – when it comes right down to it.

1 comment:

billfer said...

Just last year the Tigers traded a player to be named later for John Macdonald, and after the season named the player John Macdonald.