What year is it, anyway? As my friend and colleague Bruce Markusen pointed out last year when rumors surfaced that Ozzie Guillen might be traded to the Miami Marlins, the last time a baseball manager was traded to another team was a decade ago when the Seattle Mariners dealt Lou Piniella to the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Randy Winn. On Saturday, the Boston Red Sox revived the old art form, trading infielder Mike Aviles to the Toronto Blue Jays for manager John Farrell.
Just so I am perfectly clear on this: The Red Sox traded a 31-year old utility infielder who played in 136 games, batted .250 and hit 13 home runs to Toronto for the team’s manager, who finished last season 73-89 in last place in the American League East? OK, got it … I think. I guess this means Aviles will soon remove the statement — “proud member of the Boston Red Sox” — from his Twitter account?
Maybe unsatisfactory results call for unconventional action. The good news, if you’re a Red Sox fan, is history is on your side.
The New York Mets made one of the greatest player-for-manager trades of all time. In 1967, the Washington Nationals traded Gil Hodges to the Mets for pitcher Bill Denehy and cash. All Hodges did was taking the Mets from “lovable losers” to World Champions in two years.
Nearly a decade later, in 1976, the Oakland Athletics traded manager Chuck Tanner and $100,000 cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillen. Leave it to Charlie Finley, right? Orange baseballs, Harvey the mechanical rabbit, bonuses for growing your hair and moustache and trading managers, that was par for the course for Finley, a garish owner who explained the decision to trade Tanner this way:
“I run a finishing school for managers. I get them when they’re coarse and rough, and it takes me at least a year to develop them into exceptional managers. It costs me a lot of time and money to conduct this school, so I should be reimbursed. Or, I should say, indemnified when someone wants to take away the jewel I have created. I tell my managers when they leave me to remember what they’ve learned, but sometimes they forget and don’t do so good … I don’t want to show any disrespect for Tanner—he did a fine job of managing for me—but less than half an hour after he told me several clubs were interested in him, Pittsburgh was on the phone. Their new general manager, Harding Peterson, asked about hiring Tanner, and I said, ‘Why, that’s an excellent idea. You can have him for $100,000 and Manny Sanguillen.’ Peterson said I was putting a gun to his head, but a few days later he was on the phone to offer $100,000—but no catcher. Then a week later he was back to say, ‘Well, Finley, you win.’ Don’t worry. I’ll get another good manager for my finishing school in 1977.”
Tanner and the Pirates won the World Series three years later.
Hodges to the Mets, Tanner to the Pirates and Piniella to the Rays. World Series. World Series. Bust. To steal a lyric from Marvin Lee Aday — Meatloaf to music fans — “Two out of three ain’t bad.”