Sunday, July 31, 2011

Decisions Decisions

This year's MLB trade deadline has proven exciting.  General managers from numerous teams have spent sleepless nights with no one other than their Blackberry for company.  Big-name players have moved, minor deals have been made, and contenders have filled holes while teams in the cellar have cut payroll.  One fact is certain, no team wins anything by making a trade.  Teams may upgrade their talent or replenish their farm systems, but two months of baseball remain unplayed and trades do not always correlate to wins.

Pundits, analysts, and fans listen, watch, and read about every trade rumor that comes across their computer screens, hoping their team's GM will strike a deal to help the winning cause.  One aspect of trades that goes overlooked by fans is the sacrifice made by players who are forced to move from one city to the next.  Although some players do not face any difficulties due to their young age and bachelor status, many players must leave a city they call home and worry about their family's future.

Let's go through a few examples.  The Mets recently traded 
Carlos Beltran across country to the San Francisco Giants.  Beltran had a no-trade clause in his contract allowing him to veto any preposed trade.  He used this clause to inform the Mets he would only accept a trade to an NL team contending for the playoffs.  His choices were professionally motivated, unrelated to personal matters.  Beltran cared little about moving from one coast to the other, putting winning above everything else.

Other players, like the Dodgers' 
Hiroki Kuroda, chose to invoke his no-trade clause in order to veto all trades, even a few scenarios that put him onto the Red Sox and Yankees.  Kuroda formerly pitched in Japan, but when he signed with the Dodgers, he moved his whole life to the United States.  His life would once again be turned upside down were he to move from Los Angeles to either Boston or New York.  Most would wonder why Kuroda would ever veto such a trade due to the Dodgers' abysmal season and financial troubles coupled with Boston and New York's strong desire to acquire him.  Kuroda chose family above winning, a choice that angers fans but does not baffle many players who understand such decisions. Being traded is akin to an army general being transferred from base to base requiring them to relocate their families.

As a Phillies fan, I have experienced the tension and joy that goes into making a big trade deadline acquisition.  Had I been a Red Sox or Yankees fan during the negotiations for Hiroki Kuroda, I would not have been pleased with his decision, but my opinion has recently changed.  Far too often we as fans see MLB players as chess pieces, easily sacrificed and exchanged, all towards the winning cause, but we overlook the fact that these players are men with families and responsibilities beyond baseball.  As fans we should have the right to boo a player for underperforming or refusing to be traded for purely superficial reasons, but not for refusing a trade due to personal reasons.  Although players make millions of dollars, and "trades are part of the game," these are not valid enough arguments to be made in favor of bashing a player for refusing a trade due to personal reasons.

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