Winter moves often are far more meaningful than ones made mid-season. Trades made in July sometimes provides only marginal upgrades to a club’s roster, and even when said upgrade is rather large, a slump by the acquired player can and often has rendered the moves somewhat useless. So why is there more excitement leading up to the deadline?
Because Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline is magic.
Trading for a new player, especially those with a name in the game, is exciting in and of itself. Doing so in July means the club is in the race for a postseason berth, and it means they just got better — at least on paper — improving their chances to play October baseball.
But it goes beyond that. If you’re a fan of a club in the race, the simple act of your team being active for one or more of the better players on the trade market is a feeling unmatched in professional sports this side of winning it all.
It’s new, but also it usually changes the dynamics of the team greatly. For the better. Take the Houston Astros, for example. Sure, they added lefty Scott Kazmir to their rotation. That was nice enough. They’ve since added another starting pitcher in Mike Fiers that helps them immediately, and added perhaps the player that could make the most impact of any other player moved in Carlos Gomez.
Gomez, a top-drawer defensive centerfielder and baserunner, can hit for average, has average or better power, too, and gets on base. He hasn’t had the best 2015 and at times will miss game with a nagging injury, but over the next 60 games or so Gomez may be the difference between the Astros getting into the playoffs and not, and right now they look like favorites to get in via the Wild Card, and may have a great shot to catch the Angels in the American League West.
But the love for the trade deadline is not reserved for teams that make the big move, or any moves that add immediate assistance to winning. The casual fan may not get a whole lot from their losing team trading a known player for young talent they’ve never heard of in their life. But knowing their team is doing what it can to better their opportunity for next year is so much better than doing nothing for whatever reason. Fans want to see action, and moves at the deadline show most fans that their favorite team has the desire to win, is willing to make tough decisions in order to do so and care about the fans. Inactivity doesn’t mean ownership or the front office is bad at their jobs, don’t care about winning and/or don’t care about fans, but many fans absolutely believe that.
I asked Seattle-area baseball fans, mostly casual Mariners fans, but a few hardcore editions and a Red Sox fanvia Twitter, email and live at games over the past two weeks what they want to see the M’s do over the next weeks and months and here are some of the responses:
Ryan from Everett: “Mostly just… something. I hate when they sit around and let every other team get the best players. Even when teams are bad sometimes they trade for good players.”
Robert from Bonney Lake: “Anything, really. I always feel like the Mariners are one step behind everyone else. Or two steps (laughs). When was the last time the Mariners were the smart club getting ahead of other teams?”
Kris from Bellevue: “I don’t want them to trade the big guys like Felix. But I do like to see trades. They do give me some hope, usually. I never know what to expect but I do like hearing about trades. Who doesn’t like trades?”
Mike from Lake Stevens: “Whatever it takes to win. I’m one of the lifers here. I’m tired of ‘staying the course.’ It’s not working … so I guess I don’t care about trades right now, I just want change. But I do react positively to moves. I even liked last year’s trades at the trading deadline.”
Daniel from Seattle: “I’m a Red Sox fan. Even in the bad years I ended up going to more games after we made a trade than if we didn’t do anything. I felt like seeing the new player… I felt like the newness of the new players offered fresh hope. Usually that wasn’t the case in the end (laughs).”
I did ask a few Astros fans Thursday to grade their level of excitement after the trades compared to at the All-Star break. On a 1-10 scale, the lowest NOW grade was 10, and the lowest THEN grade was 4. The Angels having caught and passed them, plus the recent mediocre-esque play was worrisome.
“Now I am thinking World Series.”
Rightfully so, Astros fan. Rightfully so.
An Indians fan I spoke to had this to say Thursday evening: “I’m so tired of this team teasing us. I was hoping for a good trade deadline where we get a guy like (Justin) Upton or find a way to get rid of salary, but I guess we’re just going to get worse today and for next year. Is this the way Mariners fans feel?”
But that feeling is nothing a trade or two over the next several hours can’t fix. After all, the Trade Deadline is magic.