There are some places where this is as much a rite of baseball season as Opening Day.
In Pittsburgh, in Oakland, in Kansas City, in Cleveland, the midsummer trade deadline is an annual bazaar. Unless those teams are having excellent seasons, they are live-action breakfast buffets, contenders scarfing up players like so many French toast sticks and slabs of bacon.
Around here, though?
The notion of being sellers is anathema. It just is. We are New York! We buy, we do not sell. We never say never. That is not who we are. Sure, we may get angry at our teams, both of them, and sometimes say, “Get rid of all the bums!” But when that actually happens … well, a lot of Mets fans reacted the other night like the Marlins hadn’t just stolen David Robertson, but all of their baseball cards, too.
It reminds me of something I’ve long believed. In New York, there is a 10-point plan to surviving the trade deadline. Here it is:
1. It’s always better to buy than to sell — in theory. Buying means you still believe you have a chance! Selling is waving a white flag. There is nothing fun about waving a white flag. We all grew up on the old New York Lottery motto: “You’ve gotta be in it to win it.” Buying means you’re in it.
2. It’s not always better to buy. We present the 2004 Mets, and the trade of Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. We bring you the 2019 Mets, acquiring Marcus Stroman. We recommend for you the 2021 Mets, trading Pete Crow-Armstrong for Javier Baez. Heck, we remind you of the ’22 Mets, trading J.D. Davis for Darin Ruf.
3. Even when selling is better, it guarantees nothing. The one time the Yankees became genuine sellers at the deadline the past 30 years, in 2016, they turned Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman into Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier — then did what teams always say they might do but rarely do, and immediately brought Chapman back that winter. It was impeccable on every level. But Frazier was a bust, Chapman wound up one of the most unpopular Yankees ever, and though Torres has had his moments, he is also as much a face of the present moribund Yankees as anyone.
4. Manage expectations. On Aug. 30, 1990, the Red Sox swapped Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen, the gold standard for either trade-deadline mastery or buffoonery. Most, and almost all, deadline deals come nowhere near this, though every fan seeks this kind of highway robbery.
5. Optics don’t matter …
6. … until they matter. Let’s give the Mets the benefit of the doubt with Robertson. Let’s say they independently identified the players they wanted, and when those players were offered they swung the deal. And maybe in four years when Marco Vargas accepts his Rookie of the Year award, the optics won’t matter. But the fact is the Mets made that deal with plenty of time to spare. As much as anything, that seemed to rankle their fans. Which leads us to …
7. Fans don’t matter when deciding to do deals …
8. … except when they do matter. By the time the Mets return from their Kansas City/Baltimore road swing a week from Monday, with whatever the roster is that they’ll go with the rest of the way, they will have just 19 road games left. They will have 32 left at Citi Field, and if that roster has been ghosted by then, you can believe the stadium will be a ghost town, too. We all know how rich the owner is. Even he won’t be pleased at the sight of 30,000 empty seats a night across the last two months.
9. Don’t sit around and wait for miracles. The Mets and Yankees have both given more than 100 games worth of evidence who they are. Yes, we can tell glorious stories about the ’51 Giants and the ’73 Mets and the ’78 Yankees and the ’22 Phillies. But those are absolute outliers.
10. Fans believe in miracles. And be grateful for that. Whatever anger met the Robertson deal, whatever skepticism might greet transactions for either team the next few days, it’s all a product of caring. It’s when you start hearing crickets that you’d better start circling the wagons.
Whatever else has gone wrong with the Yankees — and the line starts on the left — it has been must-see TV to watch Gerrit Cole work every fifth day.
Worth your while: Ed Kranepool’s autobiography, “The Last Miracle,” which will be released next week and actually deals with two miracles: the 1969 Mets and Eddie’s quest for a life-saving kidney transplant.
I think it’s pretty funny that a guy who was suspended by the NFL for a year because a literal bounty system happened on his watch can be thought of — or thinks of himself as — some paragon of football virtue. Sean Payton won a lot of games with Drew Brees as his quarterback. Let’s see how many he wins with someone else.
I think it’s certainly possible that the Mets didn’t make a great trade for David Robertson, but I also think it’s worth allowing these kids to turn 20 first before hysterically declaring it a bigger steal than Manhattan in 1626.
Whack Back at Vac
Neil Ptashnik: This is the most talented Jets team, top to bottom, I can recall. So sad that a lack of depth on the offensive line is going to ruin the season. If I see that, why don’t they?
Vac: Hard to guess who’s going to be more worried, Jets fans or the Jets’ quarterback who may spend many of the coming Sundays running for his life.
Chuck Klembella: Having trouble with $10M being selfless, but maybe that’s where sports is nowadays. A guy makes an absurd amount of money and then is praised, even called selfless, for doing his job.
Vac: It probably is fair to mention that no matter how you feel about Saquon Barkley’s contract, it isn’t exactly minimum wage.
@drschnip: The only person I know who didn’t like the Sack Exchange-era Jets uniforms was Richard Todd, who threw five passes to guys in Dolphins uniforms in the 1982 Championship game.
@MikeVacc: Apparently he was a closet fan of aqua and orange.
John Sardanopoli: Touching story of your father and Tony Bennett. Your father put family, and in this case, family with potential family, first. Musicians generally lead a gypsy life, the antithesis of what your father obviously valued.
Vac: That pretty much sums him up, John.