MLB Trade Deadline Day Duds

The Boston Red Sox just became a shoo-in for the pennant and a long playoff run. With the trade deadline acquisition of Canadian reliever Eric Gagne, Boston instantly secured success.

The Atlanta Braves similarly went out and snagged some key contributors in Mark Teixeira, Ron Mahay, and Octavio Dotel. This immediately puts the Braves into the wildcard driver's seat.

San Diego acquired third baseman Morgan Ensberg and left fielder Rob Mackowiak. The Yankees picked up infielder Wilson Betemit and Philadelphia grabbed pitcher Julio Mateo from the Seattle Mariners. So, let's get this straight. Boston and Atlanta will be in the World Series with San Diego and the New York Yankees losing the their respective league championships.

Oh, wait. Does the trade deadline really warrant the season-changing hype it seams to garner each year? Or should it be considered simply a last-minute opportunity for the favorites to tweak their lineup and the also-rans to get a few more prospects that will likely never play?

When one recalls recent trade deadlines and the ensuing stretch drive, its little wonder this year's eleventh hour frenzy played second fiddle to the overshadowing forehead of Barry Bonds and his home run chase. A quick scan of the stats shows few late July acquisitions actually changing the fate of a team's season. And rarely do the World Series champions look back upon the trade deadline as the season's turning point.

Last year, the Detroit Tigers acquired Sean Casey at the deadline and he was a key cog in the Tigers' playoff run, but Casey is much more the exception than the rule.

Over the past three seasons, every year, only one team in each league has qualified for the postseason after being on the outside at the deadline. The trend seems to agree that teams in a playoff position at the deadline stay there and teams looking in from the outside rarely make it the playoffs.

In three years, only three teams have joined the October dance after watching in August from the outside.

While the MLB trade deadline is nothing like the frantic frenzy that is the NHL deadline, there are still major deals, but I'm just not sure how significant they turn out to be.

In 2004, the Chicago Cubs made the biggest splash with the acquisition of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra from the Boston Red Sox. The four-team trade landed the Cubs the much sough-after five-time all-star.

At the time of the deal, Chicago was one game out of the wildcard position and with the addition of Garciappara were a likely favorite to capture the coveted last spot. But despite batting .297 after joining the Cubs and collecting 20 home runs, at the end of the year Chicago finished three games back of the wildcard and a disappointing third in the NL Central. Boston, having rid themselves of former Red Sox icon Garciaparra went on to win the World Series.

In 2005, the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks were neck-and-neck in the race NL West title at the deadline. The Padres were busy, acquiring pitcher Chan Ho Park and infielder Joe Randa amongst a few other small pieces. At the same time, the Diamondbacks did almost nothing. In this case the Padres pulled ahead of Arizona and went on to take the division. But despite the additions and claiming the divisional title, San Diego was promptly swept 3-0 by the St. Louis Cardinals and all those deadline moves looked little better than a good try.

In the American League, the New York Yankees were not in the playoff picture at the deadline and uncharacteristically made few moves to bolster the lineup. But quickly proved the deadline's lack of importance but putting together a remarkable stretch run to win the AL East.

This year was also the deadline where names like Manny Ramirez and Afonso Soriano were apparent trade bait, but nothing came to fruition. Matt Lawton may have been the biggest move as he went to the Chicago Cubs, but was unable to vault them into Octoberfest.

The World Series winning Chicago White Sox only acquired spare part Geoff Blum at the deadline, while their championship counterparts did nothing at the deadline, yet still made it to the last dance.

Last year, the American League was yet another prime example of why the MLB's trade deadline often provides little more than an opportunity to hit a bloop single. The Minnesota Twins were a couple games back in the AL Central and did nearly nothing at the deadline. They went on a tear that had them recover to win the division.

In the National League, the L.A. Dodgers took a different deadline route by acquiring Greg Maddux. He turned in several impressive performances — going 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA — helping the Dodgers to a 37-19 record after the deadline. Although they made the playoffs, the Maddux acquisition didn't help after the regular season as they were swept in the opening round.

Cincinnati tried to do what L.A. did by picking up pitchers Kyle Lohse and Rheal Cormier, but it had the opposite effect. They fell from leading the wildcard race to eight games back by the end of the season.

The major players at the deadline rarely turn into World Series champions. Whether that's because they only need minor tweaking or because the dressing room chemistry is able to stay intact. Year after year, the trade deadline is more intriguing to fans than to general managers. Although minor moves can be imperative for a team's success, don't be concerned if your team didn't make a major move this year. They may be hiding in the bushes ready to pounce with their unchanged roster and maybe that will help baseball move out of Barry Bonds shadow.

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