Steven Goldman is a columnist for Vice Sports. He was formerly the editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus and the managing editor for baseball at SBNation.com. In the former capacity he edited and co-wrote the books Mind Game, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over, Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers, and the 2006 through 2011 editions of the New York Times-bestselling Baseball Prospectus annual. He’s also the author of Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel on the early career of the Hall of Fame manager. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.
December 3, 1969: The Mets traded OF Amos Otis and RHP Bob Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for 3B Joe Foy.
December 8, 1914: The Philadelphia Athletics sold 2B Eddie Collins to the Chicago White Sox for $50,000.
December 8, 1966: The New York Yankees traded OF Roger Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals for 3B Charley Smith.
Charley Smith was a career .239/.279/.370 hitter, so if you didn’t know that the player the Yankees were giving up was vastly degraded from his peak, you’d be puzzled as to why the single-season home-run leader, a two-time MVP, had brought so little in return. As such, this trade represents not just an ill-judged swap, but the culmination of a series of bad decisions.
Almost every band with a career lasting more than 30 seconds will at some point release a greatest hits compilation. Even bands that had not hits but hit, singular, will often scrape together enough tracks to justify an anthology, even if the plural of the title lies somewhere between a misnomer and false advertising. Conversely, if they have enough legitimate or semilegitimate hits for more than one collection they will add additional volumes. Queen lists Volumes I, II, and III in their discography, as do Billy Joel and Elton John.
Ten years ago, I was speaking with a colleague about Yankees outfield prospect Brett Gardner, whom I had just interviewed at Double-A Trenton. Having seen Gardner’s speed and patience in action, I was excited to see him climb the ladder to the Major Leagues. My colleague, who was an excellent judge of horseflesh (who would eventually be employed in a talent-evaluating capacity by a Major League team), told me to temper my expectations. “Right now, he looks like the next Rudy Law,” he said. “And no one is looking for the next Rudy Law.”
When I was very young, one of the so-called children’s stories I found deeply disturbing was “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde. It’s the story of a haunted but charity-minded statue that coaxes a swallow to gradually strip off its jewels and gilded leaves to aid the sad and impoverished residents of the city around it.
It is to be hoped that eventually even the most reactionary opponents of integration came to see, as African-American players entered the Majors in increasing numbers after 1947, that baseball that was open to the best talent, as opposed to the best white talent, was better baseball. This is as distinct from issues of fairness and morality. In their conformity to postbellum prejudices, the owners called into question for posterity all preintegration accomplishments. Babe Ruth’s home runs were hit against an intentionally castrated opposition.