July 9, 2009 at 9:18 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Cincinnati Reds, Front Office, Texas Rangers, Transaction Analysis, Transactions
Whenever the beloved (by some, self included) Jon Sciambi or Joe Simpson can’t call a Braves game due to prior commitments or unforeseen circumstances, Ron Gant frequently fills in. Ron Gant is one of my favorite baseball players of all time. And one of the better Atlanta Braves. He had two particularly great seasons. 1990 and 1991. In the former he was slightly better (mainly just do to BABIP (.306 in 1990, .258 in 1991) as he hit the same number of HR both seasons and stole 1 more base in 1991), but they were both monster seasons*. The latter was much more memorable, however, as the Braves ended up making it to the World Series and losing to the Twins 1-0 in a 10-inning game 7 that capped off the greatest World Series of all time**. In those two seasons, he hit 32 HR each year, stole 33 bases in 1990, and stole 34 bases in 1991. Each season alone would qualify him for the “30-30 club”, but the two put together put him on a list of 9 people to do it multiple times (the feat alone has been done 52 times by 32 players). Ron Gant, Barry Bonds, Alfanso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, Raúl Mondesí, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, and Howard Johnson make up this list. Pretty elite company. I suspect Hanley Ramirez will join it this year. Another note about the 30-30 club. There have been 4 Braves to put together 30-30 seasons. Hank Aaron in 1963 (for the then Milwaukee Braves), Dale Murphy in 1983, and Ron Gant’s two seasons. But that’s all trivia and I’m rambling.
*Ron Gant hit .303/.357/.539 with 32 HR, 33 SB, and 34 2B in 1990 and .251/.338/.496 with 32 HR, 34 SB and 35 2B in 1991. What I would give to have a corner outfielder putting up those kind of numbers for the Braves in 2009… Anyway, he was 14th in MVP voting in 1990 and 6th in 1991. Goes to show playing for a winner really does change how people vote for MVP.
**I own the tape I linked. I still own a VCR for the singular purpose of occasionally watching that tape.
Anyway, like I said, Gant is the “emergency play-by-play/color analyst” for the Fox Sports South and Sports South broadcast. And while he was one of my favorite baseball players, he’s far from my favorite baseball announcer. They say, “Good hitters don’t necessarily make good hitting coaches”. Well, good baseball players don’t necessarily make good baseball announcers*. Ron Gant proves this theorem to be true. At least in my eye.
*See Fire Joe Morgan.
Gant (all too) frequently uses variations of the phrase “that’s one he’d like to have back”. For example, you’ll (also all too frequently) see Chuck James throw a letter-high big ole’ fat change-up over the heart of the plate, a ball that Ted Lilly would hit over the fence, and watch it sail off of Ryan Zimmerman’s bat into the parking lot. Gant, in his infinite baseball wisdom and without any reservations concerning the use of clichés or the over-use of phrases, will chime in: “You know, that’s a pitch he’d like to have back”. Really, Ron? He’d really like to have not thrown a pitch so hittable that it got hit harder than anything anyone hit in batting practice today? OK, I’m not being fair here. Maybe to the casual baseball fan it is helpful to explain a letter-high middle-of-the-plate pitch is hittable. It’s the over-use of the phrase that ruins the whole Ron Gant calls the game experience for me.
So, as a tribute to his baseball career and a mockery of his broadcasting career, I entitled this entry, which largely has nothing to do with Ron Gant outside of my ~550 word rambling introduction, “One They Might Like To Have Back”. It has nothing to do with anything that Ron Gant, to my knowledge, has professionally discussed. Not one of Chuck James’ fat pitches, one of Kelly Johnson’s inopportune errant misplays, one of Jeff Francoeur’s disgraceful plate appearances, or one of Bobby Cox’s moronic strategies*. This has to do with a trade. A high-profile trade. A high-profile trade that should be even higher-profile. Because it has undoubtedly changed the face of two franchises. People act like it just didn’t happen. People talk about the Bay trade or the Teixeira trade (which actually did probably change the face of Texas’ franchise), but this trade was also huge.
*Oh. My. God. That pinch-bunt Bobby had Diaz try to execute on Tuesday. I wanted to throw a brick at my television. Check it out. Play-by-play courtesy of ESPN.
R Johnson in center field. A Heilman relieved S Marshall. J Francoeur reached on infield single to shortstop. B Conrad reached on bunt single to pitcher, J Francoeur to second. M Diaz hit for M Gonzalez. M Diaz bunt popped out to third.
I’m talking about the trade that sent a rehabilitated and re-made Josh Hamilton to Texas for Edinson Volquez and a “Danny Herrera”. I looked it up, a “Danny Herrera” is a 5’7″, 145 LB left-handed pitcher*. Obviously, the Reds and Rangers viewed the deal as a Hamilton for Volquez swap with Herrera on top to sweeten the deal. Not that he does much to a deal that already involves a) a 23-year old flame-throwing right-handed pitcher that shot up from Class A Advanced to AAA and eventually to MLB the previous year and b) a 26-year old feel-good story of a former number 1 overall draft pick who just hit .292/.368/.554 in 337 PA’s during his first taste of the big leagues and plays a defensively challenging position. So you get the idea, blockbuster-type deal. When major young talent gets exchanged, it qualifies as blockbuster. Maybe not from a mainstream media’s perspective, but for my purposes, it does.
*I didn’t actually have to look up who he was, I remembered from the trade news at the time and when he faced the Braves 4 times this season pitching 5 and 2/3 scoreless innings, though I did have to look up his height and weight (which I distinctly remember was not much on both counts) and his stats.
When people do discuss this trade, something that happens all too infrequently, they seem to go with the premise: “The trade worked perfectly.” I’m not so sure it did. When I was doing my research for this article, I came across this one from USAToday. First of all, I’d like to share some portions of some of the comments from the article, which I find funny.
The Rays are just LOSERS. Talent coming out their ears, but bottom barrel, every single year. They are the only expansion team not to win, aren’t they? Marlins have 2 WS, D’backs have one, Rockies played in one this year. Where are the Rays? Moaning about the talent they squander, that’s where. LOSERS.
Boy, was that guy eventually wrong. That comment was written on New Years Eve of 2007, by the way. Lad needs to lay off the booze or make some friends (or both). And another:
It’ll be interesting to see how Hamilton does without the Narron family babysitting him. I know Jerry lost his job midseason but his brother was still around as the batting coach to hold his hand. Josh’s ties with the Narron family was the only reason he got a second chance in Cincy. I believe the Reds dumped Hamilton off on the Rangers in part due to the public fit he threw when Jerry Narron was fired.
I’d say his stint in Texas has worked out alright despite the lack of presence from the Narron family. But the comment that really caught my eye was this one, which basically sums up my whole thesis for this piece.
The Rangers chase after more hitting year after year. And their downfall is always lousy pitching. So they trade away a top pitching prospect for more hitting. I think another year in the cellar of their division is a pretty good bet. Sorry Rangers fans- you deserve better.
Finally, I’m getting to my point. If the Reds had Josh Hamilton right now, where would they be? Imagine the Reds’ offense plus Hamilton. The offense looks decent on paper, but they’re 14th in the NL in runs scored*. If the Rangers had Volquez, where would they be? Pitching is clearly their weakness right now. And if they had that extra starter, they might be capable of running away with that division. Both teams have shown they can function without the key player they netted in the trade. They’ve both been on the DL this year. During Hamilton’s stint on the DL, the Rangers went 15-15. Since Volquez went on the DL, the Reds have gone a very respectable 14-19 over a particularly difficult portion of the schedule. Each player fills a glaring need for the team he was traded by.
*They’re 14th in runs scored for a few reasons. Two of them: 1) suspect management by Dusty Baker, giving entirely too many PA’s to very, very bad players and 2) Votto has been on the DL, which has undoubtedly hurt them. But they’re still stacked in the SP department and lacking in the offensive department.
I would argue that both teams would be better off if they could take back this trade. Yeah, I’d hate to break up the Rangers’ offense or the Reds’ rotation. But I believe they’re both more complete teams if they don’t make that trade. So to those who say this trade worked perfectly, I have to disagree. I think both teams lost this trade. They both added to (what they currently consider) depth and plucked from (what they currently consider) slim-pickings. Which is the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and neither the Reds nor the Rangers are complaining about the trade, so it wasn’t a colossal failure. But you have to wonder, is this trade “one they would like to have back”?