November 27, 1991: Tim Belcher and John Wetteland to the Reds for Eric Davis and Kip Gross. During his first full major league campaign in 1988, Belcher was a key contributor on the last Dodger championship team, winning 12 regular season games, with a 2.91 ERA. He followed up with a 3-0 record in the postseason.
Belcher's post-Dodgers career included five double-figure victory seasons, four seasons with 200 or more innings pitched, and four above-5.00 ERAs, two of which were dangerously close to 6.00. Oh, and there was a memorable karate-kick defense of a fight with Chan Ho Park, at the Ravine in 1999.
Much like James McDonald these days, Wetteland struggled in several opportunities with the Dodgers, eventually finding great success as a relief pitcher, first in Montreal and later with Joe Torre's New York Yankees. He saved all four Yanks' wins during the 1996 World Series and was the Series Most Valuable Player.
A star in Cincinnati during the early years, a key Reds and Orioles player in the later years, Davis was a bit of lost cause in between with the Dodgers. He batted .228 and .234 in 1992 and 1993, with a combined 19 homers and 85 RBIs. Perhaps Davis' most prominent Los Angeles event was a 1993 firecracker-throwing incident with Vince Coleman in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. His attorney, then primarily a hand-holding counselor of apologetic baseball players, went on to become something more than that a summer later. Yep, it was Robert Shapiro.
November 19, 1993: The big one. I mean, the big one, the one almost universally considered to be the worst trade in Los Angeles Dodgers, if not L.A. slash Brooklyn history. Pedro Martinez to the Expos for Delino DeShields, straight-up.
The unfortunate backstory stars Jody Reed, who, after a fine one-and-done season in Los Angeles, with his brother-in-law playing the role of agent, turned down a $7.8 million three-year contract in favor of free agency. While Reed ended up with a 1994 deal resembling major league minimum, and earned a grand total of $2.9 over the rest of his career, worst supporting actor Fred Claire, visions of sugar plums in his eyes, turned to DeShields to replace Reed.
And replace him DeShields did, managing all of 89 appearances and a .250 average in 1994. Following up with .256 and .224 averages the next two seasons, complaining throughout, even independent of Martinez (difficult as it may be to separate the two), DeShields was considered a monumental disappointment as a Dodger.
Pedro's accomplishments are almost too many and too painful to detail here, but just for the sake of comparison, let's discuss the immediate impact. Tommy Lasorda's theory that Martinez was too slight a man to be a successful starter was proven folly by about April of that first season in Montreal.
Martinez was a given a rotation spot to start the year, and in the strike-shortened 1994 season, went 11-5, with a 3.42 ERA, and a glimpse-of-things-to-come 1.106 WHIP. He was the Expo ace the next year, going 14-10, 3.51 and 1.151, turned in another fine 1996 season of 13-10, 3.70 and 1.195, and developed into a Cy Young Award winner the year after that.
Perhaps an ancillary issue (and perhaps not), on the little matter of salary, L.A. paid DeShields a tidy sum of $8.7 million from 1994 to 1996. The Expos shelled out a whopping $785,000 for Pedro's services.
May 14, 1998: The blockbuster that, as much as anything that occurred during the regime, branded the Fox-Rupert Murdoch era a fiasco. Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile to the Marlins for Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson and Gary Sheffield.
Despite the significant names involved, this trade was more about power and setting an example than it was about players, and it had as little to do with improving the roster as any deal in club history. With Fox executives Chase Carey and Peter Chernin engineering the transaction, intentionally without input from Fred Claire, the trade was about putting soon-to-be free agent Piazza in his place, that place being anywhere other than Los Angeles.
It was about moving by far the greatest hitter in Los Angeles Dodgers history on ownership's terms, rather than even begin a negotiation that might lead to a contract that was deemed in advance to be untenable.
Piazza spent a week in Florida before being flipped to New York, essentially for free, went on to hit .348 the rest of the '98 season, led his Mets to the NLCS the following year, and to the World Series in 2000.
While he was no barrel of laughs, and referred to as "mercurial" more times than was probably appropriate, Sheffield just hit the crap out of the ball for his entire three and a half seasons here.
If Sheff's success in Los Angeles leads one to argue that the trade was worth the price of Piazza, so be it. We can debate that from 1998 until the Dodgers appear in a Fall Classic. The "you-don't-trade-a-Hall-of-Famer" rebuttal might just go on longer than that.
July 4, 1998: The Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes to Cincinnati for Jeff Shaw trade was consummated during the brief tenure of Tommy Lasorda as general manager. Contributing to the controversy surrounding the deal was Lasorda's ignorance of the rule which allowed players traded in the middle of a multi-year contract to demand a trade of their own following the current season.
After completing a 48 save season, with a 2.12 ERA, Shaw could have written his own ticket out of town, but let the Dodgers off easy with a simple re-negotiation. Sure, it was big money – $15 million for three years – but Shaw wanted to stay, and he was more than gentlemanly in his handling of the matter.
While not the prototypical hard-throwing closer, Shaw distinguished himself in Los Angeles, and his three-plus year save total of 129 ranks second all-time in franchise history, behind Eric Gagne's 161.
Konerko hit .219 in his 73 career at bats with the Reds, and became a mainstay in Chicago seemingly with seconds of his November 1998 trade to the White Sox. A .294 average, with 28 home runs and 81 RBIs his first year as a regular, .298, 21 and 97 in 2000, and .282, 32 and 99 in 2001. And 243 homers over the next eight seasons.
November 8, 1999: In the final big trade of the millennium, the Dodgers dealt Raul Mondesi and Pedro Borbon, Jr. to Toronto for Shawn Green. In as good an example of the obligatory tradition of "it's better to trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late" as you'll find in team history, Mondesi had been a great Dodger, but had clearly worn out his welcome.
General manager Kevin Malone was not alone in thinking that the former Rookie of the Year's best days were behind him, and getting Green was widely considered a coup for Los Angeles at the time. Mondesi was hurt much of the 2000 season, but managed to hit .271, with 24 home runs and 67 RBIs. He followed up with a year and a half of solid but unspectacular play in Toronto, with similar results as a Yankee over an equal period of play, then made quick stops with four clubs over the next three seasons, and retired with Atlanta in 2005 at the age of 34.
Green went to work promptly in his old stomping grounds of Southern California, and wouldn't budge for the next five years, averaging 159 ½ games per season as a Dodger. Playing the full 162 in 2000, Green hit .267, with 24 home runs and 99 RBIs. Many among the faithful considered it a dud of a performance.
Not so in 2001. With Gary Sheffield hitting behind him (lest we forget, or have Sheffield remind us), Green recorded 701 plate appearances, scored 121 times, while managing 181 hits, 31 doubles, four triples, a franchise-record setting 49 homers, 125 RBIs, a .297 average, .372 slugging, and threw in 20 steals to boot.
2002 was a close facsimile, with Green scoring 110 times, while recording 31 doubles, 42 homers, 114 RBIs and a .285. On May 23 in Milwaukee Green went six for six, with a major league-tying four home runs and a record-setting 19 total bases.
Green was involved in another big trade in 2005, which we'll detail in part five of this series. Please check in early and often…
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Media Savvy: In a spring broadcast Wednesday, Rick Monday said something about "the execution of players." It was after a defensive miscue, but the death penalty seems a bit rash, it seems to me. Perhaps Monday was channeling John McKay. You remember; when asked about the execution of his players during the Tampa Bay Bucs' 0-14 1976 season, McKay said "I'm in favor of it."
Anniversary Time: In celebration of BaseballSavvy.com's 10-year anniversary – the actual day is next Tuesday – we're auctioning off some memorabilia and two great seats to Jackie Robinson Night, April 15 at Dodger Stadium. All proceeds will be donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, via eBay's nonprofit site, MissionFish.org. To contribute an item for the auction, or for more information, please contact me directly.
Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…
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