Peter Gammons: Now that the deadline dust has settled

The first question was about the certainty of the Dodgers in the World Series. The second was a look-ahead to a replay of the 1981 Dodger-Yankee World Series.

I covered the 1978 Red Sox. I remember when they were 14 up on the Yankees on July 19. Or that on August 1 they were 65-38, and that after one Hall of Famer, Rich Gossage, popped up another Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski with two out and two on in the bottom of the ninth of game 163, the Red Sox had to pull their blankets to their chins. And that 23 years later, Carl Crawford muff and an Evan Longoria home run sent two certain Hall of Famers, Theo Epstein and Terry Francona, onto The Pike headed to Chicago and Cleveland and, eventually, Andrew Friedman to Los Angeles.

Since the trading deadline was moved to July 31, the surest thing seemed to be the 1998 Houston Astros. That night Houston—in first place with a 65-44 record—and General Manager Gerry Hunsicker got Randy Johnson from the Mariners. Johnson went 10-1 down the stretch, with a 116-24 strikeout-walk ratio. The Astros went 37-16 after the deal. They had Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Moises Alou and Billy Wagner in their primes, Bagwell and Biggio en route for Cooperstown, Wagner still on the HOF radar.

But with a day off between games one and two, then two and three, the Padres were able to pitch Kevin Brown in two of those first three games. Brown, who Bagwell says “had the best stuff of anyone I ever faced,” gave up a run in each start, one beating Johnson 2-1, and the San Diego story was written—they went to the World Series against the Yankees, which enabled Larry Lucchino to get the land and the financing to build one of the best parks in the sport, Petco Park. The Yankees, who were in serious trouble down 2-1 in the ALCS in Cleveland and were revived by a brilliant fourth game performance by El Duque, Orlando Hernandez, went on to a World Series sweep and comparisons to the great Yankee teams of the late 1930s.

When the deadline passed last Monday at 4 p.m., the media consensus was that the Dodgers are the lock that the ’98 Astros once appeared. And they might be, presuming that Clayton Kershaw is healthy in front of Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Yu Darvish, with a bullpen that most nights seems to have a 25 man roster leading up to Kenley Jansen.

Still. Stuff happens. Health. Do we really know how good Darvish really is? A Rangers official Sunday said they were going to move him. The Cubs and the Indians were on his no trade list, and when he eventually ended up in Los Angeles with his friend Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers hadn’t given away any of their future for a rental. Willie Calhoun can rake,  his eventual position will be determined, but Walker Buehler, Mitchell White, Yadier Alvarez, Alex Verdugo and Yusniel Diaz remain in place.

The Dodgers are very deep. Unlike last season, they hammer lefthanded pitching (leading the National League in homers against them). When they couldn’t work a deal with Baltimore for Zach Britton, they added some lefthanded depth to the bullpen with Tony Watson (characterized by one NL Personnel Director as having a “Chase Utley makeup and influence on other players”) and Tony Cingrani. When Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu are potential 5-6 starters, that is a powerful and flexible staff.

What makes the Dodgers such a fascinating team is that while they are very talented and their stars like Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner are high energy, Thursday we saw Chris Taylor race through home plate on a sacrifice fly in case they fell behind another and he could insure the run, or Austin Barnes moving up on a short passed ball up five runs to lead to another insurance run. Dave Roberts exudes enthusiasm, his coaching staff is extremely energetic and their ability to manipulate the 10 day disabled list makes it seem as if they have a daily 35 man roster.

Arizona and Colorado added; the Diamondbacks have to survive without Nick Ahmed until Labor Day, Chris Owings (their Ben Zobrist until close to the end of the season. Likely, they will play one another in the Wild Card Game, the winner facing Los Angeles.

The Cubs have added Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. The Nationals have added Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler to provide Dusty Baker with a half-dozen ways to finish games. The Cardinals stayed in by holding on to Lance Lynn and making an unsuccessful run at Sonny Gray with a Jack Flaherty/Stephen Piscotty package.

We know the Yankees and Red Sox added. The Yankees had already taken on money to deepen a superb bullpen by adding Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson and then acquired Gray. The Price, that did not cost them Frazier, Gleyber Torres, RHP Jorge Guzman (Staten Island) or OF Estevan Florial, was not painful. Jorge Mateo’s position hadn’t been established, RHP James Kaprielian had Tommy John Surgery and center fielder Dustin Fowler suffered a knee injury, which scared some teams because his game is all about speed.

The Red Sox traded three young bullpen arms for Addison Reed, a free agent come November but a solid eighth inning reliever (who, because he had closed this season wasn’t subject to be gotten up several times a game), and Eduardo Nunez, who makes contract, can play five positions and insurance for problems Dustin Pedroia sometimes created by being such an intrepid everyday player.

Now, in the battle of the network stars, now we see what David Price, Gray, Tanaka and all other starting pitchers do down the stretch. We’ll also see the impact of the Indians seeing the toll of playing to November has had on Andrew Miller and what the loss of Josh Tomlin means to a team that looked as if it were headed back to the World Series until they arrived in Boston.

What we then have is the interesting run for for the wild card. Dayton Moore began it with the Trevor Cahill/Ryan Buchter/Brandon Maurer trade, then added Melky Cabrera. The Rays have done a quietly creative job adding Adeiny Hechavarria for their defense, Steve Cishek and Dan Jennings for bullpen roles, Wilson Ramos for a solid catcher and still have Brent Honeywell and Jose DeLeon to add to the pitching staff.

“We think Honeywell and Buehler are the two pitchers who can impact their teams the most down the stretch,” said one general manager. “Buehler is probably going to come up and make eight to ten two inning appearances throwing close to 100. Honeywell could come up and go right into the Tampa rotation and be really tough two times around the lineup right away because of his changeup. Don’t turn your back on the Rays.”

In the end, the teams hardest to figure were the Orioles and the Astros. Houston needs pitching. Lance McCullers has never approached 25-30 starts and is on the disabled list. Chris Devenski is on fumes. They were 9-9 into Friday. Without Carlos Correa and Colin Moran, their infield is exhausted (hence the day off Friday for Jose Altuve). George Springer is in on the DL.

Yet they told teams they had their exclusion list when they discussed deals. Now, other teams get Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley. But Francis Martes, Derek Fisher, Franklin Perez…? The front office didn’t want Jose Iglesias, who could have filled in until Correa is back in a month, or so, and the fact that Correa is Yuli Gurriel’s cousin would have made his transition easy.

Needless to say, players on the Astros were not happy. Orioles people said that the Astros offer for Britton was “insulting” and said two wouldn’t have passed Peter Angelos’s medicals.

The Houston side is that they thought they were making progress, then Dan Duquette didn’t return calls. Now, the Dodgers, who were in on Britton, echoed Houston. So were the Indians, who thought they were well on down the line. And the Cubs.

Duquette did go get Jeremy Hellickson and Tim Beckham, Britton was used three straight days going to the deadline and threw well. But the Orioles, like the Tigers, are living on the edge of the cliff, and now that the deadline is over, every day that passes the trade value of Britton decreases with Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” playing on the PA.

“This was a deadline where prospects definitely got over-valued,” says one general manager. “So the waiver period in August may see some teams willing to just give away big contracts as long as they accept that they’re not getting prospects.”

Still, the Houston Astros have never won a World Series game, let alone a series. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since Harry Truman held up the newspaper headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman,” which actually turned out to be “fake news.”

Remember this, Houston. On August 30, 1982, the Brewers traded three players for Don Sutton when Cy Young Award winner Pete Vuckovich hurt his rotator cuff and Milwaukee went to the seventh game of the World Series.

On August 19, 1986, and Red Sox acquired Dave Henderson and Spike Owen from the Mariners and Hendu’s homer in the 10th inning of Game Six put the Red Sox ahead of the Mets…curses.

On Aug. 22, 2010 the Giants got Cody Ross off waivers from the Marlins, Ross was the NLCS MVP and the Giants won the World Series.

On August 31, 2003, the Marlins got Jeff Conine from the Orioles, watched him hit .367 in the post-season and they won the World Series in Yankee Stadium.

On August 27, 1992, the Mets traded David Cone to Toronto for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson, and Toronto won its first World Series.

So Waiver deal dreams can come true. So when you see Jose Bautista or Iglesias, Jeff Samardzija or Matt Moore, Justin Verlander or Lance Lynn, at least put in your claim. If you’re the Astros, the windows don’t stay open as long as your laptops tell you.

If you’re driving along and Tom Petty’s playing the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today” on his Buried Treasures show, listen to the cowbells and think about what they’re telling you.

Young hearts can go their way. Don’t put it off another day. The time has come today.


  1. Dr. Peter Nanos says:

    As a fifty-five year baseball fan, having followed the game closely through the twists and turns in ownership, front offices, trends, and other factors in the game, it is indeed fun to observe team behavior during both the trade deadline period and waivers thereafter.

    Sellers? Buyers? C’mon down!

    We long remember the otherwise forgotten names dealt midseason who made a huge difference in their teams’ success.

    In Boston, we all remember Orlando Cabrera but how about Jerry Adair who helped fuel the Impossible Dream 1967 in Boston?

    I’ve always thought that GM’s and their assistants should play Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler on the office PA while working deals.

    While the Astros obviously have played things close to the best this year, thankfully in Boston, we’ve pretty much always gone for it; the best example, Lou Gorman dealing Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson.

    Oh well. One deadline it’s chicken; the next one, feathers.

  2. GhostOfFenway says:

    Well… I sure as hell wasn’t expecting the Sox to be up 3 games at this point following the deadline news, but Nunez has been way more than anyone could ask and it appears Devers may be the guy we were all hoping he would be