In 1948, Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck said: “Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you never make.”
Midway through the 1948 season, the Indians nearly sent their star player Lou Boudreau to the St. Louis Browns. Due to an uproar by the Indians fans, the team didn’t pull the trigger on the trade and he remained with the club.
Keeping Boudreau would prove to be the right move as the Indians won the 1948 World Series and Lou Boudreau picked up the AL MVP Award.
While it’s true that occasionally the best move is no move, isn’t it fun to wonder what might have happened if certain trades actually took place while others didn’t?
The Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter is the prime example of a trade that changed the course of the franchise. Ultimately, it led to the Blue Jays winning two World Series, but what if they didn’t do that trade? Or what if they pulled the trigger on another blockbuster trade?
This all stems from a post I stumbled across over at Cooperstowners in Canada. Kevin tipped me off to a piece by Mike Zeisberger in the Toronto Sun, which revealed arguably the biggest trade in Blue Jays history that never happened:
Randy Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Steve Karsay and Mike Timlin.
It could have been a veritable powder keg that may have altered the Blue Jays timeline entirely, but instead it just fizzled out. Had Seattle Mariners GM Woody Woodward not gone golfing on August 1st 1993, perhaps Randy Johnson would have been a part of the 1993 World Champion squad.
Peter Gammons echoes Mike Zeisberger’s sentiments in this piece centred around last year’s Hall of Fame inductions. Miraculously, the Randy Johnson trade has somehow remained quiet for all these years.
“Gillick had two deals going, one with Oakland for Rickey Henderson (Steve Karsay and a player to be named later), one with Seattle for Randy Johnson (Karsay and Mike Timlin).
He wanted the Johnson deal, but Pat couldn’t find Woody Woodward (Mariners GM), who was playing golf. Sandy Alderson called and took the Henderson deal.
Problem was, Rickey being Rickey, he wanted money to waive his rights. While that was being negotiated, Woodward called and said he’d take the Johnson deal.
Pat Gillick felt he had given his word to Alderson, even if the deal hadn’t been finalized. So he put the Seattle deal on hold.”
Despite losing out on Randy Johnson, the Blue Jays ultimately fared very well in 1993, but one wonders what might have happened had Woody Woodward been at his desk that day to answer the phone when Pat Gillick called.
Ricky Henderson didn’t really do very much in the 1993 ALCS and World Series, but he was more of a rental player to help the Blue Jays solidify their spot on the playoffs, whereas Randy Johnson could have been a new building block for the franchise.
Might the Blue Jays horrible stretch during the mid-90’s have been avoided with Randy Johnson in the starting rotation? Knowing what we know now, obviously trading for Randy Johnson would have been much more lucrative in the long term that getting Ricky Henderson for the home stretch.
But can you imagine what the 1994 Blue Jays rotation would have looked like? Randy Johnson, Dave Stewart, Juan Guzman, Pat Hentgen and Al Leiter.
Or if history played out as it did in the late 90s, how about a 1998 Blue Jays rotation comprised of Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen? It’s mind-boggling to think that could have been a possibility.
Unless we see Doc Brown around these parts with a time machine, that’s one alternate time line that will remain untraveled. But it’s still fun to ponder what could have happened.