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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

The Deal that Wasn't
Nomar for Magglio sized up

by Hal Vickery

While many Sox fans and most of the media were wailing and gnashing their teeth over the failure of the Sox to pick up Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Williamson in exchange for Magglio Ordoñ, others were breathing a sigh of relief.  This potential had all the signs that Prof. Chaos had returned and taken over the body of Kenny Williams.  It took the MLBPA and Commissioner Budlight to thwart the professor’s return. 

Of course, the union and Commissioner were not acting directly to prevent Williams from making such a terrible mistake.  The union was trying to protect the financial interests of its membership by preventing the Red Sox from changing the terms of the contract of Alex Rodriguez in their proposed trade in which they would receive ARod in exchange for Manny Ramirez.   

The Commissioner also helped save Williams in an indirect manner by imposing a deadline on negotiations for this trade since those negotiations involved tampering.  The Red Sox were negotiating directly with Rodriguez and his agent.  This is against the rules which state that a team can negotiate salary with a player or his representatives only after they own the player’s contract. 

Williams apparently sensed the opportunity to make a big splash, and this is where the attempted take-over by Prof. Chaos of his body occurred.  Williams (or was it the professor?) knew that the Red Sox would be in the market for a topnotch outfielder if the deal went through.  One thing led to another, and suddenly the Sox were part of a proposed three-way deal in which the Sox would trade Ordoñez for Garciaparra, who would be expendable after ARod joined the Red Sox and Williamson. 

Many Sox fans were giddy over the prospect of trading Ordoñez, who had slumped in 2003 to a .317 batting average with 29 homers and 99 RBI in 2003 for Garciaparra and a relief pitcher.  After all, Garciaparra and Ordoñez are basically the same offensive player, they reasoned.  And on the surface, this seems to be the case.  In 2003 Garciaparra his .301 with 28 homers and 105 RBI.   

What the Friends of Nomar failed to notice is that their newfound hero has been a classic example of a Fenway Park hitter.  Put Nomar on the road and his batting average drops about a hundred points.  One Boston writer described his home/road split as being “of Coors Field proportions.”   

Still there was the argument that he is superior defensively to Jose Valentin (who was rumored to be going to the Mariners when the Red Sox deal was completed).  Breaking down the defense, Valentin had 618 chances at shortstop in 2003 and made 223 putouts with 395 assists.  He commited 20 errors in the process and helped turn 96 double plays.  Valentin’s fielding average was .969, 2 percentage points below the league average, but his range factor was 4.63, well above the league average of  4.54 

Garciaparra had 672 chances at shortstop and made 216 putouts with 456 assists.  He committed the same number of errors as Valentin and helped turn 83 double plays.  His fielding average was the league average, .971 while his range factor was 4.43, a little farther below the league average than Valentin was above it. 

The switch hitting Valentin cannot his lefthanded pitchers.  It turns out that several writers have noted the same thing about right hander Garciaparra.   

By making this trade, the Sox would have traded for Valentin’s defense without the range and Valentin’s bat since Garciaparra would no longer be playing half his games in Fenway.  The only good part to the deal is that the Sox weren’t going to keep either Ordoñez or Garciaparra beyond 2004 due to the cheapness of The Chairman, Ebenezer Reinsdorf. 

Of course the Sox would also be picking up help in the bullpen, someone to take over in the eight inning, in the person of Scott Williamson, the supporters of the deal argue.  The question is, would we be picking up the Scott Williamson who had the ERA of 2.92 in Cincinnati in 2002 in 63 appearances and 3.19 last year in 24 appearances, or would we be picking up the Williamson who came to the Red Sox and had an ERA of 6.20 in 24 games? 

Was it Fenway?  Was it the American League hitters?  Was it the change in surroundings accompanying the trade?  Whatever it was, Williamson was not the same pitcher with Boston as he was in Cincinnati.  Taking him on after his performance with Boston would be a gamble. 

And that’s the point.  This entire trade scenario was a gamble worthy of Prof. Chaos.  Looking at Garciaparra’s overall statistics gives a much different impression than breaking them down and looking at how he hits when he’s not playing at Fenway Park.  Comparing him to Jose Valentin and looking at range or at how he hits against left handed pitching gives a different view compared to the overall statistics.   

Looking at Williamson’s statistics vs. National League hitting without comparing it to how he did against American League hitting also causes one to give pause. 

This was a bad trade for the Sox.  There is no other way to look at it.  Perhaps there are extra angels around during this time of the year to look after us and prevent evil sprits such as Prof. Chaos from entering the bodies of General Managers.  Perhaps they worked under the guise of the MLBPA and the Commissioner of Baseball. 

Or perhaps Kenny Williams got damned lucky. 


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

Have a Thought about
The Deal that Wasn't?

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