No Longer on “Speaking” Terms – This Week in Baseball Trade History

SABR Biography Project -

In a follow-up to my inaugural piece in this vein, I’m looking at trades occurring this week (Apr 9 to 15) in baseball history.

There was one HUGE trade this week. So, let’s look at that one first.
April 12, 1916 – The Cleveland Indians traded Sad Sam Jones, Fred Thomas and $55,000 to the Boston Red Sox for Tris Speaker.
Wow! What were the Red Sox thinking? To this point in his career, Speaker was a 166 OPS+ with 56 WAR. In only 7 full seasons. Granted, Speaker’s BA and OBP and SLG had declined every year since his MVP season in 1912. And, his most recent 1915 season, even at 8.1 WAR, was arguably Speaker’s worst since his first full year in 1909 at age 21. But, still. No, this trade was really about something else (I learned a lot of what follows from Speaker’s SABR Bio here).
Speaker had led the Red Sox to World Series triumphs in 2 of the past 4 seasons. But, despite winning, the Boston clubhouse was a rancorous place. Speaker, by all accounts a most unpleasant individual, was a brawler both on and off the field, and even (or especially) in his own clubhouse. Speaker apparently had particular animus towards the Catholic faith (hardly ideal in Irish Catholic Boston), creating something of a Catholic-Protestant schism in the Red Sox locker room. 
The other factor was the demise of the Federal League. Like many stars, Speaker had had his salary raised substantially to keep him from jumping to the new league. Now that that was no longer a consideration, Boston management was looking for payback. Thus, the contract offer extended to Speaker for the 1916 season called for a 50% pay reduction from 1915. When Speaker held out, the trade to Cleveland was done.
Speaker’s first year in Cleveland saw him lead the league in hits, doubles, BA, OBP and SLG as he jolted the Indians into respectability at .500, after two 95+ loss seasons. He then led the Indians to  the 1920 WS title, as well as 2nd place finishes (none more than 4.5 games out) in 1918, 1919, 1921 and 1926. For his eleven seasons with Cleveland, Speaker had 158 OPS+ and 73 more WAR.
The two players Boston received in the deal were prospects. Fred Thomas didn’t get to the majors until Boston’s championship season in 1918, playing as Boston’s starting 3rd baseman from mid-May to the end of June. Boston had traded away long-time 3rd baseman Larry Gardner in the off-season, and tried out 4 or 5 different players at the position, an experiment that continued into the World Series when Thomas, having not played at all for over 2 months, started at 3rd every game. Whatever the thinking was, Thomas last played for the Red Sox in that World Series, went to the Athletics for  a season-and-a-half, and then was done. Sad Sam Jones would have a more notable career.
Sam Jones had been roughed up in Cleveland in his rookie 1915 season and Boston hardly used him in 1916 and 1917. In 1918, though, Jones would play a key role for the WS champs, going 16-5 as a back end starter while, together with Babe Ruth and Dutch Leonard, spelling aces Carl Mays and Bullet Joe Bush. Jones, Ruth and Leonard combined for a 37-18 mark, comparing favorably to Mays and Bush who went 36-28. On August 19th that year, Jones hurled a 2-hit, 5-strikeout shutout against Speaker and the Indians, as Boston extended its lead on Cleveland to 4 games. Cleveland went 9-4 the rest of the way in that shortened season, but couldn’t catch the Red Sox. Later, Jones would be reunited with Ruth in New York, playing on three AL championship teams, before finishing off a 22-year, 229-win career with the Senators and White Sox.
April 10, 1967 – The California Angels traded a player to be named later and Dean Chance to the Minnesota Twins for Pete Cimino, Jimmie Hall and Don Mincher. The California Angels sent Jackie Hernandez (April 10, 1967) to the Minnesota Twins to complete the trade.

This trade was essentially Dean Chance for Don Mincher and Jimmie Hall. Chance was still just 26, even though 3 years removed from his Cy Yong season in 1964. That year he led the AL in Wins, CG, SHO and IP, the last at age 23 possibly being a harbinger of future troubles. The next year, Chance regressed from 198 ERA+ to 108, and then produced a virtually identical season in 1966. Only problem was that Chance was victimized by 24 unearned runs in ’66 versus only 7 in ’65, with the result that his record slid from a solid 15-10 to only 12-17. So, exit Angels. Mincher was a solid, if unspectacular, first baseman who had some pop, with 23 and 22 HR in 1964 and 1965. When his HRs dropped to 14 in 1966 (even though his XBH increased by 2), the 29 year-old became expendable. Hall produced 5.4 WAR with 33 HR and 136 OPS+ in a stellar 1963 rookie season, but his offense had dwindled since then, down to 1.3 WAR in 1966.

Chance and Mincher immediately delivered for their new teams. Mincher had 156 OPS+ and 4.4 WAR in 1967, while Chance went 20-14, again leading the AL in CG and IP. But, Hall continued his downward slide in 1967 with only 27 extra-base hits, less than half of his rookie season total.

The 1967 pennant race was excruciatingly close, with the Twins bobbing up and down between a game up and a game down (never further ahead or behind) from Aug 31 all the way to the end of the season. With 3 games to play, the Twins led by a game with Chance starting against California. A 4-run 4th inning keyed by a leadoff HR by Mincher was Chance’s undoing. But, the Red Sox also lost that day, so the Twins went into Boston for the final two, still up a game. In the first of those contests, Carl Yastrzemski drilled a 7th inning 3-run HR off Jim Merritt and the Red Sox pulled even with Minnesota. So, one game left, winner take all. Chance got the ball on 3 days rest and the Twins staked him to an early 2-0 lead. But, a 2-run single by Yastrzemski in the 6th evened the game and 3 more runs in the frame off Chance and reliever Al Worthington sealed the Twins fate.

Chance had a similar season in 1968 but with less luck in his decisions, going only 16-16. But, that was about it. Six years with almost 1600 IP and nearly 6500 batters faced had taken their toll. Mincher regressed to only 0.5 WAR in 1968 and was exposed in the expansion draft, going to the Pilots. Mincher had 25 and 27 HR for Seattle and Oakland in 1969 and 1970, and was still contributing 5.7 WAR in part-time duty over his final two seasons in ’71 and ’72.

Jimmie Hall slid further in 1968 and the Angels dealt him in mid-season to Cleveland. Hall would appear briefly for the Indians and three more teams, all apparently hopeful he could regain the top form he showed at the start of his career. But, it never happened. As an indication of how much and how quickly Hall declined after his fast career start, he is one of only 35 players since 1901 to accumulate 14 WAR in his first 3 seasons. A great majority of these 35 are HOFers. Hall’s career 14.5 WAR is easily dead last in the group, almost 10 WAR behind the next lowest total of 24.1 for Pete Reiser.

Ironically, the PTBNL in this deal would last the longest in the majors. Jackie Hernandez served as the prototypical light-hitting utility infielder through the 1973 season, with one year as the regular shortstop for the 1970 Royals. His career WAR total of -5.3 is impressive in its magnitude for just over 1600 PAs, ranking 11th lowest since 1901 among non-pitchers with fewer than 1700 PAs. 

April 15, 1972 – The Houston Astros traded Lance Clemons and Scipio Spinks to the St. Louis Cardinals for Jerry Reuss.

St. Louis let Reuss go after his age 22 season, his first full year in their starting rotation. His 78 ERA+ and 4.6 BB/9 in 1971 no doubt influenced that decision. But, the two pitchers the Cardinals received from Houston ended up pitching fewer career innings combined than Reuss had pitched in that 1971 season. 

Reuss, of course, went on to a long and successful career while the Cardinals struggled to find any reliable left-handed starter until Dave LaPoint, John Tudor and Joe Magrane in the 80s. From 1972 to 1984, the Cardinals got only 59 wins from left-handed starters, most of those from LaPoint in 1981-84. In the same period, Reuss compiled a 156-125 record. St. Louis did, though, get some measure of satisfaction in beating Los Angeles in the 1985 NLCS, with Tudor besting Reuss in game 4.

Hindsight is always perfect, but the cautionary note here might be to not give up on 22-year old pitchers, raw though they may be. More especially so if they’re good enough to start 35 games in a season.

Finally, this trade.

April 11, 1954 – The St. Louis Cardinals traded Enos Slaughter to the New York Yankees for Emil Tellinger (minors), Bill Virdon and Mel Wright.

The Yankees sacrificed Bill Virdon, a good centerfield prospect, because, well because they already had the best centerfielder in the AL (and arguably in baseball) and he was only 22 years old, younger than Virdon. So, nothing wrong with a trade like this if you can pick up some insurance in a proven veteran like Slaughter, who could still play a little. And, that’s pretty much what happened – Virdon did have a decent 12-year career in St. Louis and Pittsburgh and Slaughter was a useful fill-in, at least until he reached 40.
The reason I mentioned this trade is only because of what happened 6 years later when Virdon and the Yankees next crossed paths. New York and Pittsburgh were, improbably, tied after 6 games of the 1960 WS, despite the Yankees having blown out the Bucs in each of their wins. In game 7, Virdon had a key 2-out 2-run single as the Pirates went ahead 4-0 after 2 innings. But, the Yankees came back and were leading 7-4 with Pittsburgh down to its final 6 outs when Virdon seemingly used up two of those outs with a routine double-play grounder to short. Except the ball took a bad hop into Tony Kubek‘s throat and now it was two on and nobody out, instead of the other way round. Lots of twists and turns after that, but you know how it turned out.
The unintended consequences of a long-forgotten trade.


No Longer on “Speaking” Terms – This Week in Baseball Trade History — 29 Comments

  1. Despite his unquestioned greatness, Speaker is almost always rated behind his AL contemporary, Ty Cobb. Speaker has slightly better isolated power and walk rates, but Cobb more than makes up for that with 20+ points of batting average. B-R rates Cobb about 22 Adjusted batting wins ahead of Speaker.

    Is there any case to be made that Speaker’s fielding brilliance makes up for this gap? Cobb was a good to excellent CFer a good part of his career, but Speaker may have been the best outfielder ever; also, Cobb spent the first four years of his career as a RFer, before moving over to CF. Speaker was exclusively a CFer.

    Twenty two wins would be a little more than a win/10 runs a year over both of their careers; could Speaker have been about 12-15 runs/year better than Cobb in the outfield? A complicating factor is that we can’t fully factor in basestealing and baserunning, as we do not have Caught Stealing for a number of their best SB years. While Speaker was an excellent basestealer, Cobb was legendary; we can’t just ignore a 450 + stolen base advantage for Cobb. I’d give Cobb another 5-10 wins for basestealing/baserunning.

    In conclusion, I don’t think that Speaker’s defensive greatness can make up for the roughly 30-wins advantage Cobb has over Speaker in hitting/ baserunning. Thoughts?

    • Doesn’t sound like you can even give Speaker some points for intangibles like “Mr. Nice Guy” or “Positive Clubhouse presence”.

    • I have no doubt that Tristram was a great defender, but how are we to measure such a thing? The anecdotal evidence is probably pretty right on, but why bother trying to rank it 100 years later, with no video, noone alive to corroborate, and defensive stats that only paint the picture in broad strokes?

      According to WAR he was the 57th best defender of all time, tied with Scooter Rizzuto and Frank White. And HALF as good as Clemente.

      • Sorry, I’m not buying that career WAR rating at all. Speaker was arguably the greatest defensive outfielder ever, probably in the Top-five. No way was Clemente twice as valuable defensively.

        Looking at the Defensive WAR list, I can’t take it seriously when it lists Darin Erstat, Gary Gaetti, and Brian Jordan as more valuable than Speaker.

        Top-6 defensive outfielders chronologically (just a starting point):
        Max Carey
        Paul Blair
        Andru Jones

        • @22
          Yes, that is my point.
          The defense statistics that we have to work with are suspect.
          So, I am genuinely asking, what do you (or anybody) have to back up the statement “arguably the greatest defensive outfielder ever” ? Because neither youtube nor have any clips of him taking great angles and scaling walls.

          • What do I have? The same thing everybody else analysing this nowadays has – some rudimentary stats, and a lot of observations by his contemporaries. And the observations are that he was unquestionably the best of his era, and did things that no one else did (played shallower than any one else, could be the pivot man on a DP pivot, etc…).

            At some point,when the numbers are not detailed enough to reach definitive conclusions, we need to give considrable weight to the observation of qualified observers of that time. This is one of those instances.

          • @25

            S is for Speaker,
            Swift center-field tender,
            When the ball saw him coming,
            It yelled, “I surrender.”

            -Ogden Nash

            Well, that’s good enough for me.

            Speaker was actually Right-handed, but learned to throw and hit lefty after breaking his right arm Twice being thrown from broncos!

            In 1921 he was relieved defnsively three times by his Nephew:


            That and he and I share a birthday.

  2. As noted, Sam Jones was a very good pitcher, though Speaker was on a different planet. You could make a legit case that Speaker is the second best centerfielder of all time when factoring in defense.

    • But I’m with Lawrence, by the way. Cobb is a CLEAR #1. There’s a few I put in the same general area with Speaker.

    • Timmy Pea,

      I don’t see in what aspect of the game (except power) Crawford is the equal of Speaker. Speaker has a much better batting average and walk rate, even adjusted for the era. Crawford might have as much (or a little more) power, when adjusted for era.

      Still, overall Speaker is clearly a better offensive player than Crawford, by whatever measure you use, mainstream or advanced (ex; Adjusted Batting Runs, 87.3 to 53.0). The only clear advantage for Crawford is lifetime triples. This doesn’t even consider defense; now, Crawford was a pretty good OFer, playing a lot of CF earlier in his career. But Speaker was one of the very greatest outfielders ever; he just buries Crawford in defensive value.

      Speaker has Crawford beat on both hitting and defense, on peak and on career. While Crawford is a clearly deserving HOFer and an oversite of the BBWAA, Speaker is one of the very greatest players ever.

    • Timmy Pea:
      We interrupt this blog to bring YOU this update from Philadelphia:
      Through 34 plate appearances between them, Juan Pierre and Jimmy Rollins have no walks or extra base hits. Their respective slash lines read:
      .231/.231/.231 and .286/.286/.286 :-)

      • It’s early, but the Phils won today and Pierre and JRoll went 3 for 10 with 2 runs scored and an RBI. Philly manager says Piere plays as long as he hits. Pierre also had a SB today his second of the year in limited playing time.

        • Disagree Luis, the Phillies will be there in the end. I predict a better playoff season for them also. Any team with that pitching will be good. Plus they got Pierre.

  3. Sorry to post this here, but Chat died before I could answer a question put by Reys earler tonight, namely:

    Has there ever been a season in which every team had at least 1 win after 2 games? — i.e., no team started 0-2?

    As far as the P-I searchable years (1918-2012), the answer is, no.

    In the 30-team era, the closest were 2006 and 1999, when 26 of 30 teams had at least 1 win after 2 games.

    Pre-expansion, 1954 saw just 2 teams open 0-2, the Cardinals and the White Sox. (Exactly how that worked out has to do with the odd April schedules that were common way back when. For instance, the Cardinals opened at home with 1 game against the Cubs, then 1 game at the Braves, followed by 2 at the Cubs, 2 at Cincinnati, 1 home to Cincinnati, and so forth.

    It’s possible that some year before 1918 saw the egalitarian opening Reys asked of, but I don’t have the energy to check it by hand.

    • John Autin-

      Closest I could come up with was 6 seasons where, after 3 games, all teams had at least one win and one loss:

      1915 AL, 1910 AL & NL, 1896 NL, 1891 AA, 1890 NL, 1880 NL

      And, yes, I do have too much time on my hands…

  4. I’m going to post another “chat-related” comment, also. SORRY.

    The Braves pulled a suicide squeeze off of the Astros with nobody out in the fourth, with Jack Wilson deftly laying a bunt down on a high curveball. A few pitches later, the Braves tried another squeeze play with pitcher Randall Delgado at the plate(he fouled it off).

    My question is, how rare is it for two runs to score on two squeeze plays in one inning? How would the P-I help me with this?

    • bstar, I don’t think the P-I notes squeeze bunts any differently than other sacrifices. The play-by-play dscriptions would show it, but they are not searchable.

    • bstar, I don’t think the P-I will give an easy answer. Of the several difficulties, the biggest is that neither “squeeze” nor even “bunt” are officially defined, searchable stats.

      The Event Finder can find sacrifice attempts, and it can find RBIs. But I can’t see how to combine the two into one search, and it would be a big piece of work to comb through one or the other individual results list.

      Other problems:
      – Some successful squeezes are hits, not sacrifices.
      – I know of no direct P-I way to identify events of a single inning.

    • Carlton at the time of the trade:

      26 years old
      22.6 WAR
      1265 innings
      3.10 era / 114 era+
      6.8 k/9
      2.12 SO/BB

      25 years old
      13.4 WAR
      1244 innings
      3.60 era
      98 era+
      2.19 SO/BB

      Maybe they wanted Wise for his hitting

      11 HR
      69 ops+

      vs Carlton

      3 HR
      29 ops+

      • Nice one Voomo.

        Maybe the Cards were way ahead of their time and had already figured out ERA+ and that Carlton’s had declined from 164 two year before down to 102 in 1971 (even though he won 20 the latter year).

        Whatever it was, not a great move – Carlton won the first of his four Cy Young’s the very next year.

      • Voom:
        Actually it was a case of Augie Busch (get it – a case of Busch :-) ) and GM Bing Devine deciding they weren’t going to pay Carlton and they just shipped him off. I believe it had something to do with the 20 W season with the mediocre ERA that you referenced and Carlton clamoring for a raise.
        A buddy went on a spring training “Dream Week” excursion close to twenty years ago and Rick Wise offered him some insight into the workings of MLB when he stated, “If they like you, they’ll give you every chance to succeed. If they don’t like you, they’ll give you one chance to fail”.

    • Bob Broeg’s book “The Spirit of St Louis” says Busch ordered Bing Devine to trade Reuss over facial hair. He ordered Devine to trade Carlton over the inability to get a contract and he thought Carlton was unreasonable and ungrateful so he told Devine to get the best player he could.

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