• I Guess They Usually Keep Them

    Posted by on July 24th, 2006 · Comments (11)

    This afternoon, I was trying to think of the greatest “superstar” player who was traded away from the Yankees while he was still in his prime. To the best of my research/knowledge, it has to be Rickey Henderson.

    For those who don’t know, on June 21, 1989, the Yankees traded Henderson to the Oakland Athletics for Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk, and Luis Polonia.

    Number two on this list would probably be Bobby Bonds.

    On December 11, 1975, the Yankees traded Bonds to the California Angels for Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa.

    In terms of impact on the team, the Bonds deal was great and the Henderson deal was not a winner.

    These are the only two times that the Yankees ever traded away (what was then) a current offensive superstar.

    Before looking, I would have thought that it happened more often.

    Comments on I Guess They Usually Keep Them

    1. jonm
      July 24th, 2006 | 4:51 pm

      Uggh! The Rickey Henderson deal again! “Not a winner” strikes me as quite an understatement. The Henderson deal, unlike horrible deals like say those involving McGriff, Buhner, and Drabek, was both horrible and incomprehensible. How on earth did the team think that two average players and one below average player was fair return for Henderson?

      I know that Henderson was seen as a malingerer at the time and Dallas Green didn’t like him, but that is no reason for the Yankees not, at least, trying to hold onto him until they could get much more in return.

    2. MJ
      July 24th, 2006 | 5:02 pm

      The Bonds trade was before my time as I was 5 months old. The Rickey trade was one of the most painful days of the summer before freshman year of H.S. And I hope I don’t have to go through that same crap again with ARod.

      Bailey said it right (in a different thread) – the Yanks can and should explore trades for every one of their major league players not named Rivera. But listening and pulling the trigger are two different things. Aramis/Jacque is the same as the Rickey trade, in my opinion.

    3. jonm
      July 24th, 2006 | 5:23 pm

      Just for the hell of it, I did a Lexis-Nexis search on Yankees articles from the second half of the season in 1989.

      I found some choice quotes.
      First, from a Bill Madden Sporting News article written in August:

      But now, a month after the Yankees traded Henderson to the Oakland Athletics for Polonia and pitchers Eric Plunk and Greg Cadaret, there has been considerable sentiment among the Yankees’ high command that Polonia alone was worth the deal.

      Said one Yankees higher-up, “Don’t quote me, but I wouldn’t trade them Polonia back straight up for Henderson.”

      And Yankees Manager Dallas Green was almost as laudatory in his appraisal of the swap.

      “Rickey Henderson is a great player, I’m not taking anything away from him,” said Green. “But Polonia has really helped out the offense. He has so much juice and enthusiasm.

      “Rickey was more of an I-game’ guy instead of a we-game’ guy. The way he played would help the team, but it was more of an individual style.”

      Firing Dallas Green and Syd Thrift were some of the best things that Steinbrenner ever did. If those guys had held power during the re-building, we probably still would not have seen the post-season.

      The writers weren’t much better. This is from a Yankees advice column written in September by a guy named Ken Pickering for the USA Today.

      “Preserve a nucleus that could be competitive in 1990 with the addition of two or three quality starters: 1B Mattingly, 2B Steve Sax, SS Alvaro Espinoza, C Bob Geren, OFs Roberto Kelly, Dave Winfield and Jesse Barfield.”

      How can you go wrong with a nucleus that includes Bob Geren and Alvaro Espinoza!

    4. Jen
      July 24th, 2006 | 5:31 pm

      King Kaufman has a great column on the “trade A-Rod” talk on BBTN.


    5. Nick from Washington Heights
      July 24th, 2006 | 5:37 pm

      Would Soriano make the list?

    6. jonm
      July 24th, 2006 | 5:39 pm

      I’ve got to stop looking at these. Dallas Green’s biggest concern about replacing Henderson with Luis Polonia was that Polonia was not as good a defensive player as Henderson.

    7. festus
      July 24th, 2006 | 7:37 pm

      MJ, the Henderson trade occurred during the summer before high school for me too, and i remember the serious depression in my family, knowing it was the end of an era (even though it was a middling kind of era, I still loved those early to mid-80’s teams), and it was the first time we stopped watching and going to games regularly.

    8. July 24th, 2006 | 10:24 pm

      “Would Soriano make the list?”
      Only if you consider just two very good seasons making a guy a superstar.

    9. Raf
      July 25th, 2006 | 6:40 am

      89 was a lost year for Rickey. Remember, back then it was percieved that he didn’t always come to play, fairly or unfairly. Then you get a guy like Dallas Green…

      So we have a superstar caliber player, having a bad year, who was to be a free agent at the end of the year. It seemed the Yanks had no intention of resigning Rickey, but I could be wrong.

      IIRC, the Giants offered a much better package of players, but Rickey didn’t want to go to the NL.

      I don’t know about you guys, but I enjoyed watching Rickey’s display in the ’89 playoffs against the Jays. Classic.

    10. Raf
      July 25th, 2006 | 6:45 am

      I’ve got to stop looking at these. Dallas Green’s biggest concern about replacing Henderson with Luis Polonia was that Polonia was not as good a defensive player as Henderson.
      Remember Luis’ glove? Thing was bigger than him! lol

      I guess what was appealing about Polonia was that he had flashy batting averages. Of course, he never got on base, or hit for power…

    11. jonm
      July 25th, 2006 | 10:24 am

      “IIRC, the Giants offered a much better package of players, but Rickey didn’t want to go to the NL.”

      The Giants offered Scott Garrelts and Candy Maldonado, but Rickey didn’t want to play in Candlestick. At the time, that certainly looked like a better package, and, even now, I would say that it was. Still, it was not a great package. The Yankees probably should have fired Green, held on to Rickey, tried to sign him (they did have an offer on the table and the gap between the sides wasn’t large; it was Green who pushed for the trade), and, if not able to re-sign him, get the compensatory draft picks.

      Of course, another thing, re Polonia, is that soon after the trade he had the statutory rape incident in Milwaukee. Flashy batting average is exactly the thing that a loser like Dallas Green would look at. He still has clout in the Phillies front office and that says a lot about the current Phillies. It will be interesting to see how the Phillies screw up the Abreu talks.

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