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Posted: Monday August 3, 2009 1:01PM; Updated: Monday August 3, 2009 1:24PM
Joe Posnanski Joe Posnanski >
INSIDE BASEBALL

Talkin' about trades, winners and losers with Bill James

Story Highlights

The trade deadline came about because of some rather unusual deals in 1922

Instant analysis on trades, while fun, is often pointless and inaccurate

Trades are central to the unique appeal of baseball among sports

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Cliff Lee
The Cliff Lee trade looks fabulous for Philadelphia right now, but how will it look in a few years?
AP

We are back with the continuing evolution of an experiment that last appeared three weeks ago: a combination column with Boston Red Sox senior advisor and baseball writer extraordinaire Bill James...

Today's topic is a winding conversation about baseball trades. The trade deadline has just passed, and as usual it looks like some teams really helped themselves, and as usual it looks like some teams did not exactly help themselves. It happens every year. But mostly we talk about the whole concept of trading players, what Yuniesky Betancourt really means, the history of the trade deadline and, yes, school teachers.

* * *

Bill: Do you know how the trade deadline came about? It came about because of some rather unusual trades in 1922. That year, IN BOTH LEAGUES New York was one of the strongest teams -- the defending champion, and the eventual champion again -- while in both leagues the Boston team was down and out, eventually finishing last. In both leagues St. Louis was contending with New York (and there were other teams in contention).

The 1922 Braves had a decent pitcher named Hugh McQuillan. Boston traded/sold McQuillan to the New York Giants on July 30, which greatly irritated Branch Rickey (then running the St. Louis Cardinals). Rickey argued (very publicly) "How can we compete with New York when they can just go to Boston and buy a player when they need one?" He fanned the flames of outrage about this among the St. Louis fans, which spread also to the fans of the other contending teams -- Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Cubs.

A week before that happened, the same thing had occurred in the other league. New York (the Yankees) had a problem at third base, so they went to Boston (the Red Sox) and bought/traded for Joe Dugan, the Red Sox third baseman. The AMERICAN LEAGUE fans in St. Louis were equally outraged, which spread to the fans of the other American League contenders -- Detroit and Cleveland and the White Sox.

So you had the fans in about eight cities angry at New York and Boston for finagling these in-season trades to help New York win. Commissioner Landis agreed, and issued a rule prohibiting trades from being made after June 15.

The reason for the trade deadline was kind of forgotten over the years, but the trade deadline itself remained, and remained June 15, I think ... into the '80s? '90s? I don't know when it changed. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago.

Joe: If you think about it, trading players is a funny concept. There really isn't a comp in real life. Yes, you might get transferred inside your company. You might end up, after a series of coincidences, switching places with someone else.

But in general, real life doesn't allow a school principal to say, "Mr. Johnson, pack your chalk and teacher's guides, you are going to a high school in Muskogee. We found a young 10th grade history teacher there we really like."

Bill: Would school districts be better if the school district administrators could trade teachers? Let's say district 331 desperately needs a grade school Principal. District 247 has a veteran Principal who's OK, but they also have a younger guy who just got his PhD in School Administration, so District 247 trades District 331 a school principal for a Science teacher, an elementary teacher's assistant and a school psychologist who is going to be a free agent at the end of the term anyway. Does this make school districts work better?

The teachers union probably would have conniptions about it, but in a strange way it might not. If you're going to trade for a 7th grade teacher, you probably want to have the best information you possibly can have about that teacher that you're trading for. What's his attendance rate? How many of his kids clear the state AEA (Annual Educational Assessment) standards? How does he get along with the other teachers? The mere fact that you MIGHT trade for him would probably push you to maintain better and better stats about his performance.

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