Trade Me, Trade Me Not

NewYork Times
August 6, 2015
by Doug Glanville
WILMER FLORES had an eventful week.
At its peak, he hit a game-winning home run in the last inning to beat the then-division-leading Washington Nationals.
But at its valley, the young Mets infielder was wiping tears from his eyes on the field. A rumor had swirled around Citi Field through social media that he had been traded to the last-place Milwaukee Brewers, a mere two days before last Friday’s trade deadline. Mets fans were giving him an ovation. Flores had been a Met “for life,” signing from Venezuela when he was 16 years old. Now 23, he was crying in the middle of the game, in part because he was apparently among the last to learn about his future.
As it turned out, the trade would not materialize. Yet the rumors were not unfounded, and the player on the other side of the hypothetical trade, the former Met Carlos Gomez, was traded to Houston. Left in the wake was a confused young player with questions about loyalty.
I was traded twice in my career.
The first time was on Dec. 23, 1997 (it happened to be the day after my grandfather had passed away). Like Flores, up until that point I had been with one team — the Chicago Cubs, for over six years — not only in practice, but in my expectations. I had grown up a staunch Philadelphia Phillies fan, but it was the Cubs who drafted me, in 1991.
When you get traded, especially when you’re young, you’re not just concerned about facing the unknown, you’re leaving something that has become familiar — wearing the same uniform, riding the minor league buses, learning the language of baseball in the dialect of your first family, and believing that it is the only language spoken.
Players arrive in the big leagues with as many question marks about their potential as they have exclamation points about their talent. You are there because you are good, and you have the requisite skills. But then the clock starts ticking and what you could be is no longer as relevant as what you are actually doing. And sometimes that means your standing will change dramatically — including whether, one day, you will be standing tall for another organization.
This is small comfort to someone like Flores, who has known only one fraternal order. He may have remembered the trials and tribulations of coming back from an injury. Or possibly of proving naysayers wrong about whether he could hit a curveball. And those experiences all came from within the house. It was always an inside job, coded to help him make it in New York. He had to be the player the Mets needed him to be, more than the player he needed to be to get the most from his career. If the Mets required him to play shortstop instead of second base, where he was better-suited, then that is what he did. That’s what it means to be part of a team.
In Flores’s case, he was part of a revolving door of ineffective shortstops who have plagued the Mets the last couple of seasons. The off-season was littered with commentary about how the Mets have few options at short, at best they could get some glove and little bat, or little glove and more bat, but either option was not enough for a struggling offense and a team that needed complete players to excel both offensively and defensively. So Flores was tradable. But he is young enough to have an upside, and even now he has a strong enough bat to play every day at second base, the position where he fits best.
When you are the commodity, it is difficult to remember why many of these trades occur. At the trade deadline, many teams are acquiring talent to help them get to the playoffs. Every player wants to get to the postseason, in theory by any means necessary. But in my case, and many others, it can require more than a change of uniform — it is often a change in role.
The second time I was traded — in 2003, from the Rangers back to the Cubs, ironically — was at the deadline. I had been playing every day in Texas, and was coming off one of the best months of my career, but the Cubs were contenders, and they needed me only as a role player — playing every few days, mostly against left-handed pitchers.
At the end of that season, I was a free agent.
So, is it better to play every day, and be valuable enough to secure a job for the next season in a losing environment? Or to play occasionally, with the possibility that your team will make the playoffs, but with less job security when all is said and done?
Either way, you have no power over the process. That season, 2003, was the only time I made the playoffs, and it was a fantastic experience. But it also was the beginning of the end of my time as a starting player.
This season, apart from Flores’s almost-trade, we saw the veteran champion outfielder Shane Victorino shed tears as he addressed the Boston media following his trade to the Angels. Troy Tulowitzki, the exceptional longtime Colorado Rockies All-Star shortstop, was moved to Toronto. Cole Hamels, a World Series M.V.P. pitcher in 2008 and a lifelong Phillie, is off to Texas after over a decade with the organization.
All traded players made friends where they were. Some have families that will be uprooted.
So there are tears — of joy for what might be possible, of fear about something you did not see coming. It is all part of the emotion that comes with being rejected and accepted in the same transaction. You’re pushed into new territory and that could mean your greatest success or your demise — or something in between.
Most players adjust and make the most of it. It’s business, they keep hearing, it’s life, it’s no big deal. Until, that is, it happens to you.
Republished from


Motivational Speaker

Click here to learn more about having Doug speak at your next event!




The Daddy Games

Check out Doug's blog, The Daddy Games.  Click here to read more.