Monday, March 8, 2010

The Philadelphia Phillies' Sometimes Unlucky Seven Most Important Trades in Team History

Part 1 of a 7 Part Series

After winning a second consecutive National League Pennant but falling short of its goal to repeat as World Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies were very active over the winter. Economics and Father Time served somewhat as a catalyst, but most of the activity was designed to better position the team for success in 2010 and beyond.

On the heels of winning's Executive of the Year Award, General Manager Ruben Amaro continued his bias towards action rather than take the safe route of standing pat. Most of the action was the ebb and flow of free agents that overhauled the bench and bullpen as well as changed the face of the team's everyday third baseman.

The resigning of former Phillie Placido Polanco to step in for Pedro Feliz is expected to provide an offensive upgrade with only a slight drop-off in the field. The other changes are not devoid of impact, but are expected to be of less consequence.

Except those who were out of the country, or perhaps on the International Space Station, everyone knows the big news in Philadelphia and throughout the entire baseball world was the Phillies swap of aces at the top of its rotation. The tandem trades alternately welcomed Roy Halladay to Philly while bidding farewell to Cliff Lee on his one way trip to Seattle.

Those dual deals involving two of baseball's biggest names sent considerable seismic waves through the team's fanbase with many still feeling the after shocks.

Surely, fans are ecstatic to have arguably the best starting pitcher in all of baseball taking the ball every fifth day in a Phillies uniform. However, a good portion of that excitement is tempered by knowing that last year's postseason hero Lee is now wearing Mariners attire.

In order to provide some backdrop to measure the magnitude of these two transactions, I have taken a look through the archives to find Phillies trades that may rival them in terms of importance.

Because the players involved in those December deals have yet to step across the white lines in a game that matters, it is too early to judge their import. So, although those blockbuster trades may prove to have the greatest impact—positively, negatively or cumulatively—it is premature to include them here.

It is interesting to note that throughout the Phillies team history, the club has more often come out on the short end when big name players have been involved—but that trend appears to be turning. I present to you the somewhat unlucky seven most important trades in Philadelphia Phillies history:

No. 7—April 21, 1966

The Deal—The Phillies exchanged RHP Ferguson Jenkins, CF Adolpho Phillips and 1B John Herrnstein to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Larry Jackson and RHP Bob Buhl.

Phillies GM John Quinn was looking to bolster the team's pitching staff with a couple seasoned veterans. Unfortunately, both pitchers they obtained were a little too seasoned as they were in the twilight of their careers.

And, even more regrettable was the fact that the Phillies gave up their top young pitching talent in Ferguson Jenkins. While the speedy Phillips anchored center, the tall right handed hurler went on to win 20 games the next six consecutive seasons for the Cubs on his way to registering 284 wins.

In 1971, Jenkins peaked with 24 wins and received the Cy Young Award. Of course, he was also later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

After coming close to winning the NL Pennant in 1964 and fielding formidable teams the next two seasons, the Phillies dropped like a rock until the resurgence began in 1974. It is doubtful that Jenkins would have improved those bad clubs enough to make a difference. However, if he had been paired with Steve Carlton in the 70's, the Phillies near misses throughout the rest of the decade may have been very different.

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