Off-Season Trade Talks Inspire Fan Reactions, Both in 1947 and Today
Laurel Wilder | On 26, Dec 2013
All we, as Cleveland fans, really wanted for Christmas was a winning team. Scratch that, that’s all we ever want as Cleveland fans. And now, we have even less time to wait for that next – hopefully – winning season.
Christmas is one of the last major events that stands between the end of baseball season and spring training. As of today, there are only 46 days left until Cleveland’s pitchers and catchers report on February 11. 2014 will soon roll around and we will be talking about prospects and who has potential and who is going to carry the team through the season. We will be looking at other teams and deciding who we need to beat – but before that, we need to solidify the team that we are running with for next season, whether that is through trades, adjustments to the existing roster, or off-season signings.
Although off-seasons are always filled with controversy and differing opinions, and trades are always subject to both criticism and excitement, none this season have come as close as the upset occurring from the attempted 1947 trade of Lou Boudreau.
Fans have always expressed their displeasure in decisions made by Major League clubs, and this off-season has been no exception. The Indians did not resign Joe Smith, which was seen by many as a great blunder, as he posted one of the best ERAs on the team and was one of the strongest arms in the bullpen. With the departure of Scott Kazmir, fans were equally as upset with the design of the team.
Perhaps one of the worst propositions was the notion that Justin Masterson would be traded or used as leverage when looking to secure more strong players for the team. Fans on Twitter voiced their outrage at the idea that Masterson could leave the team, especially since his first season reunited with his former manager, Terry Francona, was certainly one of his best seasons to date. To see Masterson leave the team would be largely detrimental, both from a skill perspective and as a point of fan reception. Masterson has not been traded, though that is not to say that fans’ displeasure had anything to do with that decision thus far.
In 1947, however, Bill Veeck, though popular, happened to make the ill-received decision to open up trade talks regarding the much-loved Boudreau, one of the 1940’s squads greatest and most well-loved players. In a true expression of fan outrage, the sounds of unhappiness and anger reached Veeck’s ears and – in a decision that likely would not be recreated today in any such way – Veeck changed his mind.
More than that, however, Veeck did something even more unheard of by today’s standards. Not only did he decide to listen to the fans, he took it one step further. In response to the outraged Cleveland fans who could not bear to see their beloved Boudreau play anywhere but Cleveland, Veeck personally visited every bar in Cleveland and apologized to fans for his mistaken decision.
Was it a publicity move because he knew that simply talk of trading Boudreau would bring about a wave of unpopularity for the Cleveland manager from his loyal friends? Was he simply trying to save himself in the eye of the public? It is very likely that Veeck knew that, even if he didn’t actually trade Boudreau, fans would still view him with some apprehension knowing that the thought had crossed his mind. By personally apologizing and providing that added “human” aspect to his egregious mistake, Veeck was able to save face and prove to disgruntled fans that he was their manager; he had the same goals and wants as them, the fans, and he was going to listen to them to make it work.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if managers did that today? Wouldn’t it be astonishing if, when Twitter reacted to trade rumors like those of Masterson, those in power sat down and really thought about the decisions they were making and how they would affect the fan base? With a team whose attendance is already suffering, it’s east to say that an off-season trade that was not fan-friendly could easily serve as a detriment to next season.
However, certain trade rumors have been met with positivity. The Drew Stubbs/Josh Outman decision was received with relative indifference – yes, Stubbs provided valuable speed on base but Outman provides some needed lefty depth in the pen. It’s hardly a decision to scoff at. Additionally, thoughts of using Asdrubal Cabrera as a trade option have been floating around for years, and the notion is still well received. The once All Star shortstop is a player fans would not be torn up to let go. Imagine if management took this to heart. Imagine Francona walking from bar to bar, popping in and out of establishment on West Sixth or East Fourth, apologizing to fans for suggesting a Masterson trade or agreeing with their notions that Cabrera can be part of a negotiation. Imagine if the off-season was full of “personalized” trades, that relied on fan input regarding prominent players of the organization.
Although, perhaps it would be a little difficult for Francona to walk bar to bar and apologize or promote decisions made by the team – if he got lost driving to the game, there’s no telling what could happen if he tried to maneuver through the Warehouse District. Maybe it’s best fans voice their trade opinions through Twitter – electronic replies may be a little safer.
Photo: Cleveland.com/Plain Dealer File