It’s about that time of year again; while the rest of the world worries about the beautiful (if bloody and tragic) game, nebbishy number crunchers here in the last remaining superpower fret about Melky Carbera’s VORP. Fantasy baseball may be widely derided as having turned a manly sport of drunken brawlers into something that only sabermetricians, lonely shut-ins, and boys named Theo care about. But this point of the season, when weaknesses start to become really glaring, offers a form of ritualized combat that most people in today’s effete society can only dream of: the chance to rook one’s friends and coworkers and then mock them mercilessly for having made the dumbest trade of the year. Trading has always had a place in baseball. When the Reds gave up inaugural Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson to the New York Giants in 1900, Cincinnati fans took a beating; Reds owner John Brush fared better, simply buying Mathewson’s new team two years later. Harry Frazee simply sold Babe Ruth in 1919, but these days, with a million-dollar cap on contract sales, pure cash deals are less common. Debate swirls about the worst trades of all time, although my hapless hometown Orioles are at the top of some lists. Turn the worst trades around and salute the successful GMs who made the best trades. But who made the oddest? In a world where sportscaster Al Michaels can be traded to NBC for Ryder Cup coverage rights and Oswald the Rabbit, the strangest trades may well not belong to baseball.
Does actor and minor league ballplayer Nigel Thatch‘s official worth — sixty cases of Bud — compare to the trade that sent soccer player Marius Cioara (swapped for 33 pounds of sausage) fleeing the lower reaches of Romanian soccer? Does Harry Chiti (a backup catcher traded to the Mets for himself in 1962) compare with minor-league hockey player Tom Martin (worth roughly half a bus)? Does the extracurricular nature of the Mike Kekich-Fritz Peterson trade (the Yankees teammates swapped wives, it being 1973 and all) preclude it from consideration? Ranking the oddest trade may be outside the reach of statistical analysis. Ranking the biggest shouldn’t be; one-time Wired cover boy John Malone, who amassed an immense fortune buying, selling, and trading assets in the cable industry in a two-decade streak of frenzied deal-making, is rumored to be about to make another one; it won’t be as big as the ones that turned a collection of AT&T castoffs, an appetite for debt, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the tax code into a giant media conglomerate, but the target of this one bears mentioning. Malone is rumored to be offering Time Warner a huge block of the company’s own stock in exchange for something Ted Turner wanted but they never really did: the Atlanta Braves. "Malone isn’t expected to keep the Braves for long," however. Why should he? There’s a deal to be made out there somewhere — play ball!