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Busy GMs hope to pull off magic deal

Special to

July 26

The phone first rings at home in the morning at 7:30. Then general managers like Steve Phillips, Dan O'Dowd and Brian Cashman talk in the car while heading to the ballpark. Then come the hours in the office, followed by the phone in the luxury box during the game and the cell phone during the game, in the car on the way home and maybe a final call or two after midnight.

In one day, Cashman talked about B.J. Surhoff, Rondell White, Manny Ramirez, Richie Sexson, Jeromy Burnitz, Matt Stairs, Brian Jordan, somebody in San Diego no one can figure out and another 20-something names. It's the nature of the business.

Curt Schilling
In acquiring Curt Schilling from the Phillies, Arizona bolstered its pitching staff in a big way.
Do many conversations turn into actual trade proposals? Very few. But it's the nature of the business. "I hear some ex-players say they want to be a general manager," says one GM. "What they don't know is that being a GM means sleeping three hours a night from the All-Star break to the trading deadline and taking Scott Boras' call at 4 p.m. on Christmas Day."

"It's all part of the job, and it really is fun," says the Rangers' very successful GM Doug Melvin. "Whether you're in the race or out of it, it's a very important time, either to win or to rebuild."

Hours and days and weeks of talk. Then, all of a sudden, the Diamondbacks get Curt Schilling. "You have to be someone willing to give something up," says the Reds' Jim Bowden, who knows how to hold, fold and move. Arizona's Joe Garagiola will move. He got criticized last year for giving up too much for Matt Mantei (Brad Penny, Abraham Nunez and Vladimir Nunez) and Dan Plesac (Tony Batista), but the D-Backs had half a team in midst of career years and a bullpen that was killing them. "The bottom line is that we got to the playoffs in our second season," says manager Buck Showalter.

When Sandy Alderson was the general manager of the Athletics, he said, "We ask players all year to bust their humps to win. There comes a point in the season when the front office has to show the players it is playing as hard as they are. At that point, it's up to the front office to energize the clubhouse."

In 1989, Alderson acquired Rickey Henderson at what was then the June trading deadline, and Rickey went on to become the ALCS MVP and a huge factor in Oakland's World Series triumph. In 1990, Alderson traded for Willie McGee and Harold Baines for a last burst of energy, and in 1992 traded Jose Canseco to Texas for Ruben Sierra, Bobby Witt and Jeff Russell, a deal that got Oakland past Minnesota and into the playoffs.

The Schilling deal could do just that for Arizona. The D-Backs have been battered, tired and struggling, and not only have they now added one of the eight best pitchers in the game to one of the three best staff's, but this deal also gives the team a second wind.

Some deals seem perfect at the time, such as when the Astros got Randy Johnson from Seattle in 1998 for three minor leaguers. Johnson went 10-1 with 1.28 ERA down the stretch, but the Astros got knocked out in the first round by the Padres. Johnson then signed with Arizona and now Freddy Garcia and John Halama are key parts of the Mariners' staff.

In the last 15 years, two deadline deals were perfect. In 1987, Detroit got Doyle Alexander from the Braves for Double-A pitcher John Smoltz; it was the Tigers' last hurrah as they went 12-0 in Alexander's starts and Smoltz went on to stardom. In 1988 the Red Sox made the playoffs by acquiring Mike Boddicker from Baltimore, but gave up Brady Anderson and Schilling.

Then there was 1997, when Oakland knew it was losing Mark McGwire. The Angels turned down a deal for Jim Edmonds because they didn't want to pay McGwire (nice marketing, huh?), so he went to the only suitor -- St. Louis, for three pitchers -- and the rest is history, including Edmonds.

As our heads spin as Curt Schilling goes and John Wetteland, Rolando Arrojo, Sexson, White, Surhoff, Mike Bordick and so many other rumors swirl, here's a little past trading deadline history. Check the Mets deal for Frank Viola in 1989. That may be the best historical reference to the Schilling trade.

Eleven deals that helped teams wins
1. 1989. Oakland acquiring Rickey Henderson from the Yankees for OF Luis Polonia, RHP Eric Plunk and LHP Greg Cadaret.

2. 1992. Toronto acquiring RHP David Cone from the Mets for 2B Jeff Kent and OF Ryan Thompson.

3. 1993. Atlanta acquiring 1B Fred McGriff from San Diego for RHP Donnie Elliott, OF Vince Moore and OF Melvin Nieves.

4. 1987. San Francisco acquiring Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts from San Diego for Chris Brown, Keith Comstock, Mark Grant and Mark Davis.

5. 1995. The Yankees acquiring David Cone from Toronto for Marty Janzen and two other minor leaguers, neither of whom made the majors.

6. 1995. Cincinnati acquiring David Wells from Detroit for C.J. Nitkowski and acquiring Dave Burba, Mark Portugal and Darren Lewis from San Francisco for Deion Sanders and others.

7. 1995. Boston acquiring Rick Aguilera from Minnesota for RHP Frankie Rodriguez and a minor-league outfielder

8. 1993. Toronto acquiring Rickey Henderson from Oakland for RHP Steve Karsay.

9. 1996. Seattle acquiring Jamie Moyer from Boston for OF Darren Bragg.

10. 1996. Atlanta acquiring Denny Neagle from Pittsburgh for RHP Jason Schmidt and 1B Ron Wright.

11. 1986. Boston acquiring David Henderson and Spike Owen from Seattle for SS Rey Quinones, RHP Mike Brown and RHP Mike (The Dictator) Trujillo.

Six deals that worked for both teams
1. 1987. Alexander for Smoltz.

2. 1989 The Mets acquired Frank Viola from the Twins for RHP Rick Aguilera, RHP Kevin Tapani, LHP David West and RHP Tim Drummond. Viola won 20, and the Twins won a World Series in 1991 with Tapani and Aguilera key members on the staff.

3. Boddicker for Schilling and Anderson (although the Orioles traded Schilling to the Astros).

4. 1990. Pittsburgh acquired Zane Smith from Montreal for OF Moises Alou, LHP Scott Ruskin and INF Willie Greene.

5. 1998. Texas acquired Todd Stottlemyre and Royce Clayton from St. Louis for Fernando Tatis and Darren Oliver.

6. 1997. The Giants, needing to get into the playoffs to help finance Pac Bell Park, acquired LHP Wilson Alvarez, RHPs Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin from the White Sox for six prospects, including Keith Foulke, Lorenzo Barcelo and Bobby Howry.

Eight classic building deals
1. 1990. Houston acquired Jeff Bagwell from Boston for reliever Larry Andersen, who was 1-for-4 in save opportunities.

2. 1997. In a span of 10 days, Boston acquired Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek from Seattle for Heathcliff Slocumb, then acquired Jim Mecir and Tony Armas Jr. from the Yankees for Mike Stanley. Three months later, Armas went to Montreal with Carl Pavano in the Pedro Martinez deal.

3. 1995. San Francisco acquired Shawn Estes from Seattle for Salomon Torres.

4. 1998. The White Sox acquired Jon Garland from the Cubs for Matt Karchner.

5. 1996. Florida sent John Burkett to Texas for Robb Nen and Rick Helling. Texas got Helling back the following year for Ed Vosberg.

6. 1997. Cincinnati traded John Smiley to Cleveland for four prospects, including Danny Graves.

7. 1997. Milwaukee traded Kevin Seitzer to Cleveland for Jeromy Burnitz.

8. 1989. Philadelphia traded Steve Bedrosian to San Francisco for Charlie Hayes, Terry Mulholland and Dennis Cook.

The all-time trading deadline player
Randy Johnson. In 1989, he was traded with Gene Harris and Brian Holman to Seattle from Montreal for Mark Langston. In 1993, Toronto thought it had a deal for him involving Al Leiter and Mike Timlin, but when GM Woody Woodward finally got back to Pat Gillick, the Jays had already acquired Rickey Henderson. Then in 1998, the Indians declined a deal because they wouldn't trade Brian Giles (whom they later dealt for Ricardo Rincon), the Dodgers worked out a deal involving Ismael Valdes and Darren Dreifort that was rejected by Seattle ownership and Johnson finally went to Houston for Garcia, Halama and Carlos Guillen.

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