Baseball made a big, big change for 2012, adding another wild card to each league.
Well, Bud Selig and Co. should’ve made a corresponding alteration, too — by doing away with the July 31 trade deadline and moving it later, at least a month, maybe even to the middle of September.
I’ll give you two reasons why: the Brewers and Phillies.
Both ballclubs were stuck in a serious rut early in the season and through much of the summer. The Brewers lost seven in a row from July 20-26 to fall 10 games under .500, and the Phillies lost 11 of 12 from June 27 to July 13 to drop to an absolutely unfathomable 37-51.
So, obviously, both teams deemed themselves sellers ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
The Phillies spun Shane Victorino off to the Dodgers and fellow outfielder Hunter Pence to the Giants, while the Brewers sent ace pitcher Zack Greinke to the Angels for a package of prospects.
What’s the problem?
Take one look at the standings. With their win over the Nationals tonight, the Brewers — who also lost Prince Fielder to free agency (and the Tigers) in the offseason — moved to within 1.5 games of the second wild-card spot, while the Phillies’ victory over the Braves moved them three games back of running their postseason streak to six seasons.
Talk about some sellers’ remorse.
The Brewers and Phillies can thank Major League Baseball, which added a wild card to both the AL and NL in an attempt to recreate the final-day magic of a year ago. And, frankly, it’s probably going to work. We’re looking at standings so jumbled, we might be seeing one-game playoffs just for the right to play in the one-game wild-card playoff games.
Mission accomplished there.
But the MLB bigwigs certainly underestimated just how many teams would be in the hunt at this point in the season, or at least by mid- to late August. By the end of last month, more than half of the 30 teams still had a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.
Yet, the July 31 trade deadline already had passed.
With the boost in the number of contenders, it only makes sense for baseball to move it later.
The trade deadline is a bit archaic anyway, established in the early 20th century, originally for June 15. No player could be dealt away between that date and the conclusion of the World Series. Then, in the mid-1980s, the deadline became July 31.
Tweak it again, perhaps to Aug. 31.
In this era of six division champions and four wild cards — one-third of MLB teams, for the first time, will play October baseball — July 31 obviously is far too early for teams to properly determine if they’re buyers or sellers.
There still must be some sort of a deadline, of course, so as to not allow playoff-bound teams to pick up star reinforcements 24 hours before the postseason gets under way.
But by Aug. 31, ballclubs will have a much better idea of their postseason chances. There already is an Aug. 31 deadline, of course — the waiver deadline. From Aug. 1-31 now, players still can be acquired as long as they clear waivers first. But unless you want a spare part (Jeff Baker) or a massive contract (Adrian Gonzalez), it’s usually of little use.
Well, until this year, when teams had to get creative when their fortunes changed from July 31 to mid-August. We’ve already seen a whole bunch of waiver-deadline deals this year, more than we’re used to, because of the aforementioned issue: August, not July anymore, more separates the pretenders from contenders.
Heck, that blockbuster between the Red Sox and Dodgers — in which L.A. added more than $200 million in payroll with Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett — happened in August.
Joe Saunders, Matt Lindstrom and Kurt Suzuki, among many others, were dealt in August.
Just ditch that waiver deadline completely, in part so we don’t see any more teams stuck with past-their-prime players and awful contracts just because they’re trying to block a contending team from adding said player.
Let’s make it so that one deadline fits all.
The only issue that should be up for debate is the date.
Of course, by the end of August, the Phillies were still up a creek and really didn’t get themselves into it until lately, making a strong case for the mid-September trade deadline. The Brewers, meanwhile, were in a slightly better situation at August’s end than they were July 31.
Now imagine how good of shape either team could be in today, had they not jumped ship a bit too early.
No knock on them, mind you. They had to make a choice.
Now, MLB must soon make a choice.
And don’t be surprised if by next summer, there’s a new trade deadline.