Deadline monkeyshines

Face it, whether you like it, or not. The far turn of baseball's mid-season that signals the drive into the stretch comes with the July 31st inter-league non-waiver trading deadline, even though most teams do nothing while many that do something live to regret it. The table gets set at the Deadline.

Motives collide, abetted by illusion. Teams desperate to dump salary dicker with teams deluding themselves that they are just a single missing link shy of a championship. Little wonder that few emerge satisfied.

In theory, you can essentially re-make your team the first of August. Back when Theo Epstein was still young and holding a hot hand the Red Sox succeeded in doing precisely that in the unforgettable 2004 season. But such instances are rare. More common is the matter of hefty rentals paying small short-term dividends at brutal long-term prices. Exhibit A of that ticklish scenario remains CC Sabathia who brought joy to Milwaukee that lasted only three months.

Without question the July countdown to the deadline whips up huge interest annually, bringing winter's hot-stove fever to the howling heights of summer. But traditionalists, not surprisingly, hate it believing it to be yet another of the tiresome gimmicks of the Selig Era, so full of them. They argue the old system that set June 15 as the deadline worked well while being fairer.

The idea behind all such deadlines is to make it more difficult for rich big-foot teams like those from the Bronx and the Back Bay to load up when and how they dang well please while cherry-picking the weaklings. But if the later deadline seems to favor the high-powered, there's plenty of evidence weaker teams have learned how to make it serve their interests too.

Moreover, in the good old days the old rules didn't always work that well. During their absolute heyday, from the '40s into the '60s the Yankees specialized in snaring choice NL prizes like Johnny Sain, Johnny Mize, Ewell Blackwell, and Enos Slaughter long after the June deadline, usually right around Labor Day when it helped most. This happened year after year.

Only once did those rapacious Yankees of old get stung in such capers and that was in their 1951 deal landing them certified Boston Braves legend Johnny Sain in exchange for the hallowed and timeless .... "player to be named later." Sain, a great pitcher, would substantially help the Bombers win four more crowns in five years. But the price exacted by the Braves shortly before they split for Milwaukee was very steep for the unnamed player turned out to be rather more than the usual character no one has heard of or ever gets to see. It was Lew Burdette who starred for a generation, winning 203 games while near single-handedly whipping the Yankees in the 1957 World Series. Such delightful irony!

The 1951 Sain-Burdette deal established the concept and now, more than ever, the currency of choice in deadline dealings is ''prospects.'' Money remains a factor but the over-riding consideration is the quality of such unknown kids that the veteran being ditched can command with the art of appraising the potential of fuzzy-cheeked phenoms from A-Ball being very, very tricky. No one does it brilliantly but many think Oakland's Billy Beane does it best. That's at the core of what made Beane the hero of "Moneyball." Smart baseball men avoid Billy when he comes seeking their teenage striplings in exchange for his burned out has-beens.

Epic scores -- in which one team cleans the clock of the other -- are rare. But they do happen every blue moon or so. Invariably it's because the selling team has scouted the low minors brilliantly.

In the late summer of 1987, the Tigers managed to convince themselves that one more dependable pitcher would put them over the top so they went after the Braves' Doyle Alexander. "Downtown Doyle" was no ace. But he was a durable and savvy veteran innings-eater, respected for his grittiness. When Atlanta asked for an obscure 20 year-old laboring for Detroit's Glenns Falls Rookie League team in return, the Tigers were pleased to oblige. After all, the kid had a record that summer of 4-10 with a ERA of 5.68.

His name was John Smoltz and his Hall of Fame worthy career would end here in Boston 22 seasons later. For the record, the Tigers in 1987 made it to the playoffs but swiftly got bounced by the Twins nor have they won the championship since.

For Bostonians, however, the even more notable example of how these games within the game can backfire historically came three years later when the Fenway brain trust -- trumping the objections of its entire scouting staff -- agreed to send highly regarded 22 year-old prospect Jeff Bagwell to Houston for cagey but 37 year-old reliever Larry Andersen.

It was the deal that haunted Lou Gorman the rest of his fine career, although in fairness to Lou it must be stressed Andersen was dandy in his brief stint here. Lou always insisted there's no way they'd have made the 1990 playoffs without him and he was right. Unfortunately, the mighty Oakland A's featuring the steroid-juiced Bash-Brothers, Canseco and McGwire, swiftly eliminated Boston and two months later Andersen was made "a special free agent" by an arbitrator and promptly signed with San Diego, leaving the Red Sox to look like suckers. When Bagwell makes the Hall of Fame -- and that's likely to happen soon -- you can expect this aggravating anecdote to get resurrected, again and again.

Clearly the bottom line of our little tale is simply; if you yearn to play in this strange and convoluted mid-summer swap-fest you had better do your homework and you'd better be lucky.

The teams dumping established players -- often but not always the less prosperous, so-called "small-market teams" -- are getting mighty skilled at the fine art of shaking down the buyers. A fine example came last summer when the Mets succeeded in conning the Giants into parting with premium pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in exchange for veteran slugger Carlos Beltran, whom the Mets had no hope of retaining. At 22, Wheeler remains a terrific prospect whereas Beltran has left San Francisco for greater success and money in St. Louis. It's a minefield. But before closing the book on this caper perhaps we should wait for Wheeler to at least make the Majors.

Teams can out-smart themselves and it happens often. The ultimate example came in July, 2004 when the Yankees, still on top but with their pitching looking shaky, urgently sought Randy Johnson. Faced with re-building and needing to dump payroll, Arizona was anxious to trade the stomping and fuming "Big Unit" but wasn't keen on the prospect New York kept insisting they take. When neither side budged, the deal fell through at the deadline. Who was the prospect the Diamondbacks rejected, you ask? The answer is Robinson Cano, then still in the Minors.

Think how baseball history pivoted on that curious whim. If the Yankees had acquired Johnson there's no way they'd have folded in 2004 and there would have been no concomitant "miracle" in Boston for the Red Sox would not have had the pleasure of feasting mainly on punching bags Kevin Brown and Javi Vazquez in 2004's fateful playoffs. That winter, New York finally landed Johnson -- without sacrificing Cano -- too late.

And so the circus resumes. In coming days there will be deals; maybe many given that with a new playoff round more teams than usual are hallucinating on the illusion they are genuine contenders. Deals have already gone down; a couple of them quite odd.

Big names are being bandied about with most being pitchers, as ever the most precious commodity; the Rays' Shields, the Phils' Hamel, Garza and Dempster of the Cubs, Greinke of the Brewers, Liriano of the Twins, maybe even Cliff Lee of the Phils, once again. Will the injury-plagued Yankees reload with Shane Victorino? Will the injury-ravaged Red Sox rebuild with Garza, Greinke, or Liriano?

More likely, none of this will happen. But that won't quiet the Talk Shows. Just remember to be careful what you wish for, lest you get it.

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...