When Yoenis Cespedes hit that home run tonight off Drew Storen–and effectively ended the Washington Nationals’ season–he made Storen and Nationals manager Matt Williams look bad. Of course, he also made Billy Beane and the Athletics look bad, too. And he made the Red Sox and Tigers look worst of all.
When the A’s traded Cespedes to the Red Sox last year, many Oakland partisans voice major reservations about the deal–but it was still possible to justify the swap on some fairly reasonable grounds.
The A’s were in “go for it” mode, and adding more experienced starting pitching (in the form of the overrated Jon Lester) made sense overall. Plus Cespedes seemed somewhat mercurial at the time; despite flashes of brilliance, he also had periods of injury and lack of production. On top of that, his contract was going to be up (after next season), so getting value before free agency–Oakland’s primary m.o.–was on the table.
But what the hell were the Red Sox and Tigers thinking? Once Oakland collapsed in the immediate aftermath of the trade, Cespedes’ value became obvious. Boston should have known what they had gotten when they traded for him. And then when the Red Sox traded him away in the offseason, and then immediately proceeded to tank this year, the Tigers should have figured out what they had in hand. In other words, the A’s had experience, and some speculation, before they traded Cespedes away, but Boston and Detroit had experience, speculation, and (mostly) evidence as to how good a player Cespedes is. The Mets’ improvement after acquiring Cespedes has only reinforced what we–and his previous teams–already should have known. And yet, both teams got rid of a potential cornerstone player anyway.
Judging talent is not always a matter of simply connecting dot A to dot B in a straight line. But then again, sometimes the obvious answer is, in fact, the answer. Upon such judgments–or lack thereof–are successes and failures made.