Flashback Friday: Revisiting a "Thrifty" Trade Deadline

A rebuilding project begins with a poor foundation

by Matthew Taylor

“Someone is going to able to sit up here three years from now and say how smart they are.”

-Syd Thrift

The trade deadline passed on Thursday with barely a peep from the Birds. This week’s “Flashback Friday” recalls a more active trading time when, according to ESPN, “The high-payroll Orioles took the first steps toward rebuilding for the future.”

In the tradition of the Orioles’ scoreboard promotion “Guess the Year,” Roar from 34 offers three clues as to when this “rebuilding” process began:

-The Birds acquired Wayward O favorite Melvin Mora, then 28, in exchange for an aging Mike Bordick.

-Will Clark became a Bird of a different color, joining the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for minor leaguer Jose Leon (.225 career average in three seasons on the O’s Major League roster).

-Fan favorite B.J. Surhoff bid a tearful goodbye to Baltimore in an excruciating farewell press conference. The return:journeyman 34-year-old outfielder Trenidad Hubbard (five hits in an Orioles uniform); minor league catcher Fernando Lunar (75 games as an Oriole before his Major League career ended); 22-year-old pitcher Luis Rivera (pitched less than an inning for the Birds).

The Year Was … 2-0-0-0.

Thom Loverro of The Washington Times read the tea leaves well in an Aug. 1, 2000, analysis of the team’s activity titled “More moves, a tearful goodbye for a proud franchise in flames.”

“B.J. Surhoff cried yesterday when he learned he had been traded to the Atlanta Braves.

He cried because of the pain he felt leaving his family behind. He cried because of the friends he would miss. He cried because, even with all of the chaos that has engulfed this once-proud franchise, Baltimore is still a great place to play.

But his tears might as well have been those of Orioles fans mourning what could have been.

[I]n his past two seasons, Surhoff has watched as those granted the stewardship of this team by the fans who buy tickets – the Angelos family – have torn it apart through pettiness and stubbornness until all that was left was to watch it burn.

And that is what the Orioles did the past four days by conducting a fire sale, though the man with the matches, vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, scoffed at the description.

‘Someone is going to able to sit up here three years from now and say how smart they are,’ Thrift said at a news conference.

That’s good because the guy who was sitting up there yesterday looked pretty stupid.

The Orioles don’t want you to think about the past. The smokescreen they have created is an illusion of hope for the future – prospects. They are the lottery tickets of baseball. Until the drawing, you have a chance to be a winner. In a general manager’s case, until they have enough time to succeed or fail, their jobs are often secure.

‘I’ll miss playing where I live,’ Surhoff said, battling back the tears.

Surhoff, 35, is a devoted family man whose sons, Austin and Mason, were often seen around the clubhouse. His wife, Polly, grew up in Ellicott City, and they loved living here. His children, including his two daughters, have made their roots here in school, and Mason, who is autistic, has particularly benefited from programs in Baltimore. Surhoff had been the subject of trade talks, but after the 4 p.m. trading deadline passed, he thought he was home free. But just before the deadline, Thrift made the deal with Atlanta.

‘I was caught a little off guard,’ Surhoff said, using a tissue to wipe his eyes. ‘I know I am going to a good situation in Atlanta. I know it will work out. I just thought I would play here.’

There is no here anymore. This time, it is Baltimore, not Atlanta, that is in flames.”

Consider the words of Andy MacPhail after this year’s trade deadline passed: “We had opportunities to do something stupid, and we didn’t do it.”

[Image source: The New York Times. Click photo for original.}


About mptaylor11

Roar from 34, a Baltimore Orioles Blog. Humor. History. Homerism. Since 2006.
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