Large Item Pickup Day
The part of North Carolina that I live in is a pretty interesting mix. Wake Forest University is one of the more uppity schools in the country, and the combination of rich white college kids with the old money homes that surround the area make the town feel more well off than your traditional southern town. However, there are days when the area reminds me very quickly that I now live in the south. Today is one of those days.
It’s officially called “Large Item Pickup Day”. It’s my neighborhood’s turn to have the city come by and collect items that are too large for us to haul away, but that we don’t want around the house anymore. It’s a pretty nice service, actually. Between appliances and furniture, it seems like something big and heavy gets replaced every year, and not having to try to borrow a friend’s truck to take it to the dump is pretty convenient. You just hang onto whatever you don’t want until your neighborhood’s turn comes along, and then you put your large items by the curb and the city takes them away.
At least, in theory, the city comes by and takes stuff away. In reality, Large Item Pickup Weekend is one of the most hilarious, insane, can’t-believe-what-you’re-watching activities of the year. Before the cities trucks ever make it around to collect your items, people come to see what they can grab first. And by people, I mean the cast members of Deliverance. And by collect, I mean “grab as much useless junk as they can haul”. Generally, within 15 to 20 minutes of putting something out at your curb, a man in a truck (with a low probability of wearing a shirt and a very high probability of smoking) will have stopped, loaded up the whole pile, and driven away. Sometimes, he’ll have a partner who will pick through your junk, deciding which of the things you want to discard isn’t good enough for his home, but in the end, they usually take everything.
A few years ago, I was helping a friend by taking his stuff from his garage to his curb the day before Large Item Pickup Day, since he was under the weather. I took the first thing (a broken kiddie pool, I believe) to the curb, walked back to the garage, grabbed the second thing, and by the time I got back to the curb, the first thing was already gone. These people are like hawks. Hawks of trash.
Today, when observing the folks who deemed my crap nice enough to load up in their remarkably nice truck (perhaps if they spent a little less on their trucks they wouldn’t need my broken screen door?), I had an epiphany – the Mariners constructed their roster using the baseball version of Large Item Pickup Day.
The rest of baseball left Mike Sweeney, Milton Bradley, Ian Snell, Jesus Colome, Josh Wilson, Josh Bard, and Ryan Langerhans on the curb this winter. That’s 28 percent of the current active roster that no one else wanted, and we’re not even counting Griffey (who wouldn’t have gotten another job had the Mariners not brought him back), though we probably should. Essentially 1/3 of the roster the M’s are running out on a daily basis are rejects from other organizations who have either cleared waivers recently or would clear waivers without a problem. The Mariners, in their shiny new truck, went around the league and rounded out their roster with discards.
There can be value in things left at the curb. Today, I put out a bookshelf/armoire/dresser thing that my wife hated and we didn’t have room for, but it was in pretty good shape and I probably could have gotten $30 or $40 for it had I put it in on Craigslist. It has some value, and the fine (marginally clothed) people who took it got a good deal with that free piece of furniture. But they had to pick up a lot of crap to get to that relative diamond in the rough, and when they get home, they’re going to have to find places to put all their junk (and my armoire). There’s a pretty decent chance they’d have been better off just buying an armoire on craigslist and not have to sort through and store the rest of the crap they left with too.
And that’s kind of how dumpster diving in baseball works as well. You can do it effectively to fill out a couple of roster spots and take some gambles on guys – if it works, great, if not, you just dump them and try someone else. But when your starting catcher, starting shortstop, starting left-fielder, starting DH platoon, fifth man in the rotation, and your long reliever are all guys that you picked up on the curb, well, then you just have too much crap on the roster. And when you can’t cut bait on experiments gone wrong because it will upset the clubhouse or cause you bad P.R., then you have no business owning that particular large item in the first place.
If the Mariners want to make up the significant hole they’ve dug themselves, they’ll have to stop hoping to find a marginally useful free armoire, go to the store, and buy something that actually makes the place look nice. Or, in this roster’s case, buy a few somethings in a hurry, or you might as well starting preparing for the garage sale in July when you sell off everything that was too nice to leave at the curb.