The Myth Of The Stupid Boring Deadline

Jeff Sullivan · July 31, 2013 at 5:19 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The Mariners didn’t do anything on Wednesday, in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. That’s not really fair — they did plenty of things, taking plenty of calls and doing plenty of research. If you suggested to the Mariners on Wednesday that they didn’t do anything, the executives would laugh in your face. They were at work. They were busy. But they didn’t, ultimately, make a deal. The roster that was remains the roster that is, despite the roster having a number of perfectly tradeable players. The Mariners weren’t the only team to stand pat. The Giants didn’t do anything. Lots of teams didn’t do anything. People have said this was a slow and boring deadline, perhaps in part owing to the reality of two extra teams qualifying for postseason play.

It actually feels like people say that almost every year. Almost every year, people feel like the trade deadline was boring, and I know this year a lot of Mariners fans were thinking about potential moves, potential prospects. There are few things fans love more than trades, and the opportunities to discuss them. The Mariners gave their fans no trades to discuss, at least not trades that actually happened. The overall trade deadline was light on stars and light on concrete activity. People say they’re bored. People say this deadline was lame. I’m pretty sure they’re wrong; I’m pretty sure they’re missing the point.

The trade deadline is only in very small part about trades that take place. The excitement about the trade deadline, I mean. Let’s say a trade happens. Let’s just say. Let’s say it involves your favorite team! That’s exciting! For a very short time. Do you know how quickly the average person gets over transactions? Do you understand how amazingly and sometimes disappointingly quickly we adapt? Trades are exciting because they represent change. T will represent time points. At T1, you have a roster, and at T2, you have a different roster, because of a trade. Between T1 and T2, there was change. But then you’ll hit T3, and T4, and T5, and so on and so forth. You perceive the most sudden change immediately. After that, you feel the change less and less. Eventually, a changed roster feels like a normal roster. After the initial rush of talking about what you got and what you lost, you get familiar with the new reality. That which is familiar is particularly unexciting, relative to when things are exciting.

We love when trades happen, even if they’re bad trades, but it’s a fleeting high. It’s an ephemeral whiff of emotion. The minute a trade gets announced, you start getting used to it. Within a surprisingly brief period of time, your team is just your team, and you’re rooting for the same stuff. Fans of good teams want wins, however. Fans of bad teams want progress, however, or maybe even losses. You start to forget about the trade because more important than a trade are the games. The games are the heart of the season.

The trade deadline is somewhat about the trades, but so much more than that, it’s about the possibilities of trades. It’s about all those solid rumors and nonsensical rumors, about imagining whatever you want because who knows what some team might do? Until the trade deadline, anything is possible, anybody might become available. And you start to care even about the lesser players. Bud Norris isn’t very good, but he’s trade-deadline interesting, and he was the subject of countless rumors leading up. It was almost anticlimactic when Norris finally got moved. The real thrill of it was thinking about Norris moving, and where he might go and what he might get and what the implications might be.

The appeal of the trade deadline is the circus. Or, let’s think of it as an amusement park ride, a roller-coaster. The trade deadline is a ride, and even if nothing real substantial happens in the end, was a roller-coaster not worth it because no one gave you a big stuffed animal when you got off? In the weeks leading up, you get to fill your time thinking about countless possibilities. You get to think about which pieces to move, which pieces to get, what might fit where. You get to follow rumors — and there are millions and millions of rumors — and then you get to speculate on validity and significance. Around the trade deadline, baseball keeps a fan engaged. The next rumor might be five seconds away. It might be something you’d never heard before. Nothing’s certain until the deadline passes, and even then, we’re always warned that trades can be announced afterward, since they need to be approved. So it’s more like people can’t calm down until half an hour after the deadline. This year, the post-deadline trade was Drew Butera to someone for something, which in a sense is appropriate, but it doesn’t matter what happened. It doesn’t matter what happened. It mattered what we thought could happen, in our heads, at the time.

In terms of stuff to discuss, there’s no such thing as a slow trade deadline. Especially now in the Twitter Era. Everything gets tweeted, no matter how worthless, and sometimes the messages are contradictory. Every reporter with a source tries to get his voice out there, and that’s content, that’s fodder. We all know it’s absurd, we all know it’s unhealthy, but we all follow and click. We all become rumor addicts, even when we’re advising people not to become rumor addicts, because it’s fun and creative and ultimately it’s all stupid so why not participate in some more of the stupid? Active trade deadlines are awesome. Inactive trade deadlines are awesome. The excitement of the former just ends a few hours later than the excitement of the latter.

Here’s all the evidence you need that people love the trade deadline: every year, people complain that they’re bored by the outcome. Which means that, every year, people get into it, regardless of the year right before. There’s no such thing as a boring trade deadline. That’s just the come-down talking, after the drugs.


9 Responses to “The Myth Of The Stupid Boring Deadline”

  1. Snuffy on July 31st, 2013 5:25 pm

    I have zero idea if Jack Z. passed up any good trade options that would make the M’s better next year at the expense of wins now… but I can guess that his not being extended was a big factor in not moving at least some of the long list of players who will be free agents at season’s end. This is not a good situation for the team’s growth or for Jack. The M’s ownership group leaves much to be desired.
    That said, a trade for trade’s sake is counterproductive.

  2. scraps on July 31st, 2013 7:04 pm

    I dislike trades. They’re people, ripped out of their lives (and not just players, but families). And mostly they’re bonded with their teammates. Sucks.

    Yes, it’s “part of the game.” It still sucks.

    That said, if my team pulls off a good trade, of course I applaud. But I hate the trade deadline.

  3. SeattleSlew on July 31st, 2013 8:30 pm

    Almost every year, people feel like the trade deadline was boring, and I know this year a lot of Mariners fans were thinking about potential moves, potential prospects. There are few things fans love more than trades, and the opportunities to discuss them. The Mariners gave their fans no trades to discuss, at least not trades that actually happened.

    Maybe its just me but I have never heard or felt like the trade deadline was boring.

    I like to see the M’s make moves that will improve the team and the trade deadline is an opportunity for that so of course there is some anticipation that a trade might happen but sometimes the pieces just don’t fall in the right place. Jack Z has a bad track record with trades so I think that sometimes the best move is not making any moves at all.

  4. maqman on August 1st, 2013 1:53 am

    Doing nothing is one version of doing something. As applied to the Ms I find it encouraging, so they had a good trade deadline experience for me. Well they actually did something by sending Andino back to the Os but minor league deals are pretty much minor in impact and are essentially nothing.

  5. PackBob on August 1st, 2013 7:35 am

    The trade deadline is like Christmas for a child. The wish list is submitted, days pass unbearably slow, anticipation is high, possibilities rule the mind, and then the day arrives.

    Maybe next year.

  6. Lantern on August 1st, 2013 8:27 am

    I totally disagree. I don’t pay any attention to the rumors. They are so often wrong that they aren’t worth my time. For a guy like you who follows baseball 24/7 it might be great looking into all the ‘what if’s’. But for the 99% who barely have the time to check the box score every day and watch a game once or twice a week the rumors are just kinda annoying.

  7. bfgboy on August 1st, 2013 9:05 am

    I knew we wouldn’t get much, but I’m frustrated nonetheless. I understand that the goal is to keep winning, but aside from one minor streak, they’re not winning. They’ve lost four out of five, and they’ve got a tough schedule ahead. But let’s say they miraculously go on another streak or two, and get to .500. Their reward? They fall out of the bottom ten in the reverse standings (they are 11 right now), and lose the unprotected draft pick when they sign somebody.

    Look at the returns for Feldman and Norris. Am I delusional to think that a package of Saunders AND Perez could not have netted something similar?

  8. henryv on August 1st, 2013 12:45 pm

    I like the trade deadline.

    It’s like the NFL draft, but backwards. The momentum builds, rather than decreases.

    But I don’t like the idea that Mike Morse, Raul Ibanez, Endy Chavez, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales are all on the same roster. Seriously, how many old, non-capable, slow, and/or former outfielders that should only DH can we keep on a roster? Have those guys on the same team is the equivalent of having a bullpen with 6 LOOGYs.

  9. amnizu on August 2nd, 2013 9:07 am

    To me it is a matter of perspective. The trade deadline is not boring if you in some way tie your salary to MLB, be it as a player, executive, manager, reporter or ball boy. Or if you are a fan of MLB in general.

    However, to the casual fan who only cares about one team, a trade deadline with no deals should feel boring. A casual fan should be rooting for his or her team to win in every aspect of the game including getting better with trades whenever they come and casual fans have been conditioned to expected trades around the deadline.

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