It has always been a bit unfair to claim that baseball management viscerally hates the games it sells. They don’t particularly hate them, and don’t actually like it when other people say so, but they are deeply indifferent to them. What they do like, though, and what they know you like too, is the moving of humans from one locale to another in bursts of mercantile energy. It almost doesn’t matter who gets moved as long as movement is done, because nothing comforts the baseball fan’s soul quite like blurting insipidities like, “I barely remember Matthew Boyd on the Tigers because they’re the Tigers but I think it’s a great get for San Francisco.”
In addition, player movement is the perfect distraction for the outrages of the lockout, which took 99 valuable days out of U-Haul season, so it comes as no real surprise that there were signing flurries both before and since, and none more compelling than Atlanta’s trade of Freddie Freeman for Matt Olson.
OK, that wasn’t actually the trade, but the effect is there. Oakland, which had Matt Olson but no intention of paying him what big kids get paid, had to jumpstart everything by going through one of its twice-a-decade guttings, but it essentially still boils down to Atlanta losing Freeman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Olson, with the Dodgers in the dandy position of having to give up nothing but money.
It’s the deal that has everything. Big market. Kind of big market. Big market that insists that it’s small market. Small markets using this deal to complain that there should be a salary cap $50 million and a salary floor of players-pay-us-to-work. Acts of extravagance, pragmatism, and beggary, all intertwined for your entertainment. And best of all, players getting paid for services rendered.
Los Angeles likes splashy deals, and since the Lakers are being hung by theirs, the Dodgers have stepped into the breach with one of the two Atlantans (along with Eddie Rosario) who kept them from a second consecutive World Series. They also get to do a better job of hiding Cody Bellinger, whose fall from elite status is very nearly a crime scene.
Atlanta, which didn’t want to pay Albert Pujols money to a guy who is Pujols’s age when he was discarded, gets a younger version of Freeman, with better numbers. Olson got one more year than Freeman; Freeman got $1 million more per year. The debate about birthdays vs. memories gets to be re-engaged by the two sides of Chris Russo’s fevered brain.
Oakland? Oakland gets to return to the safe cocoon of the inexpensive 68-94 season as soon as it rubbishes Ramon Laureano, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas. Just as it planned.
And quietly, Toronto gets to make a super team that might very well be better than everyone else’s. But that’s a tale for another blog in our series, “Why Canada Sucks Less Than We Do, Except for The Leafs, Who Will Take Us All To Our Graves Without A Stanley Cup.” Comrade Theisen is working on a snappier title which we will all learn of in subsequent weeks.
As for the rest of the post-lockout festival, it shall be known as The Freeman Peace. His signing and its concomitant machinery was the deal that covered the gamut and engaged us all in the things baseball has forgotten to ruin, or hasn’t gotten around to ruining yet. The cycle begins again, and we fake it until they break it again.