By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff

In terms of trades, you can't get blockbustier than the A-Rod-for-Soriano swap last week. The buzz is enormous -- the Yankees did it again. They beat the Red Sox and will continue on as the ultra-dominant megaforce in baseball.

But wait. We've seen plenty of other blockbuster trades, and lots of them have turned out. ... well, to be block-busts: Beginning with a bang, and ending with a whimper or a half-hearted wave goodbye.

Will the A-Rod deal ultimately join this list? Will his acquisition prove to be a block-bust? Time will tell. ...

Frank Robinson
Frank Robinson started his Hall-of-Fame career with the Reds.

10. Frank Robinson and Pete Richert traded to the Dodgers for Doyle Alexander and three others (1971)
The Buzz: Robinson had led Baltimore to four pennants in six years, but he was sent to L.A. because, the O's said, they wanted to give more time to players like Terry Crowley and Don Baylor. "We're looking ahead," said Baltimore manager Earl Weaver. "And by 1980, Baylor or Crowley may be another Frank Robinson."

Robinson, who hit .306 with 25 HR and 78 RBI in 1970 and .281 with 28 HR and 99 RBI in 1971, was 36, and certainly looked like he could add punch to the Dodgers' lineup.

The Fizzle:: Robinson's year with the Dodgers was a big disappointment. He played in only 103 games, hitting 19 homers and driving in 59 runs. The Dodgers attendance sagged as L.A. finished third in the NL West. At the end of the year, the future Hall of Famer was unceremoniously traded cross-town to the Angels, where he had an excellent 1973, hitting 30 HR and driving in 97 runs.

9. Spencer Haywood traded to the Knicks for 1979 first-round draft pick and $2 million (1975)
The Buzz: The Knicks scored Haywood, one of the league's greatest stars and a four-time All-NBA selection in his first five seasons, from Seattle for $2 million and a 1979 first-round draft pick. The 6-foot-9 Haywood, 26, had a 24.3-point career average and was to be the Knicks' savior, filling the big hole left by the retirements of Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere. "As soon as word spread that the 225-pound Haywood, the mainstay of the Sonic franchise for the last five seasons, was coming to New York, the Knicks' lagging ticket sales started to pick up," wrote Sam Goldaper in the New York Times.

Knicks' coach Red Holzman called Haywood a superstar who would "make us a lot stronger. We're getting a hell of a runner, shooter, and rebounder."

The Fizzle:: New York proved a great time for Haywood -- off the court. He lived large with supermodel wife Iman. But with the Knicks, his scoring and rebounding declined steadily -- partially due to leg surgery -- until by his last year in New York, he was averaging only 13.7 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Haywood was a moody, often-unhappy player who never quite meshed with new head coach Willis Reed and high-scoring sidekick Bob McAdoo. The Knicks never topped .500 during Haywood's three seasons in the Big Apple, and they dealt him to the Jazz in January 1979 for journeyman Joe Meriweather.

8. Jose Canseco traded to the Rangers for Ruben Sierra, Bobby Witt, and Jeff Russell (Aug. 1992)
The Buzz: Ross Newhan of the L.A. Times called it a "stunning gamble" for Oakland, trading away the 1988 AL MVP. Canseco said, "I'm in shock." In essence, The A's were "renting" All-Star outfielder Sierra and Russell for their stretch drive; both would become free agents at season's end.

Canseco got a great welcome in Texas. Huge "Olé Jose" banners flew in the stadium, "Olé Canseco" bumper stickers were a quick stadium giveaway, and the local newspapers reported on the trade as if Santa Claus had made an early visit to Arlington. "It's the most stunning deal in Texas Rangers' history, and also the best," wrote Randy Galloway in the Dallas Morning News.

Even Canseco's former brother in bash, Mark McGwire, was excited. "It's going to be mind boggling to see how he puts things together in that yard," he said. "I would have to say Mr. Maris' 61 might be gone in a year or two."

The Fizzle:: Canseco was injured most of 1993, playing in only 60 games. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, he hit 31 homers and drove in 90 runs in just 111 games. But things never really came together with Jose in Texas. Despite a powerful offense that included I-Rod, Will Clark, Juan Gone, Dean Palmer, Julio Franco and Jose, the Rangers' best season with Canseco came in 1993, when they finished second in the AL West.

Attendance rose only marginally. In December 1994, the Rangers traded Canseco to the Red Sox for Otis Nixon and Luis Ortiz . And so began his vagabond days. ...

Herschel Walker
Many credit the Cowboys trade of Herschel Walker as a key to their three Super Bowl wins in the '90s.

7. Herschel Walker traded to Cowboys for five players and seven draft choices (1989)
The Buzz: Walker was good as gold. In 1988, he ran 361 times for 1,514 yards and caught 53 passes for 505 yards. Which was probably why Vikings' GM Mike Lynn, who engineered the trade, said: "If we don't win the Central Division, if we go to the Super Bowl and if we don't win the Super Bowl while Herschel Walker is here, then we have not made a good trade. And that's the truth." Lynn wasn't the only one crowing: "Herschelmania" was the watch-word just before and after the trade.

The Fizzle:: In his first game with the Vikings, Walker was electric, running 18 times for 148 yards as the Vikings beat the Packers in front of a record Metrodome crowd. Lynn said, "It was a storybook first chapter of the Herschel Walker saga in Minnesota."

The rest of the chapters weren't the page-turners for which Vikings fans hoped. Walker gained only 521 yards in the remaining 10 games of the 1989 season, and was less-than-spectacular in the 1990 and 1991 seasons, rushing for 1,995 yards total. The Super Bowl? In 1989, the Vikings did go 10-6 and made the playoffs -- but were blown out in the divisional round by the 49ers. It would be Walker's only playoff game in his three Minnesota seasons. In 1990, the Vikings went 6-10; in 1991, 8-8.

As Lynn said, the Vikings did not make a good trade. He'd hoped to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Minnesota; but instead, he handed it to Dallas, which used the draft picks to select Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, and to wheel-and-deal for other players who formed the nucleus of a team that won three Super Bowls in four years.

6. Grant Hill traded to Orlando for Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace (2000)
The Buzz: Hill, a five-time All-Star who had averaged 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 1999-2000, would team with Tracy McGrady (acquired the same day in August 2000) to create a "Magic Kingdom." Magic owner Rich Devos said, "They make us a much, much better team. It sort of feels like I'm in church up here saying, 'What a day this is!'"

The Fizzle:: Hill injured his left ankle and played only four games in his first season in Orlando, 14 in his second season, and 29 in 2002-2003. He underwent multiple surgeries to repair the ankle, and is set to attempt yet another comeback soon. In the three seasons since they acquired Hill, the Magic have struggled to top .500 and have been ousted from the playoffs in the first or second round.

5. Cavs send Terrell Brandon and Tyrone Hill to the Bucks; the Bucks send Vin Baker to the Sonics; the Sonics send Shawn Kemp to the Cavs (1997)
The Buzz: Just before the start of the 1997 season, Seattle unloaded its unhappy three-time All-Star, Shawn Kemp, thinking they were getting fair value for him in return: Vin Baker, who averaged 21 points and 10.3 rebounds the previous season. Sonics' GM called it "among the biggest deals you can find."

Each team had traded its best player. That's big. Sonics guard Nate McMillan was pleased. "If we were going to trade for any other player in the league, I would have gone with Vin Baker," he told Bob Sherwin of the Seattle Times.

The Fizzle:: Baker got fat, started a long downhill slide, and is still dealing with a substance abuse problem. (The Sonics are undoubtedly relieved that he's doing it in Boston, not Seattle.)

Meanwhile, the Cavs got Kemp, who became their first starting All-Star that season, but also started a downhill slide soon after.

Brandon got hurt and played only 65 games over a season and a half with Milwaukee, before he was traded to the T-Wolves. And Hill spent about as much time as a Buck as Brandon did, rarely returning to his previous form.

4. Jackie Robinson traded to the Giants for Dick Littlefield (1956)
The Buzz: On Dec. 13, 1956, the Dodgers swapped Robinson (certified hero) to their cross-town enemies for Dick Littlefield (certified toss-in) and $35,000. How big was this trade? Think bitter rivals. Think front page of the New York Times.

"The Giants, who have no doubt that Robinson will play for them, are enthused at getting him," wrote Joe Sheehan in the next day's Times. Chub Feeney, VP of the Giants, told Sheehan that getting Robinson was a crucial piece of the Giants' 1957 puzzle. "Besides helping us where we needed help badly, he also strengthens our hand for making other deals," said Feeney. "Before we obtained Jackie, we had so many weak spots that any club we talked to had us over a barrel."

The Fizzle:: Both Giants and Dodgers fans were stunned by the move. Though Robinson was 37, he'd had a decent year in 1956, hitting .275 with 10 HR and 43 RBI in only 357 at bats. The teams were longtime rivals, but Dodgers' VP Buzzie Bavasi said he'd traded Robinson to the Giants because Robinson had said he wanted to stay in New York, where he lived and had business interests.

The trade was voided less than a month later, when Robinson announced his retirement. Both Bavasi and Stoneham said they were surprised he retired, and Robinson said his retirement had nothing to do with the trade.

Mo Vaughn
Mo Vaughn is collecting his hefty paycheck while he sits on the sidelines close to retirement.

3. Mo Vaughn traded to the Mets for Kevin Appier (2001)
The Buzz: It was a huge deal -- one of the final pieces in the Mets' 2001 off-season restructuring that would add lots of power to the lineup. Vaughn was a bit of a risk -- but the New York Times columnist William Rhoden heralded the arrival of "attitude" to the Mets, and Newsday called the deal "Vaughn-derful!"

The Fizzle:: Mo, the beloved former Red Sox star, was returning to the East Coast and was expected to make a good recovery from injuries that had hampered his production in Anaheim. He was to be a terrific replacement for Todd Zeile.

You know the rest. Vaughn was both literally and figuratively a huge disappointment for the Mets, and has retired even though he's only 36.

2. Roberto Alomar traded to the Mets for Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, and Jerrod Riggan (2001)
The Buzz: The New York newspapers were positively giddy. The Times called Alomar a "crown jewel." The Daily News suggested, in a headline, that Mets' GM Steve Phillips would become a Cooperstown candidate for swinging the trade.

"The Mets' spirits and chances soared simultaneously, and they did it without emptying their wallets. In this day, that qualifies as a miracle," wrote Jon Heyman in Newsday. "The Mets got great offense, superb defense and maybe the best base-runner in the game wrapped into one iceberg-smooth, 170-pound package in the trade."

In other words: The Mets scored big by trading Lawton, Escobar, and Riggan to the Indians for Alomar, a future Hall of Famer. The deal involved eight players in all.

Even Mike Lupica of the Daily News managed to free up an endorphin, writing, "So many good things happen to the Mets because of Alomar. The best thing is Mike Piazza's RBI total goes back to 120 with Alomar hitting in front of him. ..."

The Fizzle:: At 33, the perennial All-Star and Gold-Glover had hit .336 with 20 HR and 100 RBI for Cleveland. In 2002, he hit only .266 with 11 HR and 53 RBI for the Mets, by far his worst season ever -- until 2003, when his production dipped even further before the Mets finally rid themselves of him by trading him to the White Sox in mid-season.

As for Piazza's RBI total: It zoomed all the way to 98, an increase of four, in Alomar's first season.

And future Hall of Famer Steve Phillips is long gone. The Mets handed him his walking papers, without directions to Cooperstown.

Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr. hasn't been eating the "Breakfast of Champions" in Cincinnati.

1. Ken Griffey Jr. traded to the Reds for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, and two minor leaguers (2000)
The Buzz: The Cincinnati Enquirer averaged about 10 stories a day in the week following the Griffey trade, most of them positively giddy. "Ken Griffey Jr. changes everything," wrote Tim Sullivan the day after the deal. "He makes the beer colder. He makes the girls prettier. He makes the Cincinnati Reds synonymous with style and grace. He makes baseball bigger. He makes Cincinnati matter. ... Junior Griffey came home Thursday night and ended Cincinnati's small-market era. From here on out, the home team operates on a higher plane -- culturally, financially and orbitally."

The Fizzle:: The beer is still luke-cold. The Reds are still small-market, operating in the plane of perennial also-rans. Since joining the Reds, Griffey has had one good year (though even that was his worst season since he was a rookie). He has fought injuries the rest of the time.

What appeared to be a huge win for the Griffey, Cincinnati, and the fans turned out to be a big dud -- attendance, for example, after a first-year boost, dropped to pre-Griffey levels.




Jeff_Merron
Jeff
Merron