Remember, the local contending pro sports team must Be Aggressive at the trade deadline. To Prove They Want to Win. Because Not Going For It Is For Losers.
These are wonderful themes for talk radio, and those who type first and ask questions later. Once every decade or so they even turn out to be accurate.
But not lately, not around here. Minnesota sports fans may want to consider that twice in the past three years a team on the fringe of contention has decided to sell rather than buy at the trade deadline, then watched its supposedly depleted team go on a wildly successful run.
In 2017, the Twins traded for Jaime Garcia on July 24, then watched their team slump and traded away Garcia and closer Brandon Kintzler on July 30 and 31.
This prompted outrage from players and fans. How could the front office not reward a gutsy team that … let me check here … had just lost six of seven to fall to 50-53?
Because baseball remains mysterious and counterintuitive and as confusing as humanity itself, the Twins, without a starter and their closer, got angry and finished the season by going 35-24 to make the playoffs. They even took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first at Yankee Stadium in the one-game playoff before Ervin Santana blew their chance of winning.
The lesson, if there is one, is this: For all of the hot air and clicks expended on trade possibilities, the core of the team usually decides the team’s fortunes.
If the Twins had traded three young players for a closer at the 2017 deadline, that closer might not have won them many more games and wouldn’t have made an impact in the playoffs, and the Twins would be without three top prospects.
Instead, the Twins kept their talent, made the playoffs and, two years later, won 101 games.
This season, before the trade deadline, the Wild fired a popular and successful coach, Bruce Boudreau; traded a popular and talented forward, Jason Zucker; tried to trade its franchise player, Zach Parise; and asked for permission to trade its longtime captain, Mikko Koivu.
New General Manager Bill Guerin tried to blow up the franchise blueprint, and with good reason. This was an old, overpaid, underachieving, boring team whose No. 1 goalie, Devan Dubnyk, has played little because of his wife’s health. Logic dictated turning over the roster and playing for next year.
Then Kevin Fiala and Alex Stalock got hot, and interim coach Dean Evason became the New Voice In The Room, and the Wild surged from the back of the playoff pack to the first wild-card position.
The lesson, if there is one: Fiala’s growth is all-important to the franchise and he has blossomed under Evason, who coached him in the minors. And: Sometimes getting past the deadline so players can relax is more important than acquiring talent at the deadline. And: The man considered the worst-ever Wild general manager, Paul Fenton, trading away a limited player (Mikael Granlund) who didn’t help his new team for Fiala might end up being the best deal any Wild GM has ever made.
We are dealing with human beings, emotions and uncertainty. How else to explain Koivu playing better after the deadline, even though he had the power to prevent any trade and shouldn’t have had anything to worry about?
The 2017 Twins got mad when their front office “gave up on the season.’’
The 2019-20 Wild expressed relief when it still had its key players after the trade deadline.
Neither team won the war of headlines, or rallied their fan base with a galvanizing trade. Quite the opposite.
Remember that in July, when fans are screaming for the Twins to Be Aggressive. The players who will matter the most after the deadline will probably be the same ones who mattered the most to them before the deadline.