This is the time of year where guys like Steve Phillips earn their paycheck (when they're not busy ruining teams and working for ESPN) and spend endless hours pondering trade scenarios and how playoff contending teams can improve their chances.
Should they empty out the farm system? Should they stand pat and find financially sound alternatives?
Honestly, isn't there something else to cover to kill time on "SportsCenter"?
Much like "Favre Watch 2009," coverage of the trade deadline could easily be the most over-hyped piece of news in the sports world. The entire month of July, baseball fans are bombarded with "Star Player could be going to Team one, two, three or four," when in most cases, it's purely hypothetical or from anonymous sources who can't be named, possibly because the source works in the team's mail room.
There was once a time when I bought into the trade rumors quite regularly. Every lunch at work, I'd pull up a sports Web site and see who my team was trying to trade/trade for. It was a daily ritual that I took as serious as a 20-something's crush on Megan Fox.
Two trade rumors come to mind.
The first one involved A.J. Burnett when he was with the Florida Marlins. In the midst of the six-year rebuilding plan, Burnett was as good as gone (supposedly), apparently being dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for a package that included HGH-user Larry Bigbie and (then) uber-prospect Hayden Penn.
Next thing you know, the deal isn't done. Burnett is suspended indefinitely by the team and is allowed to walk and become a free agent.
Fast-forward to today and Bigbie is no longer in baseball and Burnett ends up signing with the New York Yankees. Sure, Penn was ultimately dealt to the Marlins, but in a deal that involved infielder Robert Andino.
I'm still not sure which is more sad; the fact that the Marlins almost gave up a top-tier starter for a washed-up prospect or that Penn could have been had for a one-tool middle infielder.
The second "good as done" deal is a little more recent.
I come home one day from work and turn on ESPN, only to find out that Manny Ramirez was coming to my precious Marlins! To top it all off, the deal would have involved getting rid of the always-underproducing Jeremy Hermida. For all the thoughts I have about Manny behaving like a little leaguer, words couldn't describe how happy I was to find that Manny would be Manny in Miami.
Of course, I wouldn't need the words, as the deal didn't ultimately happen.
Everyone knows what happens next. Manny ends up in Los Angeles, Jason Bay in Boston and the LaRoches are having a family reunion in Pittsburgh. I had been burned by the trade rumor mill again!
This year, I've learned my lesson not to put my hand on the hot stove.
My message to fans of teams in contention?
Don't buy the hype until the player you've "acquired" is holding up a uniform and talking to your local media, especially when it's delivered to you by the likes of Steve Phillips (everything he says should have the subtitles "I signed Mo Vaughn and traded away Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano" so people know he can't be taken seriously) and others who believe they have a "pulse" on every team's front office.
I'll leave you with a quote by one of the finest actors to be part of a baseball film:
"Baseball's hard, guys. I mean, it really is. You can love it but, believe me, it don't always love you back. It's kind of like dating a German chick, you know?"
- Billy Bob Thornton ("Bad News Bears")