When Labor Day hits, as baseball fans, we all know that the season is coming to a close, thus giving us time to reflect on the most recent trade deadline deals.
It is also an opportunity to try to come up with some sort of a conclusion as to how this whole song and dance will end up, while reviewing previous season finishes.
Can a deadline deal really make a good team great? Can they make a borderline playoff team into a contender? Can a team with no hope for a fall appearance trade off its superstars, and rebuild for the future?
We do know that players will leave, superstars like Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, who was almost certainly going to be traded, will stay, and blockbuster deals that involved All-Star catchers like Victor Martinez, which seemingly emerged out of thin air, do happen.
2009 has seen a flurry of trades, reaching the fifty mark since the beginning of May, before 10 trades were made on the last day of the non-waiver trading period.
Find below deals that took place.
|Boston Red Sox|
Acquire C-1B Victor Martinez from Indians for RHP Justin Masterson, LHP Nick Hagadone and RHP Bryan Price.
|Chicago White Sox|
Acquire RHP Jake Peavy from White Sox for LHPs Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard and RHPs Dexter Carter and Adam Russell.
Acquire 3B Scott Rolen from Blue Jays for 3B Edwin Encarnacion and RHPs Josh Roenicke and RHPs Zach Stewart.
Acquire LHP Jarrod Washburn from Mariners for LHP Lucas French and LHP Mauricio Robles.
Acquire SS Orlando Cabrera from A's for SS Tyler Ladendorf.
Acquire 1B Adam LaRoche from Red Sox for 1B Casey Kotchman.
Acquire LHP Joe Beimel from Nationals for RHP Ryan Mattheus and RHP Robinson Fabian.
Acquire 1B Nick Johnson from Nationals for LHP Aaron Thompson.
|New York Yankees|
Acquire IF-OF Jerry Hairston Jr. from Reds for C Chase Weems.
Acquire RHP Claudio Vargas from Dodgers for C Vinny Rottino.
No player is untouchable.
Former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, who anchored a San Diego Padres staff that is barely staying above water, was dealt on deadline Friday.
The Peavy deal has been in the works since the last trade deadline, and went down to the final seconds, according to White Sox GM Kenny Williams, "I really didn't think it all was going to come together in the end," he said. "I was prepared for it to not meet the deadline. It all came together with 23 seconds on the clock."
Despite all the rumors, all the opinions, and all the “tweets” flying around J.P. Ricciardi and Roy Halladay, it was another Cy Young winner changing teams.
Cliff Lee, who was at that time struggling through the season on a last place team, had a reversal of fortunes, you can say. He was traded to the first place Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.
How did J.A. Happ, and Kyle Drabek, who were rumored to be a part of the Halladay deal, not get traded? It seems to baffle Phillies closer Brad Lidge.
“I don't know how they did it," Lidge said of that deal earlier in the week. "But they were able to pull that off and not give away Happ. Wow."
That brings us back to the earlier question. How significant is the arrival of Labor Day and the teams in first place?
If you look from 1999 to the present date, 42 of the last 62 teams who held a share of first place went on to win the division, while the four of the 13 who slipped out of the lead ended up qualifying for the Wild Card spot.
Getting into the playoffs when you are in first by the time September rolls around is not a guarantee, but it almost certainly garners you entry.
It does bring a lot of excitement not only to its fans, but to the players as well, and since these are professional athletes, they have to keep their emotions in check.
"We're definitely going into September with excitement," said Phillies reliever Ryan Madson. "We still have the taste of the playoffs from last year. We're feeding off what happened last year more than having an eight-game lead this year or whatever it is right now. We just want to keep the focus on that taste from last year."
"So as far as the team or the division lead right now, you just want to keep the pressure on and build it as much as you can. Build a lead. That's what it feels like. How many games can we go up? That's kind of the goal.
"Since I've been here, we've never had the magic number, and that'd be pretty cool to have a magic number and count it down since it's never happened."
What happens when you lose focus?
Just ask the following nine teams, the same teams that held on to first place upon the annual holiday; 2003 White Sox, 2003 Astros, 2003 Cardinals, 2004 Athletics, 2007 Mets, 2007 Padres, 2008 D-backs, 2008 Twins or 2008 Mets.
Currently, the St. Louis Cardinals are the closest to their postseason goal, due in large part to a nifty little deal that saw them acquire Oakland A’s outfielder Matt Holliday for four prospects.
"I think everyone loves coming to the park with this team [in first place] every day, because winning is fun," said left-handed reliever Trever Miller. "I think with our lead right now, there's some impatience. We know we have a great opportunity to get there, and we just want to get there.
"We need to relax, and not rush things, and let it take place, and I think we will. But there is that feeling of anticipation of good things to come that we're trying to fight off here."
Baseball purists, analysts, mathematicians, bloggers, and tweeters, can all have their opinion whether a team trailing on Labor Day has a chance at postseason heroics.
Of course, look at the 1969 Mets who trailed by four and a half games, the 1978 Yankees who were behind by five and a half, and the 1993 Atlanta Braves, who themselves strengthened their roster by acquiring Fred McGriff for the stretch run, erased a three-and-a-half game deficit and won the division by one game.
All in all, the game is very simple: Score more runs than your opponent and win more games.
"I think the most important day to be leading your division is the last day of the season," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "But leading your division on Labor Day is better than not leading your division."