Zach Greinke Could Be Next Denny Mclain, Nationals Dodge a Bullet

Farid RushdiAnalyst IDecember 19, 2010

Zach Greinke -- Better of in Milwaukee
Zach Greinke -- Better of in MilwaukeeJeff Gross/Getty Images

Zach Greinke for half of the Washington Nationals? Man, I've seen this story before.

Though its been reported that the Nationals and the Kansas City Royals had a trade in place before the former Cy Young Award winner turned the deal down, Nationals fans should look at the deal-that-never-was as yet one more gift this Christmas season.

Based on what has already been reported, Washington would have sent Jordan Zimmermann, one of Danny Espinosa or Ian Desmond, perhaps Wilson Ramos and a high quality, low-level minor league pitcher.

Give or take.

If in fact the Royals accepted the Nationals' offer, than you'd have to assume that they offered more than the four players (in talent or quality) that Milwaukee ultimately gave up to get Greinke.

Based on every story I've read this morning, there isn't a single Nationals media representative who isn't happy that this deal didn't happen.

Count me in that group. I'm old enough to remember the last time a Washington based team made a trade like this.

Late in 1970, the Washington Senators had just come off a dismal season and owner Bob Short was trying to recapture the magic of the previous year's 86-76 finish. Denny McLain, the American League Cy Young Award winner two seasons earlier, had gotten into some trouble in 1970 that included  gambling and a ruckus with a Detroit writer.

After going 55-15, 2.37 in 1968 and 1969, he went 3-5, 4.63 in a suspension-shortened season. The Tigers were actively trying to trade him that off season but only one team was willing to take a chance on the 26-year-old.

The Washington Senators.

In a stunning move, Bob Short traded his team's best pitcher, Joe Coleman, the starting left side of their infield, Eddie Brinkman and Aurelio Rodriguez and one of their best starter/relievers, Jim Hannan.

Brinkman, a Gold Glove quality shortstop, had always been a .200 hitter but under Ted Williams' instruction, he had averaged .266 over the previous two seasons.

Rodriguez, obtained for fan favorite Kenny McMullen in a trade earlier that season, was also a stellar defender and batted .249-19-83, solid numbers for that era. Coleman, just 23, had averaged 11 wins for the Senators over the previous three seasons with a 3.37 ERA.

Hannan had averaged 9-8, 3.54 since 1968.

In return, the Senators received the aforementioned McLain and three guys who might have had trouble making the Tigers roster in 1971, pitcher Norm McRae, infielder Don Wert and outfielder Elliot Maddux.

It didn't work out so well.

Maddux batted .217 with a home run in 1971. Don Wert batted .056 in his last major league season. McRae never pitched in the major leagues again.

And Denny McLain? He went 10-22 with a 4.28 ERA.

For the Tigers, Coleman won 20 games with a 3.27 ERA, and Rodriguez and Brinkman remained together for another three season in Detroit. providing steady defense and veteran leadership.

A year after the trade, the Senators were playing at Turnpike Stadium in Arlington Texas and the Tigers finished second, first and third over the next three seasons.

Sometimes, the best trades are the ones that are never made.