Looking Back: The Harold Baines Trade 20 Years Later

Dean HyblAnalyst IJuly 26, 2009

1990:  Outfielder Harold Baines of the Texas Rangers takes his turn at bat. Mandatory Credit: Joe Patronite  /Allsport

It was 20 years ago this week (July 29, 1989) that the Chicago White Sox traded away one of their favorite sons for a group of players that included a future superstar.

The trade of Harold Baines to the Texas Rangers made sense for a White Sox team that was struggling through their fourth straight losing season, but it was tough to say goodbye to a popular player who was still in the prime of his career.

When the White Sox traded Baines to Texas, he was only recently back from his fourth appearance in the All-Star Game and was hitting .321 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI.

In return for Baines and Fred Manrique, the White Sox received Wilson Alvarez, Scott Fletcher and Sammy Sosa.

Fletcher was the veteran of the group, having been in the majors since 1981 (including a three-year stretch as the starting shortstop for the White Sox between 1983 and 1985).

A young left-handed pitcher, Alvarez had pitched in one game for the Rangers, but would not return to the majors until 1991.

His first appearance for the White Sox was a historic one, as he pitched a no hitter against the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 11, 1991. He finished the season with a 3-2 record and 3.51 ERA.

Alvarez was used primarily in relief in 1992, but by 1993 he was one of the staff anchors as the White Sox reached the American League Championship Series.

He went 67-50 in seven seasons with the White Sox before being traded to the San Francisco Giants in a deal that brought future All-Star Keith Foulke to the White Sox.

Sosa became the starting right-fielder for the White Sox in 1990 and hit .233 with 15 home runs and 70 RBI. He struggled in 1991 and spent the season shuffling between Chicago and the minors.

Following the 1991 season, Sosa was traded to the Chicago Cubs, along with left-handed reliever Ken Patterson, for George Bell.

That trade paid off immediately for the White Sox as Bell hit 25 home runs and drove in 112 RBI in 1992. Though the White Sox reached the postseason the following year, Bell’s numbers dropped to a .217 average with 13 home runs and 64 RBI.

He did not play in the playoffs and was released following the season. He never played in the majors again.

Sosa, of course, went on to provide White Sox fans with a decade of angst as he soared to record-breaking heights as a member of the Cubs.

Even without Sosa in the fold, the years following the Baines trade were successful for the White Sox.  They had winning records in six of seven seasons between 1990 and 1996, including the 1993 playoff run and were leading the AL Central when the baseball strike hit in 1994.

The emergence of Frank Thomas as the offensive force of the franchise negated some of the sting of losing Baines (and trading Sosa) and helped fuel the success for the Sox.

While the White Sox were re-inventing themselves, Baines spent much of the 1990s traveling the American League and providing contending teams with a quality veteran designated hitter.

He spent barely a full calendar year in Texas before being traded to the Oakland A’s late in the 1990 season.

Reunited with former White Sox manager Tony La Russa, Baines made his first appearance in the postseason since 1983 as the A’s reached their third straight World Series.

Baines became a free agent following the 1992 season and the Maryland native signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He spent three solid seasons with the Orioles before making a triumphant return to the South Side of Chicago in 1996.

Reminding fans of the greatness he displayed in his first stint with the team, Baines hit .311 with 22 home runs and 95 RBI as the Sox finished second in the AL Central.

With the Sox struggling the following season, Chicago said goodbye to Baines again as he was traded back to the Orioles, who would go on to play in the AL Championship Series.

Completing his full circle, Baines was traded by the Orioles back to Chicago 11 years to the day of when he was first traded to Texas (July 29, 2000).

He helped the White Sox reach the postseason in 2000 and then retired following the 2001 campaign.

With career numbers of 2,866 hits, 384 home runs, 1,628 RBI and a .289 batting average, many believe Baines should be among the all-time greats enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, probably hampered by the fact that he spent most of his career as a designated hitter, he has received only between 5.3 percent and 5.9 percent support (75 percent needed for induction) in three years of eligibility and is in danger of being removed from the ballot if his percentage drops below five percent.

Baines returned to the Sox as a coach in 2004 and in 2008 the White Sox unveiled a bronze statue of their long-time slugger at U.S. Cellular Field.

Check out more from Dean Hybl at Chicago Sports Then and Now where passionate fans can stay updated on the latest in Chicago sports while also reliving the great moments, players and teams of Chicago's tremendous sports history.

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