Worst Trade You Never Heard Of
By Dan Taylor
Every so often someone writes about baseball's most terrible swaps. Brock for Broglio and Cash for Demeter get space, but none go back over 49 years - which raises two questions. Were all pre-1959 general managers Mensa members? Were most of them replaced by Jerry Lewis' spastic cousins? Hardly. Even a ten pennant winner could horsetrade into horse manure - twice.
Everybody's all time top 5 manager John McGraw wasn't a great trader. He hated the nickname Muggsy, but after one old swap and its extension he was likely called a lot worse. On May 22, 1913, the Giants traded outfielder Josh Devore, pitcher Red Ames, Heinie Groh and 20 thousand to Cincy for pitcher Art Fromme (who's he?) and infielder Eddie Grant (first ballplayer to die in WW1).
Here's what the Giants got:
1913- Fromme 11-6, 4.06; Grant 54 games, .211(Giants 1st)
Here's what the seventh place Reds got:
1913- 20 thousand dollars; Devore 66 outfield games, .266, traded to
Phils midseason for 2 warm bodies; Ames 11-13, 2.78, Groh, regular 3b, .281
In fairness to McGraw, the personnel shakeup the trade caused may have won the 1913 pennant. Wasn't due to the above numbers. Considering Fromme's high period ERAs (especially with the Giants' presumably better infield behind him) and Grant's good glove yet mostly silent bat, they equal 2 stellar pitching years from Ames and a half season's decent outfield play from Devore. 20 thousand made it a generous deal for the Reds, and Groh's performance turned the differential into a joke.
In 1922 McGraw jumped into the same snake hole again by getting Groh back from Cincy. Heinie's ransom was outfielder George Burns, catcher Mike Gonzalez and......A HUNDRED-FIFTY THOU!
This time John got two intangibles which made the trade seem more even than it was. Getting Groh enabled him to move Frankie Frisch to 2nd, and the Giants won pennants in '22, 3 and 4. But based solely on the quality and duration of Groh's numbers McGraw resembled the hayseed who bought Broadway for 20 bucks and tried to build a toll booth across it.
Let's combine the trades: for 2 decent spot pitching years from Fromme, 3 fair part-time infielding years from gloveman Grant, and 3 good full-time and 2 fair part-time years of 3rd base from Groh, McGraw gave up: a half year decent full-time outfield play from Devore, 2 great full-time pitching years from Red Ames, 9 prime years of Groh at 3rd, 2 years full-time and 1 part-time decent outfield play from George Burns, and 170 thousand dollars (plus 25 to 40 thousand for Ames, Gonzalez and the bodies).
Instead of Fromme and Grant, McGraw should've gotten Cincy's GM.
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