Granillo: The Willie Mays trade

From SABR member Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus on July 26, 2012:

Earlier this week, the Seattle Mariners traded their aging superstar Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees for a couple of prospects. There had been talk throughout the season about what the Mariners might do with their increasingly expensive and increasingly old future Hall of Famer, but the news of his trade to the Yankees still came as quite a surprise. There wasn’t even the hint of a leak of the news before the announcement came out and Ichiro walked across Safeco Field and into New York’s clubhouse on Monday.

As one of those baseball fans who loves Ichiro and hates the Yankees—Tobias Funke would be happy to know that there are more than merely “dozens of us”—I find it hard to process Ichiro in pinstripes. How long will he play for the Yankees? What role will he fill? When we think back on his career, are we even going to remember his time in the Bronx? Will the trade re-invigorate his career? There are too many questions to list, but what the trade has really made me think about is something that happened 40 years ago: the time Willie Mays was traded to the New York Mets.

Obviously, the circumstances are different. Mays was one of, if not the greatest players of all time who was 41-years-old and who had been with the Giants for 21 years. Ichiro is a fantastic player, a cultural icon and someone who, while likely to make it to the Hall of Fame, still has detractors. Regardless, I can’t help but wonder how surprising the news of Willie Mays’ departure to the Mets must have been. It turns out the story is a bit more complicated than Ichiro’s.

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Originally published: July 26, 2012. Last Updated: July 26, 2012.