Worst Cardinal Trades of the Last 40 Years

Revisiting five of the most painful deals in recent St. Louis Cardinals history.

With the second half of spring training upon us, will the Cardinals pull off any minor deals or maybe a blockbuster? We'll know soon enough. But, will they be good trades or bad ones? That will surely take longer to answer. 


In the meantime, here is a public service by yours truly. As part of my ongoing therapy, I was told it would be good to exorcise some long-lingering demons.  Writing this article dredged up some of my deepest very, very bad memories. So, to benefit both you and me, I'll share my pain.


As a starting point for this analysis, I chose the time around when Stan the Man retired and when Lou Brock joined the Redbirds in one of the franchise's best trades ever. However, good trades are the subject of tomorrow's Part Two. 


First, we look at the darker side of deals past. Join the discussion on our message board to share your worsts.


5.  December 12, 1980:  Catcher Ted Simmons joins future Hall of Fame Closer Rollie Fingers and pitcher Pete Vuckovich in a trade to the Brewers for pitchers Lary Sorensen and Dave LaPoint and outfielders Sixto Lezcano and David Green. All Fingers and Vuckovich did the next two seasons was win the AL Cy Young Award with the Brewers in 1981 and 1982, respectively. Simmons was one of many who didn't get along with Whitey Herzog. So, after five All-Star Games and 11 years as the Redbird catcher, Simba was put on a bus with a one way ticket from the land of Bud to destined for Budville. Granted, several of the guys the Cardinals added contributed to the Series-winning year in 1982, but all were gone by the time the team returned in 1985. 


4.  October 13, 1974:  The Cardinals trade 1971 NL MVP Joe Torre to the Mets for pitchers Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore. Look for a pattern in this and the next two bad trades. Sadecki won all of one game in his second tour of duty with the Cards and five more the rest of his career. Moore did even worse, winning no games with the Redbirds and two more before his playing days ended.  Joe was managing the Mets within three years.


3.  October 20, 1965:  1964 NL MVP and five-time Gold Glove third baseman Ken Boyer is traded to the Mets for third baseman Charley Smith and pitcher Al Jackson. First of all, anybody who knows anything would never trade for an ex-Mets third baseman. But, hey it was only 1965, right? Smith lasted one year in St. Louis, delivering 43 RBI and was out of baseball in three years. Jackson stayed two years before returning to the Mets. Boyer had only four years left himself, but don't ever, ever trade a guy who contributed so much to this storied franchise that his number would be later retired. 


2.  June 15, 1983:  1979 NL co-MVP Keith Hernandez is exiled to the Mets for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. The Cardinals 1982 World Series team was promptly torn apart when its best player was traded for a below-.500 starter/reliever plus a prospect who never came through. Keith had won five consecutive Gold Gloves to that point and added another six in a row with the Mets. I don't care if he played cards in the clubhouse or even that he used drugs. Whitey, why didn't you get the guy some help instead of dumping him for spare parts? I will never, ever get over this one.


1.  February 25, 1972:  The Cardinals trade future Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton to the Phillies for pitcher Rick Wise.  Carlton won 20 games in 1971, and asked for a $10K raise. The audacity. We'll show him who's boss, eh Gussie? Lefty was so crushed by the trade that he went on to win 241 games, four Cy Young Awards and a World Championship with the Phils. Wise stayed around all of two years before being dispatched to Boston. After this trade, The Cardinals did not appear in the playoffs for another 10 years. ‘Nuff said.


In hindsight, the Walt Jocketty era is noticeably absent. A tip of the cap to a general manager who far more frequently than not makes the right kind of deals.  Tomorrow's article: Best Cardinal Trades in the Last 40 Years.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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