The Best Dodger Trade/Signing Ever - Pee Wee

Pondering the disappointing results of the signing of righty Jason Schmidt at $47 million for three years and CF Juan Pierre for $45 million for four years led us to think about the Dodgers best and worst players moves in the last 100 years.

Labeled the Dodgers pessimist over the winter and early going, it does seem that more and more baseball pundits are now allowing what we feared all along - the players coming in were old and expensive and, to boot, were keeping very talented youngsters from participating up to their skills. We were lamenting the handling of James Loney, the decision on Chad Billingsley and the hiding of Matt Kemp in particular.

Eleven weeks into the season, Schmidt has won a single game, underwent the knife and will be lost for the season. Pierre  has been his usual soft player in the first half and has an arm that will be run on for the entire season. LF Luis Gonzalez, not as expensive as Schmidt and Pierre, nevertheless is slower afoot and has an arm not anywhere near what it was before Tommy John Surgery.

The decision makers gave starting rotation jobs to Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson, and the pair both pitched themselves out of the rotation in short order. They gambled 1B Nomar Garciaparra had sock left and he has a single homer in 11 full weeks and counting. Its not even July 1 and clearly 39 year old 2B Jeff Kent needs rest every five days or so. What happened?

The old got older.

Pre-Colletti era Brad Penny, who the Dodgers tried to swap and couldn't, is 9-1. Minor leaguer Russ Martin is the leading candidate to catch for the National League in the All Star Game.

So, who was the best Dodgers player of all time to come in a swap?  It weren't no old guy McGee - it was 19 year old Harold Reese of Louisville,  Kentucky, who ole' Larry MacPhail plucked from the Red Sox back in 1940.

Old shortstop Joe Cronin, once an All Star, wanted to keep himself in the lineup and manipulated to keep the young and very talented Reese out of Beantown. Harold Reese is better known by his nickname - Pee Wee. The Hall of Fame Pee Wee Reese. The Dodgers got a kid as his career was ending - and for peanuts - not after the best was behind him.

The Dodgers have rarely done as well, even in the decade when Branch Rickey had more minor leaguers and teams than anybody else in the history of baseball.

The cross town Yankees would turn their minor league system into jewels but the Dodgers rarely did. The Yankees would use their numbers to pluck players like Roger Maris from the dummies in Kansas City while the Dodgers would hope to lose Roberto Clemente in their numbers (the effort failed).

The Dodgers would steal Old Preacher Roe from the Pirates with plenty left in his arm. They wound up much the better getting Shawn Green from Toronto and Green had 3 great years in a row in Dodgers Blue.

But the Dodgers have been skinned more often than not when bringing in players.

Tim Zimmer, Don Zimmer's son, and then a Giants scout, once gave us his view on trades, to wit: "You are getting rid of one of your problems for one of ours." 

This so often has been the case.

The Dodgers tried other people's shortstops (Zoilo Versalles, Alfredo Griffin come to mind) when their  legs had gone. They invested in Catcher Todd Hundley who spent more time on the DL than all the Clintons together have on the campaign trail.

They didn't listen to Orioles Manager Earl Weaver who had nicknamed Don Stanhouse "Full Pack" for his habit of sending Weaver into the walkway behind dugout to chain smoke a full pack of butts every time he turned to Stanhouse (long counts, men on base, fingernail chewing time each and every time). Stanhouse lived up to his nickname in LA.

The worst trade in Dodgers history had to be the exchange of a 5'10" pitcher whom Tommy Lasorda was convinced was too small to pitch in the big leagues for Montreal 2B Delino DeShields. Tommy personally took credit very quickly for the decision to unload one P. Martinez on the unsuspecting Expos.

He cooed to all the baseball insiders how he, not GM Fred Claire, had snookered the Expos. In the thousands upon thousands of talks Lasorda would give for the next 15 years, he has somehow or other never brought this up again, hoping we'd all forget in time. We have not.

Tommy also junked Rick Sutcliffe and John Wetteland, Sutcliffe because he hurled a chair at Lasorda in his manager's office and Wetteland 'cuz he had shown up Lasorda in a spring training game in Port St. Lucie. The Wetteland case is good enough to retell. The Lasorda Dodgers were trying to hand onto a lead against the Mets. Tommy rang in the bullpen.

"I want Wetteland," he explained. "But Tommy, Wetteland hasn't even warmed up," the bullpen coach said. "Don't argue with me, I want Wetteland." So the ice cold Wetteland came in and promptly served up a grand slam, thus indicating to Lasorda's way of thinking that Wetteland  didn't have the heart or the guts to be a big league closer. Of course, that was 200+ saves ago.

The Dodgers have been suckers for an over the hill pitcher like Dave Goltz, an over the hill first baseman like Fred McGriff and multiple others over the years and decades.

Old guys with any sense of history will tell you what the scouts know, a big leaguer is in his prime usually from 27-32, and things go south usually shortly thereafter.

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