When the Boston Red Sox traded four players to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August, it was hailed as the biggest post-deadline deal in Major League Baseball history, and a transaction that could transform both teams. In the case of the Dodgers, the changes were expected to be immediate, and would make them prohibitive favorites in the National League West Division race.
It hasn't quite worked out that way.
The Red Sox dealt first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto to Los Angeles for first baseman James Loney and prospects. Most importantly for Boston, the team shed nearly a quarter billion dollars in salary obligations.
For the Dodgers, who were three games behind in the NL West and a half game out of a wild card spot, Gonzalez and Beckett were going to make an instant impact on the 2012 race.
Red Sox fans like me, while sorry to see a classy player like Gonzalez depart, were ecstatic over the deal. Beckett had worn out his welcome in Boston and was seen as a clubhouse problem, Crawford had been plagued by injuries. The sudden payroll relief meant that the Red Sox front office could erase past mistakes and, with them, erase memories of the truly horrible on-field performances that have plagued the team for more than a year.
Dodgers fans have got to be concerned that the first big move by their team's new ownership is backfiring already.
In his very first at-bat for the Dodgers, on August 26, Gonzalez hit a three-run homer to give LA an emotional win. He has not homered since. He is barely hitting .230, after batting .300 for the Red Sox. He seems lost at the plate. The Dodgers wanted him as much for his marketing appeal as his on-field play, but this slump is more than 20 games long now, and has to have LA concerned.
Going into their doubleheader on September 19, in four starts for the Dodgers, the veteran right-hander was 1-2, getting no decision in an additional Los Angeles loss. He had yet to pitch seven innings in any of his starts. As expected, Beckett's ERA is lower than it was with the Red Sox, where he had to face tougher AL East lineups and designated hitters rather than pitchers.
But the real issue for the Dodgers, at least in the immediate aftermath of the gigantic trade, is that they have fallen back in the pennant race. Trailing the San Francisco Giants by three games at the time of the trade, they trailed by nine games on September 19. Instead of the half game deficit they faced in the wild card race when the deal was done, the Dodgers found themselves two games out. Despite the acquisition of key Red Sox stars, they have moved backwards in the standings.
Most satisfying for Red Sox Nation, perhaps, is that the Red Sox have freed themselves from a crushing payroll. There is hope for the future. Sure, the team was 8-15 since the trade going into games on the night of September 19. But the Dodgers, for whom this was to be a defining deal, went 8-14 in the same period.
It will be at least a year until the trade can be evaluated fully. But you will excuse Red Sox fans if, right now, they feel like somebody else is dealing with a curse for a change.
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Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, is a lifelong Red Sox fan. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.