Reusse on the Viola trade

I stumbled on this while doing some other research.

Pat Reusse on the Frank Viola trade (Strib 8/1/89)

Throw away the hankies. Put the sweatshirts in mothballs. Erase the videotapes of Game 7.

The Twins said goodbye to the ’80s and the goodwill that went with it. The ’90s are arriving with another rebuilding project.

Smilin’ Carl Pohlad and Andy MacPhail have decided to trade Viola and his $7.9 million for a number of pitching suspects. They better be right, because last night the World Series officially became ancient history and kid gloves are coming off.

Go ahead, folks, take your shots. It’s open season on the Twins.

Reusse a week later (Strib 8/6/1989)…

MacPhail insists that he, not Pohlad, is the reason the Twins have avoided making serious bids for free agents such as Mike Moore, Andy Hawkins and Jack Morris. MacPhail says Pohlad always has made the money available when the general manager wanted to pursue a player. I’m comforted to know that when MacPhail went to Pohlad and asked for the resources to acquire Randy St. Claire and Gary Wayne and Charlie Lea and Karl Best and John Christensen, the owner said, “Go ahead, Andy, spend whatever it takes.”

A fellow is left somewhat confused by one apparent conflict in MacPhail’s testimony. We are assured by Young Andrew – in statements to Pohlad’s media admirers – that winning, not money, is the overriding issue with the owner. And then we are told by MacPhail, after the trade of the third-best pitcher in the franchise’s Minnesota history (behind Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat), that getting rid of Viola “frees up some money” to sign players and to pursue other improvements. If winning is what counts, why did that money need to be freed?

MacPhail also has said there was no determined effort by the Twins to trade Viola, that the Mets were the aggressors. Joe McIlvaine, MacPhail’s equal with the Mets, confirmed this. Question:

If you were McIlvaine, and you had just added a 1988 Cy Young Award winner to your rotation, wouldn’t you want to take credit for being the aggressor?

More questions:

If the Twins hadn’t made their willingness to trade Viola known to the Mets much earlier and had this deal in the works for weeks, why did the Minnesota scouts camp out in Norfolk, Va., watching the Tidewater farm club throughout July?

If MacPhail wasn’t under pressure from Pohlad and his nickel-squeezing team president, Jerry Bell, to trade Viola, why was it Young Andrew – not the Mets – who rekindled trade conversations Monday, a few hours before the no-waivers deadline?

If there was no way the Twins were going to trade Viola unless the Mets gave them everything they wanted, why did MacPhail – after asking for second baseman Keith Miller as part of the package – still make the deal when McIlvaine refused to include him?

The answer to all of the above is $5.8 million.

This is a trade for which Pohlad, MacPhail and Bell deserve at least as much admiration from the local sporting public as Calvin Griffith received on Feb. 3, 1979, when he sent a first baseman named Rod Carew to California for a veteran middle reliever named Paul Hartzell and above-average prospects Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle and Brad Havens.

It’s the same trade, with the same motive. Only the names and the salary-inflation spiral have changed.

Born September 13, 1968
Denny Neagle
Speaking of trades, I covered the trade that sent Denny Neagle away after just 7 appearances as a Twin here.


3 Responses to Reusse on the Viola trade

  1. SBG says:

    Good stuff. That trade turned out ok, of course, but it was tough to take at the time.

  2. Scot says:

    Yeah- I thought this was interesting in the context of today for several reasons, not the least of which is the possibility that Santana may be a candidate for a trade in the near future.

    Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, but the Viola deal did work out very well for the team, and the rebuilding phase that Reusse referred to (and seemed to be universally feared) lasted all of a season for the Twins.

    I didn’t recall “young Andrew” being such a target of Reusse, however, but I was nine and the eternal optimist at the time, so I may have just ignored it.

  3. Slim says:

    I remember that deal from the Mets fan standpoint. It was an outstanding deal at the time, of course. Adding a hometown Cy Young level ace to a rotation (when healthy) that still had Gooden, Darling, Sid Fernandez, David Cone and Bobby Ojeda. Ojeda was the oldest at 31 and everyone else still in their mid-20s. But the Mets team had already been crumbling under the surface before Viola arrived (and failed to boost the club). By 1991 when the Twins returned to glory, the Mets were firmly in freefall. The Viola trade was a futile last gasp by a franchise that legitimately should’ve been a multi-year Dynasty.

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