Blunder? No way
James Joyner at OTB Sports points to ESPN's website. There a new book is being featured. It's written by Rob Neyer and and titled 'Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders: A complete guide to the worst decisions'
Neyer lists as one of these blunders the decision in 1935 by the Boston Braves to sign an aging Babe Ruth.
Until I discovered the 1935 Boston Braves, who won thirty-eight games and lost 115. That works out to a .248 winning percentage, just slightly worse than the Mets' sterling .250 (40-120). The Braves actually had some pretty decent players; they'd won seventy-eight games in 1934, and would win seventy-one in 1936. They had a damn good manager in Bill McKechnie, who'd won pennants in Pittsburgh and St. Louis and would later win two more in Cincinnati. He's in the Hall of Fame.
The '35 Braves also had a big fellow named George Herman Ruth, the subject of this particular essay.
Ruth had turned thirty-nine in 1934, and though he could still hit -- in '34, Ruth was maybe the third-best hitter in the American League, behind only Gehrig and Foxx -- he couldn't do much else. As Fred Lieb later wrote, "The pipestems that served as legs would no longer carry, with any alacrity, the barrel that served as a torso." Yankees manager Joe McCarthy had seen enough of Ruth, because the Babe could neither field nor run and also because the Babe made no little secret of his ambition to manage the Yankees. Soon.
*****The article is lengthy. Read the whole thing.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Braves owner Emil "Judge" Fuchs was getting desperate. Once a solid draw, his club had slipped precipitously in 1934.
Attendance held steady in 1932 and '33, which was impressive because, with the Great Depression in full swing, attendance was down significantly around the league; leaving the Braves aside, National League attendance dropped eighteen percent in 1931, eighteen percent in '32, and twenty percent in '33. Expressed another way, while in 1930 the Braves accounted for roughly nine percent of National League home attendance, just three seasons later they accounted for sixteen percent.
But for reasons not apparent, attendance at Braves Field plummeted in 1934, even though the team was almost exactly as competitive as it had been in the two previous seasons. Meanwhile, Fuchs owed a lot of people a lot of money, and couldn't afford to pay the rent on Braves Field.
Faced with financial disaster -- and prohibited by the National League from turning the ballpark into a venue for dog racing -- Fuchs needed help. He got some from New England politicians, who threw their weight behind a season-ticket campaign that allowed Fuchs to pay off his existing debt. Still, the future looked bleak, as a $200,000 note would come due during the '35 season.
To me for a personnel move to be a huge blunder, it would have to either
1- Give up a Great player for little or nothing
2- A personnel move that alters a Franchise for the worst.
So what did the Braves really do here. Ruth was signed to a contract by the Braves, the team gave up nothing to get him.
Did Babe Ruth's short time in Boston change the Braves? For 1935 it did but look at the long-term. The Braves were a perennial also ran from 1915 to 1947, rarely did they contend. They were seldom in the cellar, The Phillies had a hammerlock on it then, but the team never seriously threatened to win a pennant all but a few years in the teens. What did the Ruth deal do to alter that? Squat, nothing.
I'm going to buy Neyer's book and read it. He did make some good choices, Dave Stapleton not being subbed for Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Chick Gandil-Jacques Fournier deal that set into motion the Black Sox scandal are both excellent choices. I do disagree on the Maris deal. Kansas City was a bad team, and would have remained so with Maris. What is forgotten is the A's got Norm Siebern who was a good ML Baseball player for another 5-6 years. He wasn't Maris, but the deal isn't the steal its been made out to be. Lets say you rated ballplayers 0-4 and you gave Maris a 4, Siebern was a 2. A good solid player, not spectacular.
Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen, Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi, Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. Now those were blunders. Babe Ruth signing with the Braves shouldn't even be in the top 100.
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