Note: This was posted prior to Monday’s trade in which the Cardinals receive outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden with pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins going to Atlanta. More details on the trade at The Cardinal Nation.
In an off-season with no clear acquisition targets for the St. Louis Cardinals, plenty of names are on peoples’ wish lists.
One such name that has attracted attention in recent days is Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward (not to be confused with Justin Hayward). Plenty of other writers have analyzed the pluses and minuses of the 25-year-old’s play and his contract. Others, aiming higher, have suggested his teammate Justin Upton should be St. Louis’ target instead.
Personally, I am not there. I am not anywhere. I just can’t get past the fear of the realization of what I suspect is the Braves’ long-held desire to pull a reverse J.D. Drew on the Cardinals.
Of course, the 2014 Cardinals reached the National League Championship Series while the Braves stumbled to a sub-.500 record, finishing 17 games out of first. A major Atlanta housecleaning followed the disappointing season, which could include further trades.
Back in the 2003-2004 off-season, the two clubs were in exact opposite places compared to today.
It was the 2003 Cardinals that missed the playoffs, as was later documented in detail in the book “Three Nights in August.” At that point, the club’s most recent World Series appearance was still back in 1987.
On the other hand, Atlanta was coming off its ninth-straight post-season appearance, including three World Series berths and one title. The Braves were on a roll, having won 101 games in both the 2002 and 2003 seasons and wanted to keep it going.
Atlanta needed a jolt of offense and a new right fielder to replace Gary Sheffield. St. Louis was a fit, with a young, promising but flawed outfielder with one season remaining before free agency in Drew, a Scott Boras client.
As many fans remember, the Cardinals received two near-term contributors in starter Jason Marquis and reliever Ray King, but the best of the three players to join St. Louis would be then-top prospect Adam Wainwright. (For completeness, it should be noted that catcher Eli Marrero joined Drew heading east.)
Even at the time, my friend and peer publisher for the Scout.com Braves site, Bill Shanks, simply called the deal Drew for Wainwright.
Since then, the Cardinals have appeared in four World Series, winning two. Atlanta hasn’t been back to the big dance even once.
Drew bolted Atlanta for Los Angeles after one season and eventually concluded his career at age 35 with the long-standing reputation of an underachiever. Wainwright, a Georgian and life-long Braves fan, fulfilled his considerable potential wearing a St. Louis uniform and remains under contract through at least 2018.
While the Braves have turned over almost all of their key personnel in the many years since that December 2003 deal, one central figure remains. That would be the man who engineered the Drew trade with then-Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty, John Schuerholz.
After having to live this down for the last 11 years, do you think Schuerholz wouldn’t give his right arm to turn the tables here in 2014, convincing the Cards to take one of his outfielders in return for a future ace who would headline the Braves’ rotation for the next decade or more? In the process, he would match wits with Jocketty’s former right-hand man, John Mozeliak.
Listen, I have no idea which players might be involved from either side in any potential trade scenarios, real or imagined. It does not matter. Knowing their identities would not change a thing in my mind.
The overarching fear of fate just waiting in the wings to deal the Cardinals a Drew payback is too overwhelming for me to think about anything else.
Here is hoping the Cardinals find another way to address their outfield need than with an Atlanta trade.
I am not suggesting it is rational. It is just how I feel.
(In my defense, this comes from a person who suffered for two decades watching Steve Carlton build his Hall of Fame career while wearing the wrong uniform.)
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