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The greatest bad trade in the history of the San Francisco Giants

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I don't know why the Giants did this, but I'm glad they did.

I'm fascinated with the Giants in the '70s. I want to write a book on it. There was Astroturf. There was losing. There were all sorts of good young players frittered away for no good reason. They developed more All-Star outfielders named "Gary" or "Garry" in the 70s than they've developed All-Star outfielders of any name over the last 20 years. Then they gave them away.

One of the silly trades they made in the '70s: Bill Madlock, Lenny Randle, and the other Dave Roberts for Fred Breining, Al Holland, and Ed Whitson.

Madlock was a player they lucked into, a 2B/3B whose best comp might be Pablo Sandoval with more average, less glove. All three of the players the Giants got in return had their flashes, but Madlock won two batting titles and had a solid career with the Pirates. He was also something like the Marco Scutaro of the 1979 Pirates, a midseason acquisition that helped his new team to a title.

However, while futzing around on Baseball Reference, I had an epiphany*. The Madlock deal was one of the greatest in franchise history. It took a couple decades to figure out, but it was a deal that shaped the future of the Giants. Here's how:


There were other players involved in a lot of those deals, but we'll focus on the major names. Here's what the Giants eventually got from Bill Madlock:

  • The best announcing crew in the major leagues for decades

  • The 1989 NL MVP

  • The NL ERA leader in 1992 and second-place Cy Young finisher in 1993

  • The inspirational story of Dave Dravecky

  • The first of 16 different Giants stints from Dave Burba

  • Pieces of the 1993 team that should have won the wild card that didn't exist until the next postseason

  • A guy who was the target of some of the meanest, funniest Candlestick heckles I had ever heard after he decided to sign with the Cowboys in September

Focus on the announcers, though. That's all you need. The Giants turned Madlock into three pitchers, whom they quickly turned into Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. You know this butterfly effect stuff fascinates me, so apologies if this isn't exciting to you. The Giants could have kept Madlock, or they could have kept Whitson or Holland or ... instead they traded everyone for just the right players at just the right time to make us enjoy baseball games more 35 years in the future.

(If you want to go even further back, you can note that Madlock was acquired for Bobby Murcer, who was acquired for Bobby Bonds. The Giants have the best announcing team in the game because they traded Bobby Bonds in 1974. For various reasons, though, the Madlock deal bothered me even more, so I started there.)

So here's to Bill Madlock. Once a Giant. Remembered as a Pirate. Somehow responsible for Kruk and Kuip.

* Before publishing, I had another epiphany: I was subconsciously borrowing this epiphany. The original Giants blogger, Gregg Pearlman, had the "He's So Fine" to this post's "My Sweet Lord." Whereas I was more fascinated with the idea that Madlock went for Kruk/Kuip in three quick moves, he was more fascinated with keeping the danged trade chain going. Still, don't sue me, Gregg.