Monday, September 2, 2013

Ryno Returns

On this date in 1997, the CFCL was witness to one of the most truly kind-hearted gestures in the leagues’ first 30 years.

On that date, Dem Rebels traded future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to David’s Copperfields for a 15th round Rotation Draft pick in 1998. A decade earlier, such a deal would have resulted in outrage among the league’s ownership, but with Sandberg on the verge of retirement, it was seen as a fitting and proper end to Sandberg’s CFCL career.

As I wrote in the Roster Change report on September 2:

Observers of this year’s pennant race may be scratching their collective heads at this one, as it’s doubtful Ryno will have much of an impact on the Copperfields’ pennant drive. What the trade does, though, is allow Sandberg to end his where he started it back in 1984. That year, he was drafted by the Copperfields in the CFCL’s inaugural draft for .34. A couple years later, he was signed to a 3-year guaranteed contract for a whopping .49. 

A few necessary elements were in place to make the deal possible.
  • Sandberg was having a poor season. To date he had hit only .247 with 5 HR, 38 RBI, and 4 SB. This made him eminently expendable for the Rebels – in fact, at the time of the deal, Ryno had been sitting on the Rebel Reserved List, unable to break the starting lineup.
  • The Copperfields’ current second baseman, Chris Gomez, was having just as poor a season … in fact it was nearly identical to Sandberg’s - .255 with 5 HR, 53 RBI, and 5 SB. The Copperfields were in a battle for first place, and wouldn’t have been able to take a significant hit in production at 2B.
  • The trade deadline at the time was late enough in the season to allow this type of good will gesture. If this was one of the years where the trade deadline was mid- or even late-July, the Rebels probably wouldn’t have been so willing to give away a player for essentially nothing.
All those elements came together in 1997, Ryno’s last year in the league. To my mind, that means this was fated to happen. Of course, it still required that Sandberg’s current owner be a willing trading partner, and in that I had the perfect guy. Rich had been in the league with me since the beginning, so not only appreciated the nostalgic nature of the deal, but knew what Sandberg meant to me, not only as a fantasy league owner, but as a Cub fan. He could have held out, he could have haggled over the level of the draft pick, or even demanded a minor leaguer or keeper in return, but as I recall, he immediately accepted my proposal. To top things off, he didn’t even end up using the 15th round pick in 1998, having filled his Reserve Roster earlier in the Draft.

Sandberg had zero impact on the Copperfields’ title run, hitting just .246 with 2 HR and 11 RBI in September (in fact he may have cost the Coppers a point in batting average, as they finished .0007 behind the ForGoetz Me Nots, but finished in first by 8 points overall. Owning him for that final month meant a lot to me though, and I remain grateful to Rich for giving me the chance.

Eight years later, as Sandberg was preparing to enter the Hall of Fame, I published a summary of his CFCL career with stats accumulated for each franchise and chronology of his transactions. You can read it on page 3 of the Roster Change report from July 30, 2005.

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