Over the weekend, the New York Mets made a statement. They came to Atlanta and made the Braves' starting pitchers look like AA ball. After sweeping the Braves, New York can confidently say that the NL East is theirs. And the once-hot Braves have now lost 4 straight, two straight series, and again find themselves with nine teams in front of them in the wild card race, though still only 6.5 out. The Braves added bullpen strength over the last few weeks, most notably Bob Wickman, while trading away Wilson Betemit and Jorge Sosa and watching Chipper Jones land on the DL. Atlanta, simply, must win games and not worry about the standings. Nothing is over as far as the wild card goes, but they have to win.
The big deals at the trade deadline never materialized, though you can read lots of "almost" dream stories this morning about Roger Clemens in Boston or Andruw Jones going to either of the Sox. But what fascinates me about the last minute deals is the flip side of the coin.
You're Xavier Nady. You've been in the league five years and had moderate success with the Padres. Now you're with the New York Mets. You're playing for the best team in the National League. You're hitting .264 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs - you're not killing the ball, but you're a player. You've sacrificed for the ballclub, done what the manager has asked, and so far this year you've played first base, third base, left and center. Granted, you had a poor defensive series at Turner Field, but your boys swept the series, and your team is sitting on top of the world. One of your pitchers has an unfortunate automobile accident where he wasn't even driving, and gets hurt. Now your ballclub needs to shore up the bullpen.
Congratulations, just like that, you've been traded. And where are you going, away from the big city lights in New York and a guaranteed playoff spot?
To Pittsburgh. In one move, you've been traded as a starter for the best team in the NL, to a starter for the worst team in the NL.
People talk - in professional sports and in all walks of life - about some jobs being easy and others being hard. And it's true, professional athletes make more money than any of us will ever see, and live a charmed life. I have people tell me my job must be difficult all the time, and it is. But "difficult" is something we all live, no matter our profession. And I promise you, professional athlete or not, Xavier Nady is having a bad day today.