Baseball fans have a tendency to discount the possibility of August trades making any lasting difference on the things that matter most to us.
Like baseball cards — after all, we won’t even see the effects of the trade until the following season when guys appear on cardboard with their new teams for the first time.
And even then, sometimes we don’t see it at all — they’re gone to yet another team, as free agents, before they can even settle into their new digs.
But the truth is, August trades can and have had huge impacts on both pennant races and the way we view teams and our baseball cards for decades to come.
As proof of that, here are five August trades from the 1980s that forever changed both baseball history and our baseball cards.
PTBNL+Cash for Don Sutton (August 30, 1982)
The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers headed into the final days of August with a four-and-a-half game lead in the AL East, but they decided that was no time to rest on their laurels.
Instead, they sent cash and a player to be named later to the Houston Astros in exchange for veteran right-hander Don Sutton. At age 37, Sutton was having another All-Star level season for the Astros (13-8, 3.00 ERA) and basically continued that trend with the Brewers (4-1, 3.29).
It was a good thing, too, because Milwaukee’s leaad evaporated thanks to a torrid run by the Baltimore Orioles who fought back to a tie in the standings on October 2.
With one game left between the two teams to decide the East, Milwaukee sent Sutton to the mound against fellow future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. Sutton allowed just two runs over eight innings, his Harvey’s Wallbangers teammates scored 10, and the Brewers won their first division title (except for that weird 1981 split-season thing).
Bass turned in a nice 14-year career with good power, so the Astros didn’t whiff completely. But you could make a strong argument that that Brewers club would be largely forgotten without a month’s worth of Don Sutton.
As it stands, Sutton is a Hall of Famer, and the ’82 Brew Crew is one of the most popular teams of all time..
Floyd Rayford for Tito Landrum (June 14-August 31, 1983)
On June 14, 1983, the Baltimore Orioles sent third baseman (and sometimes-catcher) Floyd Rayford to the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for a player to be named later.
That PTBNL finally came home to roost at the very end of August when the Cards sent outfielder Tito Landrum to the O’s on the 31st.
Landrum appeared in 26 games for the Orioles the rest of the way, batting a robust .310 and helping Baltimore pull away from the Detroit Tigers in the AL East. His main claim to fame, though, came when he smacked the series-winning home run against the Chicago White Sox in Game 4 of the ALCS.
Would the O’s have reached the World Series without Landrum? Maybe, but the fact remains — they did reach the Fall Classic with him.
Interestingly, in 1984, both of these dudes ended up right back where they started — Landrum with the Cardinals, Rayford with the Orioles.
Tom Lawless for Pete Rose (August 16, 1984)
This is the only trade on our list that didn’t directly affect a pennant race, but it is still monumental for a lot of reasons.
First, I’m a Cincinnati Reds homer, and seeing Pete Rose come home was one of the biggest moments in franchise history between the end of the Big Red Machine and the 1990 World Series championship.
In fact, you could say that this move laid the groundwork for that most recent Cincinnati title.
Sure, the Reds had a lot of talent in the pipeline when Pete returned, but those young guys gelled fast with Charlie Hustle at the helm and with Dave Parker providing big power and veteran leadership.
And there is no denying the excitement around Rose’s chase of Ty Cobb‘s all-time hit record that brought the spotlight back to the Queen City and helped make the Reds a relevant franchise again.
Finally … given how things unfolded for Rose, isn’t there something deliciously poetic about the idea the guy who brought him back to Cincinnati was Lawless?
Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz (August 12, 1987)
In 1987, the Detroit Tigers were just three years removed from their historic 1984 team, but they had not been back to the postseason since.
So when Detroit found themselves in the thick of the AL East hunt in August, they decided the chance at October baseball was too tantalizing to pass up. To capitalize on that opportunity, they hit up the moribund Atlanta Braves, and the two teams worked out a swap of starters: the Tigers would snag veteran Doyle Alexander, with young John Smoltz heading to Atlanta.
The move worked out just as the Tigers had hoped, with them winning all 11 of Alexander’s AL starts and taking the East title by two games over the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Braves finished fifth in the old NL West, at 69-92, and nothing Alexander could have done would have saved them from their fate.
He turned out OK, though he did have to spend a couple years as a reliever in order to eventually make it to the Hall of Fame.
Jeff Robinson and Scott Medvin For Rick Reuschel (August 12, 1987)
At 38, Rick Reuschel was an elder statesman of the game as the 1987 season began to wind down, but his 8-6 record with a 2.75 ERA, his track record made him an interesting figure to contending teams.
One of those teams was the San Francisco Giants, who battled back from an early deficit to catch the Cincinnati Reds in the NL West. Not wanting to lose their momentum, San Fran swung a deal to send Jeff Robinson and Scott Medvin to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Big Daddy Reuschel.
The new Giant went 5-3 down the stretch as San Francisco pulled away before losing the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. Reuschel wasn’t done, though, as he’d win 36 games over the next two seasons and help the Giants all the way to the 1989 World Series.
Robinson, meanwhile, went 18-18 for the Bucs in 1988-89, then bounced around for three more years before calling it a career. Medvin went 3-0 in 1988 but never won a Major League game after that season
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