The winter meeting is a one week period where representatives from all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs convene and discuss potential trades and hear free agents pitch as to why they’re the addition a team is looking for. A busy week for in what is a cold, game-free period in the world of baseball: trades are made, agents are signed in what is often the busiest week in the offseason.
Yet in and amongst all the trades this winter, there stands one particular transaction that has warmed the hearts of many a baseball staff, player and fan. During the winter meeting, the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a deal with the Oakland Athletics, trading outfielder Stephen Piscotty in exchange for minor league infielders Yairo Muñoz and Max Schrock. On the surface, this appears to be business as usual for these clubs: the Cardinals had, just days before acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins. This is a big addition for the Cardinals with an already talented outfield, and the Athletics were looking for an additional right-handed outfielder. Yet the simple movement of players is not the full story here.
Stephen Piscotty, Credit: Getty Images
Stephen Piscotty is a native to the Bay Area of California, and his family still resides there, including his parents; father Mike and mother Gretchen, who are season ticket holders for the Oakland Athletics and have been for over 20 years. The Piscotty family, including Stephens brother Austin, have been to many a game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to see the A’s play. While it’s nice that Stephen gets to don the green and gold of his hometown baseball team, following in the footsteps of greats like Rickey Henderson, that is not why I am writing today.
The Piscotty family in Green and Gold, Credit: Instagram @spiscotty
In May of this year, Gretchen Piscotty was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a.k.a. ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease. A horrible disease that is heavy news for any family to bear, regardless of their age and profession. The evidence was there to suggest that this rung true for Stephen: already dealing with two stints on the disabled list, his slash line for 2017 ended up at .235/.342/.367 (that’s batting average / on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with only 9 home runs, which is paltry compared to his 2016 campaign of .273/.343/.457 and 22 home runs. Clearly, the combination of physical ailments and mental weight of his mother’s diagnosis seemed to have an effect on the up-and-coming player. Rather than collectively dumping buckets of ice cold water on their heads, the Cardinals front office understood that Stephen needed to be closer to his mother and his family.
The Piscotty Family, Credit: Instagram @spiscotty
In moving Stephen to the Athletics, the Cardinals front office free up some of their team salary, which may prove a crucial part of acquiring and securing other potential big impact stars such as Manny Machado. They could have chosen to move him to any of the other 28 MLB teams for prospects, but they chose Oakland as his future team as much about him being close to home as it was about the return. President of Baseball Operations for the St. Louis Cardinals John Mozeliak said, “There were certainly some opportunities to move him elsewhere, and when you look at how to break a tie, clearly that did play into it”.
John Mozeliak, Credit: Getty Images
Similarly, President of Baseball Operations for the Oakland Athletics Billy Bean (starred by Brad Pitt in the excellent film adaptation of the book Moneyball) had only positive impressions of the St. Louis team: “(the) Cardinals one of the classiest organizations in sports”.
Billy Beane, Credit: Getty Images
Overall, one could consider this trade to be a true win-win-win(-win) situation: The Cardinals free up salary and roster space in the midst of acquiring All-Star Marcell Ozuna and any possible future acquisitions, while acquiring a pair of exciting infield prospects; the Athletics fill a massive hole in their outfield since making the decision to move Khris “Khrush” Davis (this author’s favourite player on the Athletics 40 man roster) to the Designated Hitter role. Also, Stephen comes to the A’s on a team-friendly, 5-year contract; a welcome price tag for any team, but especially for the A’s and their smaller-than-average team budget.Stephen gets to play much closer to home, allowing him to play a more prominent role in his family and for the entire Piscotty family, getting to feel much closer geographically while watching Stephen play for the team they have been fans of for multiple decades.
Truly, I would be surprised if the world of baseball, or all of sports, could produce a story as heartwarming and unanimously appreciated by all parties involved; the players, the organisations and the baseball world at large. It just goes to show that, beyond the stat lines, blockbuster trades and superstar signings, baseball still has a heart. In the words of Brad Pitt from the Moneyball film:
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Featured image credit: twitter @numbersMLB