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An annoying column on the Colon trade

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Stephen Cannella in SI is crowing over Mark Shapiro having proved all the naysayers wrong about the Bartolo Colon trade.

Only problem is, I don't know who all those naysayers supposedly are.

Cannella says this about that deal:

On the other hand the Indians, the team that has the White Sox so worried, started their playoff push 39 months ago -- on June 27, 2002, to be exact. That's the day general manager Mark Shapiro traded ace Bartolo Colon to the Expos for veteran outfielder Lee Stevens, shortstop prospect Brandon Phillips and two under-the-radar minor leaguers named Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee. At the time, the only ones lauding the deal were the handful of Montrealers who were still aware baseball was being played in town. Getting Colon was a sign the team was serious about making the playoffs and might avoid the contraction axe Bud Selig was wielding over the franchise.

So, per Cannella, no one thought Shapiro made a good move, right?

That's not my recollection. From what I recall, at the time, folks were floored at what an incredible haul the Indians got for Colon.

From a Gammons column on the trade:

"I thought Mark made a tremendous trade," says Atlanta GM John Schuerholz. "We love Brandon Philips and think he's going to be a star middle infielder." One NL club's Double-A Eastern League scout has Lee as the best pitching prospect in that league, and likely ready to step into the big leagues next spring. "For what Mark has to do building for 2004, he made a brilliant trade," says Oakland GM Billy Beane. "He got the right players."

From Jim Callis in Baseball America:

After they jettisoned a pair of potential Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Juan Gonzalez during the offseason, it's obvious that the disappointing Indians' goal has become to further slash salaries. But Colon is one player they should have held onto. He was more than affordable, and Cleveland can just let players like Fryman, Chuck Finley and talented but much more expensive Jim Thome walk at the end of the year. That said, once the Indians made the decision to deal Colon for prospects, they couldn't have asked for any more in return. If the Expos were more certain of their future, they may have reconsidered this deal.

Chris Kahrl, in BP, had this to say:

In a remarkable turn of events, Mark Shapiro's decision to trade Bartolo Colon is being heralded, appopriately enough, as a triumph. Landing the best shortstop prospect in the game is a coup, although from Phillips' perspective it's sort of a shame that he gets to go from the league in which he'd probably be a 2004 All-Star to the league in which there are five historically great shortstops.

Beyond that minor concern, Shapiro got even more out of the deal. He basically got everything that the Expos had of value, and all it really cost him was taking on Lee Stevens. Grady Sizemore is 20, has a good eye and speed, and he can play center field. He doesn't have much in the way of power, but playing in high-A leagues at his age as a high-school pick, he's looked like a genuine comp to Brett Butler. Shapiro also got Cliff Lee, a four-pitch left-hander who can throw all four for strikes; when he's on, he can be insanely hard to hit. When he's off, he's wild and still hard to hit. It's too soon to call him the next Tommy Byrne, since he's nowhere near that wild, but he's a pretty sweet third player in the deal. Then there's Stevens, who costs money and fills his seat on the team bus well enough. As the price to get the deal done, that's not crippling.

What's amusing is that the coverage of the trade from the Indians' perspective has been mostly positive, despite this being no more abject a surrender than the White Sox' "White Flag" trade of 1997.

This item, I think, is particularly telling. Kahrl is writing a couple of weeks after the deal went down, and thus can comment not only on the trade, but on the way it was covered. And Kahrl characterizes the coverage as "mostly positive" for the Indians, with Shapiro's decision being "heralded . . . as a triumph."

What's so irritating about this is that it is so unnecessary. Shapiro pulled off a great trade, and has done an excellent job since taking over for John Hart as the Indians' g.m. This trade ended up being the cornerstone of their rebuilding effort.

So why does Cannella have to turn it into some sort of vindication for Shapiro? Why does he have to wrongly characterize the rest of the world as being critical of the move when it was made, rather than acknowledging that it was widely seen as a tremendous coup by Shapiro at the time?