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Superstars used to megadeals

Armed with even a passing acquaintance with Red Sox history, Nomar Garciaparra wouldn't have been shocked that he is on the verge of leaving town as part of the fallout from the mother of all trades, the one that will send Manny Ramirez to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez.

 

With very few exceptions -- Ted Williams, Joe Cronin, Dom DiMaggio, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice -- popularity and talent have never guaranteed anyone a permanent spot on the Olde Towne Team.

You could fill a Hall of Fame with players the Sox have sold, traded, or allowed to escape via free agency. Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Cy Young, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Carl Mays from the early days. Players of more recent vintage include Tony Conigliaro, Jim Lonborg, Hawk Harrelson, Dick Radatz, Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk, Rick Burleson, Roger Clemens, and Mo Vaughn.

The Sox are hardly alone in the practice of shipping off their biggest stars, nor is Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks breaking new ground in unloading a player of the star power of Alex Rodriguez because of financial considerations, though Hicks has only himself to blame for lavishing the biggest contract in sports on A-Rod, a 10-year, $252 million investment for which Hicks has been rewarded with three straight last-place finishes.

We have Harry Frazee in our own backyard, of course, though it's debatable to what degree financial distress caused him to sell Ruth to the Yankees after the 1919 season. Connie Mack built powerhouses with the Philadelphia Athletics, then dismantled them just as quickly when he decided he couldn't afford the price of success. Mack sold off Eddie Collins, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, and Mickey Cochrane, Hall of Famers all, while trading away a slew of other star players. Charlie Finley of the A's either sold or traded Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, and Ken Holtzman from a team that won three straight World Series in the 1970s. Wayne Huizenga, in an act of breathtaking cynicism, blew up the Florida Marlins within months after the team won the World Series in 1997.

There is no precedent in the history of the game for players with the credentials of Ramirez and Rodriguez being swapped for each other, necessitating the shedding of Garciaparra as well. By now, it has become commonplace to note that no reigning MVP (like A-Rod) has ever been traded. He and Ramirez are both six-time All-Stars and have each won a batting title. Garciaparra is a five-time All-Star and has two batting titles, the first righthanded hitter since Joe DiMaggio to win back-to-back titles.

A-Rod became just the third player in the last 71 seasons to win the AL's home run title three straight seasons, and he is just one of eight players to hit at least 40 home runs in six or more seasons.

Ramirez drove in 165 runs in 1999, becoming the first player since Jimmy Foxx in 1938 to drive in 160 or more runs.

Garciaparra in 2002 hit 56 doubles, breaking Rodriguez's major league record for doubles by a shortstop.

Rodriguez last season won his second Gold Glove for fielding excellence and committed a career-low eight errors, a Rangers team record.

All three players are at an age that would place them in the prime of their careers: Ramirez turns 32 May 30, Garciaparra 31 July 23, and Rodriguez 29 July 27.

Maybe the most recent trade that comes closest to involving a player of A-Rod's caliber was the one involving his former Seattle teammate, Ken Griffey Jr., who at the time he was dealt to Cincinnati in 2000 was considered the best player in the game, before injuries robbed him of that standing.

The Tigers and Indians in 1960 traded a batting champion (Harvey Kuenn) for a home run king (Rocky Colavito). The Cardinals, fresh off winning the World Series in 1926, traded their player-manager, Rogers Hornsby, even though Hornsby had batted .317 after winning six straight batting titles, for Frankie Frisch. Hornsby had a big year in '27, but Frisch hit .337 and played second base for the next 10 years for a club that became known as the Gashouse Gang. The Phillies sold star outfielder Chuck Klein to the Cubs the winter after he won the National League's Triple Crown, in 1933. The Cardinals and Padres swapped star shortstops in the '80s, with the Cardinals getting the better end of that deal by acquiring Ozzie Smith for Garry Templeton.

But find a deal involving three players such as A-Rod, Manny, and Nomar? Can't be done.

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