Normally, when it comes to stories, I care very little for in-depth description of setting. I’m a plot-and-character guy through and through. For this particular story, however, a scene needs to be set:
The date is July 30, 2001. I’m at my grandparents’ lake cabin, sitting in a portable tent-camper, listening to an old radio:
Why is this all transpiring? Because it’s almost zero-hour on the MLB trade deadline and I want moment-by-moment updates of what Terry Ryan & Co. might be up to (the ticker at the bottom of ESPN’s SportsCenter just isn’t cutting the mustard).
That is how/where I heard outfielder Matt Lawton was being shipped to the New York Mets in exchange for starting pitcher Rick Reed. For the first time in my young life as a Twins fan, the team made an addition rather than a subtraction for the stretch run.
Granted, from what I recall this was not the most popular of swaps at the time. Lawton was drafted by Minnesota in 1991 and worked his way up to the big club, where from 1996-2000 he was a solid contributor (OPS+ usually in the 110-120 range) with a good combination of speed and pop. During those doldrum years, he was truly one of the only players in the lineup where reaching base safely seemed a legitimate possibility.
Sure, he might take one off the noggin every once in awhile, but that happens to the best of us, right?!
By 2001, however, the Twins had Jacque Jones & Torii Hunter firmly established in the outfield, with prospects such as Dustin Mohr, Bobby Kielty, Brian Buchanan, Michael Cuddyer, & Michael Restovich on the cusp of making an impact. So, Lawton was deemed expendable.
The return—Rick Reed of the Mets—was targeted for his experience (age 36) and postseason moxie (having just been part of the ‘00 Subway World Series against the Yankees) for a team that looked potentially playoff-bound for the first time in a decade. In Queens, he had put together a solid 8-6, 3.48 ERA, 120 ERA+ season into late July.
How did the swap turn out? Well, not all that great—or terrible—both short and long term for either squad. In the Big Apple, Lawton struggled mightily the rest of ‘01, while Reed made out similarly in MN (4-6, 67.2 IP, 5.19 ERA, 88 ERA+). Lawton would somewhat resurrect his career in Cleveland, though his best years were ultimately those in a Twins uniform. Reed actually put together a very respectable ‘02 year (15-7, 188 IP, 3.78 ERA, 118 ERA+) before washing out and hanging up the cleats in ‘03.
Sadly, this year’s trade deadline will not be met with as much optimism by the Minnesota Twins. But I’ll never forget where I was—or what it meant to a burgeoning Twins fan—to have this organization “go for it”, even if the results were about as mixed as could be.