The Red Sox led with Joe Cronin’s mighty chin yesterday when they traded five players for four Detroit players in a deal estimated to involve some $610,000 worth of talent.
They didn’t merely change their lineup. They tore it down and rebuilt it.
Were they doing poorly? Were they prospects bad? Were fans complaining? Were they in a position where they had to do something?
Hardly. They were leading the league. They were in first place. But they couldn’t believe it. They thought it too good to last. Maybe it was.
So they traded their leading home run hitter (Don Lenhardt), their leading producer of runs (Walt Dropo), the new Pie Traynor (Fred Hatfield), everybody’s pal (Johnny Pesky), and a winning pitcher (Bill Wight).
Little wonder that Joe Cronin, Lou Boudreau and their staff officers did not leave Fenway Park until 12:30 yesterday morning. They had just broken up two pair to go for a straight.
The consensus of expert opinions is that the Red Sox got the better of the deal and that the risk was justified. Even so, the daredevil swap involving nine players has three possible soft spots for the Sox, namely:
1. Hoot Evers
2. First base
3. Lack of lefthand hitters
The Indians, while seeing great possibilities for the Red Sox, were not conceding them the pennant. As Ray Boone suggested, they probably will be asked to play their remaining 112 games.
Al Lopez, Cleveland manager, admitted that Evers was the key to the deal. It is conceded that George Kell is a great third baseman, Johnny Lipon a fair substitute infielder and Dizzy Trout a pitcher of some value.
But can Evers play as he did in 1950, when he batted .323 and knocked in 103 runs? A hard-luck player, Evers has averaged 105 games in seven seasons.
First base? Dick Gernert is X, the unknown quantity. The Red Sox can always solve that problem with Bill Goodman – the creating a new problem at second base. While Ted Lepcio is a steady fielder, he is inexperienced and his hitting is questionable.
And there is the question of too many righthand hitters. Without Pesky and Hatfield, the Sox have only two lefthand swingers – Goodman and Faye Throneberry.
Joe Cronin would not comment last night when asked if Clyde Vollmer might be traded for a lefthand hitting outfielder like Stewart or Coleman of the White Sox. The Red Sox can also recall young Gene Stephens.
If the Red Sox flop, they will be bigger goats than the Braves when they traded Dark and Stanky to the Giants. We thought the Braves had all the better of that deal.
Among women fans, the trade was panned.
“Dropo may come back to haunt them with his long-ball hitting and I hope he does,” Marty Shinnick of Lynn said. “Hatfield was one of the most promising outfielders the Sox had.”
But Mrs. Shinnick thought that the move was best for Pesky.
“They never gave him a chance here. Every year the hot stove league would start off with Sox trade rumors and Pesky was always mentioned,” she said.
“Now he can play ball with a mind free of worries.”
Contributing: Jim Hammond