Something in my parlance regarding transactions is “the five minute rule.” I hold rather aggressively to this “rule,” even though many might find initial reactions to events with “yet uncertain” results rather unnecessary. After all, if a transaction ends up being “good” or “bad”, we’ll have plenty of time to assess it, later. Nonetheless, I hold tightly to the rule. This article explains why I consider it important (for me), and how it applies to the trade the Cubs made on Tuesday.
As you meander through the Cubs blogosphere, the writers all have their roles. All of the front page writers at Bleed Cubbie Blue have their specialties. Apparently, a few other blogs exist as well, each with their own reason you should frequent them. Among my reasons to write is to explain the importance of “thinking with integrity.”
Usually, I’m discussing player development, the draft, or the international scene. However, on occasion, I switch to the concept of “intellectual integrity,” which is about being honest with yourself and others about your analytic reactions to events. Which seems like it has no point on a baseball blog, but I think it ought to be standard practice, regardless the venue.
Whenever something happens, whether it’s good or bad, you may have a discernible reaction. In some situations, this can be called “being on tilt.” My guess is, most of us have been there. Perhaps over an ended relationship, the loss of a job, a poker hand, or something as minor as a baseball transaction. If the event is drawing an emotion, it can put you on tilt.
For baseball fans, some transactions will do that, and most won’t. For many of you, understandably, Tuesday’s Cubs trade didn’t. In my case, I have a degree of history with following Jason Vosler’s career, and some charged energy along those lines. Some Cubs fans had initial reactions, good or bad, when the Cubs signed (for instance) Yu Darvish or Jon Lester. When Bryce Harper signs somewhere, you may have charged emotions. Any or all are legitimate emotions to feel.
This is the heart of “the five minute rule.” If you immediately have an emotion to a baseball transaction, you’re going through the five minute rule. Perhaps you love the move, or hate it. In some instances (this was my case with the Jose Quintana trade), you see the need for the move, but really don’t like the amount of pieces sent the other way.
With many moves, you don’t get “the feels,” which is perfectly normal, as well. Any of five reactions are entirely legitimate: like, dislike, no reaction, meh, or default, with default being along the lines of “trusting the move if you trust the executive.”
The reason the five minute rule plays so strongly with me in baseball is that it ends up being a bit of a “long game” scenario. Also, because “back-seat drivers” can send me up an imaginary tree. Toss in the intellectual integrity premise, and the rule plays quite heavily.
In the Jason Vosler for Rowan Wick trade, I didn’t think Wick was much of an addition for the Cubs. Also, the Padres were in a circumstance where it was obvious they were going to trade him, or lose him in another way (Designation for Assignment springs to mind). If the Cubs would have traded a relatively minor piece for Wick, I’d have been better with the move.
For instance, Tuesday night, Arizona Phil came out with his list of players the Cubs are leaving unprotected in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If the Cubs would have traded one of these types (a Casey Bloomquist or Preston Morrison), I’d have been much more okay with the trade. Or a recent draft pick that has limited apparent upside, like a Drew Wharton. Instead, the Cubs gave up their top minor-league home run hitter for the 2018 season.
Whether Vosler will be selected in the Rule 5 draft or not, and if he would remain elsewhere the entire year, will be sorted out, eventually. However, for my preference, the Cubs traded far too much for far too little, and tied up a roster spot in the process. (It’s rather doubtful the Cubs will run Wick through waivers, having just surrendered Vosler to acquire him.)
“But, Tim. You should just trust Theo Epstein, who’s smarter than you are, to do his thing.”
That is a completely acceptable stance. I was hearing that quite a bit on Twitter from a few people after the announcement. That response drops people firmly in the “default” section. Which is entirely acceptable. As were the people saying “You entirely valued Vosler too heavily.” Any normal response is acceptable. As long as you stay in your lane.
What drives me up the tree is when people eventually go from default mode, or are happy with a transaction, to a different mode (here’s the important part) without admitting they were wrong. This is the intellectual integrity aspect.
I’ll roll the clock back many years to the Cubs’ Josh Hamilton trade. That fits here as well as any time, anywhere. The 2006 Rule 5 Draft took place on December 7. The Cubs had a vacant roster spot, and weren’t going to draft a player in December. The Reds, as is common practice in those instances, were interested in Hamilton.
The Reds had a degree of knowledge about Hamilton, and considered him a valid December risk. The Cubs either didn’t have said knowledge, or didn’t consider him a valid risk. The Reds offered the Cubs a fee (more than the Rule 5 fee) to select “whoever the Reds deemed” for the fee. The Cubs made money on the deal, and it worked for them.
When the Cubs selected Hamilton, most baseball fans weren’t particularly aware of Hamilton, or his baseball journey. They should have been in either the “meh” or “default” lane. A few fans might have been “in favor,” as he had been the draft’s top pick a number of years before.
However, as the Cubs quickly passed him off to the Reds, it was time to select your lane. Basically, forever. It’s perfectly fine to revisit trades later. However, regarding the Hamilton trade to the Reds, you had five minutes to decide your “initial” opinion. After all, in anything involving drafts, trades, or international signings, your initial response is forever if integrity plays.
Why does anything initial matter that much? After all, we can change our minds upon further information, right? I might change my mind, if Wick is a key reliever for the Cubs in a few years. Or, perhaps he gets traded for something of value in the future. In which case, I’d be wrong.
Being wrong is fine. Baseball is a long game. Both in terms of a specific game or season, or the long-range planning. We won’t “know” for a few years if a decision works out “as we would prefer.” The layers needed to have long-term awareness take years, sometimes. However, very few people like a back-seat driver.
“Y’know, Bob, I think you should have turned back there four miles ago”
“That would have been really useful information about four-and-a-half miles ago.”
If you want to criticize a decision, I’ll give you about five minutes when it’s a baseball trade. If you think the basketball coach ought to get the star out before he picks up another foul, you have until the foul is made. If the football team has fourth and a foot to go in the third quarter of a key game, you have until the snap to be on record. Otherwise, yours is white noise, and a bit unwarranted. Especially if you’re waiting to see the result before you announce your verdict.
The Iowa Cubs finished a distant 16th in Pacific Coast League homers in 2018. They hit 79, while New Orleans finished 15th with 96. Only five of the top 11 I-Cubs OPS hitters remain in the organization. Perhaps I’m overplaying my concern for a lack of pop in the Cubs system pipeline, but that remains a big enough concern to oppose trading Vosler for a reliever I have no familiarity with, or reason to believe he’ll be anything significant.
When a baseball transaction is made, I recommend you choose a lane, initially. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t assess you opinions and evaluations as more data rolls in. Of course, you should. However, when people criticize (or support) a transaction, a valid data point in the future is where you started. Few things in fandom are more galling than the individual who rails against a move for years into the future, when they initially supported it, without admitting they were initially wrong. The five minute rule is about being honest. Our society could use more honesty, and it’s on you which side of the line you stand.