Joey Cora's turnaround is the fantasy of two dozen minor league secondbasemen who could have (or could have had) careers: (in no particular order) Ralph Milliard, Ron Belliard, Dave Hajek, Brian Raabe, Jeff Berblinger, Dave Doster, Frank Menechino, Todd Haney, Fausto Cruz, Felipe Crespo, Jason Hardtke, Eric Owens, Aaron Ledesma, and many, many more. Basically, a big-money commitment to a player like Cora isn't fair, but neither is life, and Joey's a lucky guy.
It's funny what can happen to the popular perception of a player over time. During his four years in Seattle, Cora was a beloved member of the everyday infield, occupying the same kind of role as David Eckstein does today - the team's designated "little guy" who you had to love because it looked like he put everything he had into making even the simplest plays (which he did, out of necessity). The way he twirled around his position every time he ran out to the field, the way he looked like a high schooler on his 32nd birthday...people loved Joey Cora, and even beyond the little things, they saw him as an excellent table-setter at the top of the lineup, getting things started for the heart of the order. Joey was living the life.
Even when he was traded to Cleveland (for future total white guy David Bell) in 1998, Cora remained a fan favorite in Seattle, but things were different - gone were his youthful spirit and enthusiasm, his lovable grit and hustle in front of the core's brute strength. While people remembered Cora the person, they began to forget Cora the player, and before long the popular sentiment was that Cora was an overrated part of a few Mariner teams that could've done quite well without him.
And yet, this was a guy who, over four years, hit .293/.355/.406 at a time when average AL second basemen were hitting .276/.338/.395. Cora knew how to handle a bat, he knew how to draw a walk, and he knew how to squeeze a surprising amount of power out of his delicate frame. He was more Placido Polanco than Damian Jackson, and stands as another example of a guy who's been called overrated so often that he's become underrated. Joey Cora was a good player on some Mariner teams that had much better players, a guy who you couldn't miss on the field, but who doesn't have the Griffey or Johnson name that you look for in the history books. It's a depressing fate for someone who, just ten years ago, ranked as one of Seattle's favorite athletes.
But hey, at least there's a happy ending. Joey just got himself a ring.
Some other snippets from that Transaction Analysis article, just because there were a hell of a lot of interesting players switching places that week:
Traded UT Phil Nevin and C Matt Walbeck to Anaheim for RHP Nick Skuse.
There are some interesting talent decisions here: getting huge Nick Skuse for Nevin and Walbeck was a good bit of clearing roster spots...
Traded RHP Carl Pavano and a PTBNL to Montreal for RHP Pedro Martinez; signed RHP Bret Saberhagen to a one-year contract. [11/18]
Dan Duquette goes out of his way to keep his job: he's lost Suppan, Pavano, and Sele, and he has one year of Pedro Martinez' career (and Jim Leyritz. WooHoo! and Damon Buford!) to show for it.
Received 1B Dmitri Young from Tampa Bay and RHP Scott Winchester from Arizona as the PsTBNL for the Mike Kelly and Felix Rodriguez deals. [11/18]
Jim Bowden is baseball's answer to Dr. Science: he's smarter than you are. He managed to escape the Expansion Draft without having to give up anybody among his top thirty players. Hats off to a job well done.
Traded RHP Pedro Martinez to Boston for RHP Carl Pavano and a PTBNL. [11/18]
Traded 2B Mike Lansing to Colorado for RHPs Jake Westbrook and John Nicholson and OF Mike Hamlin. [11/18]
Jim Beattie has gotten alot of credit for what he's gotten out of Tom Vu clones who keep dropping him messages about what to do with his "distressed property." Certainly picking up Pavano is a good move, but Westbrook and Nicholson aren't outstanding, and neither move adresses the Expos big offensive problems.
Acquired 3B Scott Brosius from Oakland as the PTBNL in the Kenny Rogers deal. [11/18]
Brosius is simply keeping the third base job warm for Mike Lowell, but he'll also be a handy utilityman. (Jeff's note: Brosius collected 1901 at bats over the next four years in New York, becoming one of the most popular October players in the city's history for no particular reason. Lowell was traded in February of 1999.
Traded SS Kevin Stocker to Tampa Bay for LF Bob Abreu. [11/18]
Although this was generally a good move for the Phillies (Relaford is a suitable replacement for Stocker), keep in mind that this is the Phillies. Just because they have McMillon and Abreu doesn't mean either will play: the team still has its commitments to Jefferies and Brogna, which leaves one regular job in RF for them to fight for.
Traded LF Bob Abreu to Philadelphia for SS Kevin Stocker. [11/18]
Its unfortunate that they chose not to keep Abreu, because Stocker isn't really a unique talent.
Signed SS Walt Weiss to a three-year deal. [11/17]
Signed 1B Andres Galarraga to a three-year deal. [11/21]
For all the hue and cry over the Marlins' "dismemberment," there isn't much talk about how John Schuerholz is going out of his way to lower the competitive level in the NL East. Taking two Rox regulars out of Coors might have an element of scientific curiosity to it, and wrestling with how the Braves could justify adding the Big Cat made for fun mental games ("he'll keep LH pitching away from spot starts intended to neutralize Klesko"), but no matter how you slice it, these were critically bad signings. (Jeff's note: Galarraga hit .304/.384/.562 with Atlanta, despite missing 1999 after being diagnosed with cancer.)
This wasn't really the best Transaction Analysis Kahrl has ever written.