In case you missed it, former Red Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off home run in the American League wild card game on Tuesday night:
— Tim Viper (@TimViper) October 5, 2016
Over the last few years, as Encarnacion has developed into a star, more and more people have come out of the woodwork, screaming at the Reds for trading Encarnacion away in exchange for Scott Rolen at the 2009 trade deadline. Those people showed up again this week, in the wake of Edwin’s big home run. Which led to these tweets:
There is no greater example of revisionist history by Cincinnati fans than the Edwin Encarnacion trade
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) October 5, 2016
I on the air the day they traded him. I remember the long parade of callers who one day predicted EE's stardom.
Oh wait, no I don't. https://t.co/xTENcxZLaI
— Mo Egger (@MoEgger1530) October 5, 2016
Then Mo wrote this on his blog:
When Edwin Encarnacion was traded by the Reds to the Toronto Blue Jays at the 2009 trade deadline, it was time. EE had worn out his welcome, and at the time of the deal – after a parts of five seasons filled with starts and stops – he was batting .209. There was a very real sense, held by pretty much every Reds fan – that after more than 2000 big league plate appearances, either the light bulb was never going to come on, or that Edwin was the quintessential “change of scenery player.”
So they traded him, and no one objected.
I’m not here to quibble with either Mo Egger or Lance McAlister, mostly because their central premise is pretty much absolutely correct (plus I love both those guys). And anyway, in retrospect, despite the fact that Edwin has turned into one of the best sluggers in the game, there’s still a strong argument that the Reds got good value out of that trade. After all, the Reds made the playoffs in three of the next four seasons. Sure, Scott Rolen only had one good half-season left in him, but I’m willing to buy the argument that he transformed the clubhouse with his leadership. Sure, why not?
And it’s not like the Blue Jays themselves realized they had a star on their hands. They actually waived Encarnacion, and he was free for the taking to any other team. They later re-acquired him, and the Reds is history, but we can’t forget that every major league team whiffed on him.
So I have little interest in arguing the merits of the trade here, seven years later. But I must take exception to one thing Mo and Lance said: that no one objected, and that no one thought Edwin would become a star. They are both correct that, at the time of the trade, almost every Reds fan was ready for Edwin to hit the road.
But Redleg Nation objected. We predicted Encarnacion’s stardom.
The day after the trade, Chris Garber raised an eyebrow about the deal here:
I think Rolen is playing over his true level right now (a .347 BABIP is inflating his line, sayeth Fangraphs). I think EE is playing well below his true level. So Jocketty bought high and sold low.
(Chris also pointed out some tweets by Lance that questioned the deal.) I also wrote a trade roundup post, in which I noted that Baseball Prospectus (“The Worst Deadline Deal”) and FanGraphs pretty much hated the trade from Cincinnati’s perspective.
But no one hated it worse than me. I was a huge fan of Edwin Encarnacion (and still am), and I loved his potential to be a big bat in the middle of the Reds’ lineup. Mo noted in his blog piece that pretty much every Reds fan had given up hope on Edwin by mid-2009, and that’s true, without question. At times, I felt like I was the lone voice in the wilderness, screaming Edwin’s praises from the rooftop (along with Chris and others here at the Nation).
Not long before the trade, we created a category of posts here called Defending Edwin Encarnacion. I extolled Edwin’s virtues in numerous game recaps and other posts (here are the archives of all of the posts mentioning EE at Redleg Nation over the years); dig through them, and you’ll see what we thought of Edwin Encarnacion in real time. No revisionism here.
Two months before the Encarnacion/Rolen trade, I was getting frustrated over the conventional wisdom among the fan base regarding Encarnacion that Mo and Lance each referenced, and it began to bubble over. So I went on a little rant:
Okay, I admit it, I got a little worked up yesterday trying to defend Edwin Encarnacion. (I know, I shouldn’t use “defend” and “Edwin Encarnacion” in the same sentence.)
I’m just continually amazed at how Reds fans want to toss this guy under the bus, even after the last three years, when Edwin has been an above average hitter (at ages 23, 24, and 25). What more do you want out of the guy? There aren’t many players who can claim to be above league-average as a hitter at those ages.
Some of you actually think there is a question as to who should start at 3B when Edwin gets back? Before you answer that, read this. The gist of that link is that Edwin’s production from last year is far superior to the production the Reds are getting from 3B this year. It’s not even close (and I see no reason not to think Edwin won’t be a better hitter than he was last year).
We all know what the deal is here. Edwin doesn’t smile and he doesn’t drink milk like Brandon Phillips, so no one’s first reaction is to like the guy. That’s the way players are judged in Cincinnati (see Rosales, Adam), for better or worse. It’s vital that you look like you are having fun and playing hard. Perception is much more important than reality in the Queen City.
Perhaps I feel a need to defend Encarnacion because I can see what’s going to happen here: Edwin is going to get the A*** D*** treatment, on a smaller scale. Everyone wants to focus on the things Edwin doesn’t do well (throwing the stupid baseball) instead of cheering the guy for being an above-average hitter who has a chance to be one of the best-hitting third basemen in the game — and for being one of the two hardest-working players on the team, by all reports. And he’s still very young!
At this point, Encarnacion is not the best 3B in the game, but he’s the best 3B that the Reds have. By far. Let’s give the guy a break. When we get Edwin back and healthy and productive, third base becomes one of the Reds strengths. If Walt Jocketty can focus on improving shortstop or left field, this team becomes even more interesting as we transition into summer.
I’m not sure I can sum up my feelings on EE any better than that. Some of us never gave up on the guy. (By the way, there are some interesting comments below that piece — I see the names of some long-time commenters there! — that really gives you some perspective on how Encarnacion was viewed in Cincinnati in mid-2009.)
Okay, so yes, I’m patting Redleg Nation on the back a little here. I beg your indulgence. I’m wrong so often (look in those same archives for plenty of examples) that you have to let me point out the rare instances in which I was correct.
There are way too many variables to say, with any certainty, who won the Encarnacion/Rolen deal, and I’m not particularly interested in re-litigating that topic. But I’ve been an Edwin Encarnacion fan since day one, and I’ve missed him every single day since the Reds traded him away. I wish he were still here, hitting in the middle of the Reds lineup (or traded for prospects at last year’s trade deadline, to bring up another sore topic among Reds fans).
At any rate, here’s hoping Edwin has a few more post-season home runs in his bat…
Blame Chad for creating this mess.
Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.
You can email Chad at firstname.lastname@example.org.