Commentators still always assessed trades immediately, but the mediasphere was smaller and much more quiet. Baseball front offices basically did what they wanted under much less public pressure. Baseball also was less popular and less lucrative then.
It remains, though, that two years is a good minimum for assessing a trade with the benefit of hindsight. The trade that wrought so much fury two years ago can now be settled by events since then, and its evaluation is less subject to the emotion of fans who could only see each player for what they were at the moment the trade occurred.
As such, we turn again to the defining trade of Wayne Krivsky's too-brief tenure as the Reds general manager in which he all but shipped the Jim Bowden Reds back to Bowden in a desperate move to add relief pitching.
On that occasion, Krivsky sent right fielder Austin Kearns, shortstop Felipe Lopez and reliever Ryan Wagner to Bowden's Washington Nationals for relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray, shortstop Royce Clayton, infielder Brendan Harris and minor-league pitcher Daryl Thompson.
Krivsky's decision flummoxed and infuriated many Reds fans, if not the overwhelming majority. Lopez hit 23 homers and went to the All-Star game a year earlier, Kearns looked like he could grow into a stable 25-30 homers in right field and Wagner still might have flourished.
Meanwhile, Majewski, Bray and Thompson were unknown, Harris was already a young journeyman and Clayton was over the hill.
Compounding the angry reaction, Majewski was ineffective with arm problems and Krivsky went so far as to file a grievance against Bowden, who he accused of withholding medical information. Meanwhile, Bray also needed arm maintenance. Even those of us who believe Krivsky made the trade for the right reasons had to concede that the execution lacked.
Here we sit, though, two years later, and that trade has never looked better for the Reds. Indeed, who among those who lambasted every aspect of the trade two years ago would still do so today?
Thompson, all of 20 on the day of the trade, made his big league debut on June 21 at Yankee Stadium, throwing five shutout innings against the New York Yankees. Bray picked up the 6-0 win in relief. Majewski is back with the big club, pitching mostly to good effect.
Meanwhile, Kearns is disabled with a .187 batting average as analysts decry his failed promise in Washington. He hit 16 homers in 87 games for the Reds when they made the trade in 2006, and he has hit 19 homers since. Lopez was never a good shortstop, he was never going to have another year as good as 2005, and he hasn't.
It's still too early to tell if the trade will make a contender of the Reds, who have since fired Krivsky, or Bowden's Cincinnati East. Suddenly, the most important player in that trade becomes Thompson, the player least discussed when the trade occurred.
One never wants to put too much stock into 20-year-old pitchers in low Class A ball because too much can go wrong on the way to the big leagues. But nothing went wrong for Thompson.
Splitting 2007 between Dayton and Sarasota in Class A, Thompson finished 14-5 with a 3.18 ERA. The Reds liked him in spring training this year, then sent him to Class AA Chattanooga. Splitting the first 10 weeks of the season between Chattanooga and Louisville, Thompson was 6-2 with a 2.20 ERA.
Now Thompson joins Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto in a very promising young trio of starting pitchers. Bray is highly effective in short relief with a 2.38 ERA, while Majewski held a 2.57 ERA in seven big league appearances this year.
It's just a snapshot of one moment in time, perhaps, but it reveals that the Reds hold the upper hand in that trade, obtaining a starting pitcher who could produce over the long haul, adding two relievers and giving up nothing they have missed.
Dealing Kearns enabled the Reds to move Junior Griffey into right field, where he substantially out-produced Kearns last season. Taking Griffey out of center field opened a puzzle for the Reds at that position, but Kearns wasn't going to solve the problem, anyway, and the void created an opportunity for Jay Bruce.
Maybe Kearns will turn into a monster some day, while Thompson, Bray and Majewski all lose their arms. But the trade isn't going in that direction at this moment.
We knew Krivsky would risk error in pursuit of pitching. Two years after the deal that most exemplified his shift from Bowden's emphasis on hitting to his own emphasis on pitching, it doesn't appear that Krivsky made a mistake at all.
Contact Bill Peterson: firstname.lastname@example.org