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NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES / DODGERS VS. METS : Acquiring Gibson Was One of the Good Moves

Times Staff Writer

The acquisition of Kirk Gibson might be the best move the Dodgers have made in the 1980s.

And perhaps the best part is that the Dodgers, ending their unspoken policy of not pursing free agents in recent seasons, did not have to trade for Gibson.

Before an arbitrator granted Gibson free agency as part of the 1985 Collusion I ruling, the Dodgers offered the Detroit Tigers Pedro Guerrero for Gibson. As it turned out, Gibson signed with the Dodgers as a free agent. Guerrero remained with the Dodgers until being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for John Tudor on Aug. 16.

Like any team, the Dodgers have made good trades and bad trades in recent seasons. Trades, as they say, that have helped both teams. Trades that have hurt both. And, most certainly, a few trades they wished they had never made.

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For example, you could stock a pretty decent pitching staff with Dodger castoffs.

The starters: Dave Stewart (now with the Oakland Athletics), Bob Welch (Oakland), Rick Sutcliffe (Chicago Cubs), Sid Fernandez (New York Mets) and Charlie Hough (Texas Rangers). The relief pitchers: John Franco (Cincinnati Reds), Rick Honeycutt (Oakland) and long reliever Jerry Reuss (Chicago White Sox).

But then, the Dodgers also have acquired pitching through trades. Perhaps Fred Claire’s best pitching trade--certainly his most overlooked--in his tenure as the club’s executive vice president was sending Honeycutt to the Athletics for pitcher Tim Belcher last August.

Honeycutt, 35, was struggling through a 12-game losing streak at the time of the trade. The A’s needed another left-handed pitcher in hopes of winning a division title, so they gave up Belcher, 26. Honeycutt has been a solid middle reliever for the A’s, but Belcher has become a 12-game winner who could be in the Dodgers’ rotation for years.

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The Dodgers, too, have given up promising talent to help fill immediate needs during a pennant drive. Some of the trades made by Al Campanis, Claire’s predecessor as vice president, looked good at the time. Upon reflection, though, they do not.

The Dodgers made a questionable this August, trading pitching prospect Shawn Hillegas to the White Sox for left-handed reliever Ricky Horton. Hillegas, 23, a starter of some promise, has pitched well for the White Sox, while Horton, 29, has given up 5 earned runs in 8 innings, including 2 home runs.

Several trades are candidates for the worst in Campanis’ reign.

There was the Sutcliffe trade of 1981. Sutcliffe, named rookie of the year for the Dodgers in 1979, was traded with second baseman Jack Perconte to the Cleveland Indians for Jorge Orta, catcher Jack Fimple and pitcher Larry White. Fimple played 3 seasons with the Dodgers, White 2 and Orta 1.

Then, there was the Franco trade in 1983. A left-handed pitcher, Franco had just been promoted to triple-A Albuquerque when the Dodgers traded him and pitcher Brett Wise to the Reds for infielder Rafael Landestoy, who played 2 seasons for the Dodgers. Only after being converted to a short reliever did Franco thrive. He had 32 saves last season and had 39 saves and a 1.57 earned-run average this season.

Finally, there is the Fernandez trade of 1983. Convinced that Carlos Diaz was the left-handed reliever they needed, Campanis sent Fernandez and infielder Ross Jones to the Mets for Diaz and infielder Bob Bailor.

At last word, Diaz was a roofer in Northern California. The left-handed Fernandez, 47-33 in 4 seasons as a Met, will start Game 4 of the playoffs against the Dodgers.

Perhaps the best trade the Dodgers have ever made was on April 4, 1974. They sent pitcher Bruce Ellingsen to the Cleveland Indians for some infielder named Guerrero.

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Where are you now, Bruce Ellingsen?

When last contacted, he was a liquor salesman in North Hollywood.


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