top of page

The Worst Trade In Phillies History

Published 7/2/18

At the conclusion of the 1981 playoffs, as the Phillies were eliminated by the Expos, it was clear the dynasty was over. Changes were coming, and the team we had grown to love would be no more.


It actually started not long after taking home the 1980 World Series trophy. The Bull, Greg Luzinski, was sent packing to Chicago for a few dollars. They wanted to move him so badly they received nothing back but a few bucks.


Game One of the 1980 World Series starter Bob Walk was sent to Atlanta in exchange for Gary “Sarge” Matthews, who would replace Luzinski in left. Most of the World Series team was still intact for 1981 though.


It was the end of 1981 where everything changed. Long time catcher Bob Boone was sent to California for next to nothing. The deal made sense to no one. Rightfielder Arnold Ray “Bake” McBride left for Cleveland. Poor Bake!


The deal that broke the proverbial camel’s back was Larry Bowa and an unknown prospect, Ryne Sandberg for a weak hitting, mediocre fielding shortstop named Ivan DeJesus. This deal goes down as the worst trade in Phillies history in my eyes. Was it because Sandberg became a Hall of Famer? Nope. Was it because DeJesus was brutally bad? Nope. Or at least not exactly.


Larry Bowa wanted a better contract and Phillies new managing partner, Bill Giles didn’t want to give it to him. I understand that Bowa was aging and was not a great player. The fact that Bowa was traded didn’t bother me. Here’s the problem.


In 1981-1982, Larry Bowa was a better player than Ivan DeJesus. If the Phillies had traded Bowa straight up for DeJesus, in my eyes, they would have been ripped off. But I could have dealt with it as not every deal is equal for both teams.


From what I hear, when word got to Bowa that he was going to be traded to the Cubs and be with his old manager, Dallas Green, who was the new GM in Chicago, he told Green to “get that Sandberg kid” in the deal.


I don’t claim to have any prior knowledge of Ryne Sandberg and I don’t claim that I knew he was going to be a Hall of Famer someday. Nor did Dallas Green, Larry Bowa, or Bill Giles. My problem is, the deal was already leaning in favor of the Cubs. Why did the Phillies need to throw anyone in to make the deal? The Phillies should have insisted that the Cubs throw in a prospect in the deal.


Whether the Phillies had thrown in Sandberg, or John Poff, I would have still be irritated by the trade. It made no logical sense. I believe Giles wanted Bowa out so badly, he would have thrown in anyone short of Mike Schmidt to make the trade. This is why I feel Giles was such a horrible Managing Partner. His emotions would get in the way.

Back to Bowa and DeJesus, which of these two players would you rather have?

.194 0 Homeruns 13 RBI - .509 OPS in 450 At Bats - .959 Fielding Percentage

.283 0 Homeruns 31 RBI - .670 OPS in 360 At Bats - .975 Fielding Percentage

It's obvious who is who. These are the numbers the two shorstops put up in 1981, yet Bill Giles felt it was fair for the Phillies to throw in a prospect to even it up. And this was a major league ready prospect, as Sandberg had been with the Phillies briefly in September of 1981. What was he smoking?

I realize the Phillies traded future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins for a six pack of Pepsi and a bag of baseballs, released Dave Stewart after a few games only to see him win 20 games four years in a row, they traded Curt Schilling for spare parts and they traded what seemed like an army for Dave Rucker in the mid 80s. Despite all of that, without a doubt, throwing in Ryne Sandberg in a trade for a no-hit no field shorstop was the worst trade in Phillies history.

bottom of page