clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The One That Got Away

Each year on this day, we remember.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

July 31, 2067 7:35 p.m.

Tampa Bay, FL

Fifty years ago today, the Tampa Bay Rays made a seemingly innocuous move at the 2017 trade deadline. The team sent the recently-knighted Sir Tim Beckham to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for right-handed pitcher Tobias Myers, a name that now lives in infamy.

The Rays broke the age-old mantra of not trading within their division, but little did they know what they were trading away at the time. Tim Beckham had been a productive hitter with the Rays (career OPS+ of 97 with Tampa Bay), and the fanbase was mostly upset with the trade even in the hours after it was announced. Little did they know what they would come to miss.

* * *

On January 6, 1920, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold George Herman “Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000. Over the years since, the apocrypha have spread as wide as to claim Frazee sold Ruth to fund a play of his own, but the decision came down to not believing the hard-partying Ruth would age well, and the sum from the Yankees being too much to turn down. A hundred grand doesn’t sound like much now, but it was the most a baseball player had ever been moved for at the time.

The move was eventually declared the namesake of a curse that haunted the Red Sox for nearly a century and brought the Yankees more rings and riches than they could have even dreamed. It was a move that was unrivaled throughout all baseball history in its impact on two distinct franchises.

That is, it was unrivaled until that fateful 2017 trade deadline.

* * *

When Tim Beckham started off with Baltimore Orioles career with a two-week stretch in which he slashed .484/.500/.855 with four homers in 15 games, folks thought it was just a hot streak. He was sporting a .553 BABIP for goodness sake. (He had a .571 average on ground balls!) He obviously couldn’t be worth 17.3 WAR/162 games — the incredible pace at which he had started off his Baltimore career, right?


He could.

* * *

Fans today, in the year 2067, obviously know the name Tim Beckham. Beckham has gone down with Tiger, Messi, and Turvey Jr. as the one-name legends whose faces will be carved into next year’s upcoming sports Mount Rushmore in Custer, South Dakota. People remember him for his 45 home runs and 170 runs scored in 2018, the first of ten straight MVPs for Beckham. People remember him for his record-breaking 257 OPS+ in 2020, the same year he led the Orioles to their third of what would eventually become nine straight World Series victories. People remember him for his 15.9 WAR season in 2025 when he became the first MLB player to ever be canonized by the pope. (And the first-ever live saint!)

But Rays fans still remember him as The One That Got Away.

“You know, I saw signs of that player who would eventually be the first to hit .500 in a full MLB season when he was with the Rays,” DRays Bay writer, Darby Robinson noted. “He may have hit .247 in his actual Rays career, but he seemed right on the edge of .500 the whole time.”

“It’s a shame that *cough* he *cough* was *cough* run *cough* out *cough* of *cough* town *cough* by *cough* certain *cough* media *cough* members,” DRays Bay’s John Ford said, while apparently needing a glass of water.

“I still refuse to believe his .909 BABIP on line drives isn’t part of a fever dream from which I have yet to wake up,” DRays Bay’s JT Morgan droned.

Go up to any Rays fan and just whisper the word “Timmy,” you’re guaranteed to see a full-body flinch followed by ten straight minutes of uninterrupted head shaking and muttering.

* * *

The now-infamous trade sent the Rays into the death spiral that has unfolded over the past 50 years. At first it didn’t seem terrible. They were 6-8 in the first 14 games without him, but it’s a long season, you’re bound to lose 8 of 14 every now and then. Then there was the eight-game losing streak in late August, and the 6-20 September. But that was just the beginning. The Rays went 62-100 in 2018, and then set a new MLB record with 125 losses in 2019. By 2020, the Rays reached true rock bottom when they renamed their stadium “Please come back, Timmy” while in the midst of a 104-game losing streak.

* * *

Now the Rays have shown signs of life in recent years, as they broke their decade-long losing streak in 2062 with a win over the Boise Bois, but times are still tough. The Rays haven’t had a winning season since they traded Beckham, while the Orioles have 15 titles to their name. Beckham is, of course, now the owner of the O’s and has refused to show mercy on his exes in Tampa, with the Orioles owning a 432-game win streak over the Rays as of now.

Of course, the Boston Red Sox and their fans once believed a title would never happen in their lifetime, and they won three titles in 15 years at the start of the 21st century, before the salacious scandal that rocked their franchise to the core and caused the team to fold in 2019.

There’s hope for Rays fans, but they can’t help but think what could have been. What could have been if they simply hadn’t traded Mr. Beckham, Tim Terrific, Our 56th President, and a the face on the $50 bitcoin. On this day, Rays fans remember.