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Coopertition

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When I was an undergraduate, one of my majors was something called communication, a fascinating discipline, yet one prone to a certain eccentric, make-it-up-as-we-go-around vibe. One of the oddest concepts I learned---though I confess I cannot recall the class where I learned it---was coopertition.

That's a quaint amalgamation of "cooperation" and "competition." And it appears to be a term that's actually used in actual industries. Call it applied learning, I suppose.

The thought occurs to me that the baseball expression (and cliche) The best trades are those that help both teams is a prime expression of coopertition. I'm not exactly sure that is how trades should be evaluated, especially in this age of unified league offices and interleague play; however, there must be some basis to the saying. (I would imagine one of the bases lies in the realization that all MLB teams are partners in an anticompetitive cabal.)

Consequently, the related thought occurs to me that maybe the prism through which we have viewed---and still do view---the Alfonso Soriano for Brad Wilkerson (and Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarraga) trade is unnecessarily adversarial. Maybe it's an example of coopertition.

Now, this is not a facile attempt at getting out of crediting Jim Bowden with a good trade---and it will go down as a good trade, undoubtedly, as he will get more for Soriano than he would have for the Wilkerson package when the Lernastens sell the farm (or, rather, sell the existing equipment in order to build up the farm). Just as Harper has, I have re-evaluated the trade---something that it easier to do when your team's return has nineteen home runs already, admittedly---and the only conclusion that can be made is that it was a good trade for the Washington Nationals. It was a good trade for Jim Bowden; according to Tom Verducci in this week's Sports Illustrated, Bowden's future depends on the outcome of his DUI prosecution. I have to think the Soriano trade has spared him even that much grace.

Make no mistake: Viewed through an adversarial prism, as an example of a "challenge trade," Bowden has won this trade. Take not one iota from him there. Soriano has been awesome, and I've enjoyed him as the star of my favorite team. Simply put, he's become my favorite player on my favorite team. I'm thankful to Bowden for bringing the guy to the Nats.

Yet, I was reminded of the coopertition principle yesterday while I was listening to "The Baseball Beat" on XM Homeplate. Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News was on for a segment, and he noted that the Texas Rangers would not be inclined to take back the trade if they had the opportunity. And yes, Fraley does know Soriano has nineteen homers. This assessment was not a denial of Soriano's, well, awesomeness thus far; instead, it reflected what the Rangers themselves gained in the transaction:

  • A player with an enhanced ability to get on base, one who is leading the team in runs scored
  • Better defense overall, and at second base
  • An ability to create space for a top prospect to play
  • Added payroll flexibility
At any rate, you might find Fraley's points wet, especially in light of Soriano's torrid start, but that was his take from the perspective of the Rangers. Did they win? Well, under an adversarial system, certainly not---at least not at this point, and probably not at any point. But they appeared to gain some important aspects from the transaction, too.

Coopertition, my friends. It might well be a bogus, touchy-feely worldview, but it also is seemingly the only one where you and I can root for the original Mister Chevy Chase to do well---while also, of course, rooting for Alfonso Soriano to do well.