BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.
• Based purely on performance, it seems the Orioles clearly came out ahead, but …
The Rays traded Beckham to open second base for Brad Miller to play every day (after acquiring Lucas Duda to DH), and that hasn't gone well, as Miller is hitting .190 with four homers, nine RBIs and a .636 OPS in 44 games since.
"We bet on Brad for his track record," manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Orioles. "At the time he was not having the success that he had shown in the past, and we bet that he was going to turn it around with two months to play."
Beckham, meanwhile, has played much better for the O's than he did the Rays, hitting .310, with 10 homers, 26 RBIs and an .894 OPS in 47 games as the primary shortstop.
But he has cooled considerably since a sizzling first month, dropping from .394 (50-for-127) in August to .171 (13-for-76) thus far in September, which is pretty much where he was over his final six weeks with the Rays.
Those who watch the Orioles regularly say has started doing some of the same infuriating things he did with the Rays, being too casual and a bit careless in the field, making bad decisions on the bases.
Plus, no less an authority than Orioles manager Buck Showalter cautioned — albeit perhaps out of courtesy — not to jump to conclusions, noting the prime potential of low-level pitching prospect Tobias Myers the Rays got back.
"I never say this team won this trade or that trade. Wait until about 10 years," he said. "I wouldn't underestimate how much they thought of Tobias Myers. I know I thought a lot of him. He reminds me a lot of a young (Chris) Archer, a lot of similarities."
• Beckham said he considered his Rays career "in the past," but …
In a short clubhouse interview led by the Orioles' MASN-TV crew, he said "it'll be fun" to play against his ex-mates (he was out Thursday due to wisdom tooth extraction) but otherwise considered his Rays career behind him and was focused on the "new scenery" and the "start of a new journey," noting the "great group of guys" he is now playing with.
Except when I followed up with a few more questions, Beckham sure sounded like he wasn't quite over it.
He blew off a question on what was different for him with the O's, got defensive when asked if he felt he had proved himself ("I don't have to prove anything"), and said "I don't have nothing to talk about; my play on the field, that's what I need to talk about."
And before ending the conversation, he made it clear he didn't like what was written when he left: "You tried to crush me over there. … I know what y'all were trying to do."
• The Rays players know trades are just part of the business and the season goes on, but …
Though the Rays won three of four games from the Astros after Beckham was traded, they quickly went into the spiral that knocked them from playoff contention, losing 12 of 15 and being shutout five times. (Overall, they were 54-52 with Beckham, 20-27 since.)
It seems excessive to suggest the loss of one player — and one who had been struggling and sulking for weeks about being moved off shortstop with the acquisition of major upgrade Adeiny Hechavarria — could be a prime reason for their fall.
But, with the narrative driving a results-oriented conclusion, Logan Morrison and Steven Souza Jr. were among several Rays saying they felt trading Beckham — after the previous additions of Duda, Hechavarria and relievers Steve Cishek, Dan Jennings and Sergio Romo — was at least a part, citing how he had played for them, how competitive he was, how much they liked him and having him in their clubhouse.
"It did change things," starter Alex Cobb said. "Looking back, it's hard not to wonder if trading Beckham and not getting a major-league piece back … that last move is what you remember, and it's a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth. You feel like you took away from part of your major-league team and didn't make it better.
"It's not fair to the front office, but looking back that seems to be what might have transpired with that move."
Sometimes, it's hard to know what to think.