The Childhood Dream, Almost

Adam Wainwright celebrates after closing out the St. Louis Cardinals' 3-1 victory over the New York Mets in Game 7 of the NLCS.
Adam Wainwright celebrates after closing out the St. Louis Cardinals' 3-1 victory over the New York Mets in Game 7 of the NLCS. (By Winslow Townson -- Associated Press)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 24 -- In a Brunswick, Ga., home sits a picture, yellowed with age, of young Adam and Trey Wainwright dressed in Atlanta Braves uniforms. The photo caused quite a bit of embarrassment for the brothers when it was circulated by a television station after the younger sibling, Adam, was selected by the Braves in the first round of the 2000 draft.

The Wainwrights, who are seven years apart in age, had plotted for Adam to be drafted by the team he had rooted for all his life by refusing to talk to any other teams and threatening that Adam would go to Georgia Tech should another club draft him.

Adam Wainwright had hoped to lead the Braves to the World Series. Instead, he has made it to the Series, but as the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals. Wainwright's story is a cautionary tale for teams that want to deal prospects to make a postseason run. Because where would the Braves be now if they had kept Wainwright? Perhaps, as he had dreamed, Wainwright might have led them to the World Series.

"Yeah, there's a part of you" that regrets the trade, said former Atlanta executive Dayton Moore, now the Kansas City Royals' general manager. "You wouldn't be a human being if you didn't."

The contract negotiations between the Braves and Wainwright took just two days, and the deal was hammered out by Moore and Trey Wainwright, then a 25-year-old, first-year law school student, who had interned with a sports agent and studied the draft process. Moore basically camped out near the Wainwright house for 24 hours.

"It was a good negotiation," Moore said. "A fair negotiation. Very cooperative."

There was no need for super agents or holdouts because Adam loved the Braves and badly wanted to play for them.

"The Braves were notorious for drafting in state," Adam Wainwright said. "They knew drafting me in that position, they could sign me."

So Wainwright became a $1.25 million bonus baby for his beloved Braves. But Atlanta, during its 14-year run as division champion, at times was pressed to make trades to stay on top. In late 2003, the Braves decided that to make a play for the World Series they desperately needed outfielder J.D. Drew, then with the Cardinals. In return, St. Louis insisted on Wainwright.

"I know from the player-development side we were adamant about not wanting to deal him," Moore said. Braves General Manager John Schuerholz "was trying to structure the deal where he wouldn't be a part of it."

But Cardinals General Manager Walt Jocketty would not make the deal without Wainwright.

"He was a big part of the deal for us," Jocketty said.

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