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9 of the Biggest Trades in Baseball History—And How They Worked Out

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The Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins pulled off a blockbuster deal on Tuesday night that sends Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and others to Toronto in exchange for several young players and touted prospects. Analysts were quick to point out that this deal was more a "fire sale" -- the Blue Jays take on a reported $155 million in the deal -- than about the quality of the players involved. In total, this trade would lead to upwards of nine players, and possibly more, changing teams.

Toronto is known for these big deals: They pulled off a 10-player deal with Houston back in July, and an 11-player deal with two other teams the year before. While we don't know how all the buying and selling will impact the Blue Jays, here's a look back at how some of the biggest trades in MLB history turned out.

1. Yankees and Orioles, 1954: 18 players

On Nov. 18, 1954, the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles pulled off the largest deal in MLB history. Baltimore sent Bob Turley, Don Larsen and Billy Hunter to New York for Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Hal Smith, Gus Triandos, Gene Woodling and Willie Miranda. The deal was completed on December 1 after a Thanksgiving break when Baltimore traded Dick Kryhoski, Mike Blyzka, Darrell Johnson and Jim Fridley to New York for Bill Miller, Kal Segrist, Don Leppert, Ted Del Guercio, and a player to be named later (which apparently never occurred). It was what the Yankees needed to propel themselves ahead of Cleveland, who the previous year had gone 111-43 en route to the division win. The Orioles, on the other hand, were coming off a 100-loss season and this deal didn't do much to turn around their luck.

2. A's and Tigers, 1957: 13 players

The Kansas City Athletics traded Billy Martin, Gus Zernial, Tom Morgan, Lou Skizas, Mickey McDermott and Tim Thompson to the Tigers on Nov. 20, 1957, and got back Bill Tuttle, Jim Small, Duke Maas, John Tsitouris, Frank House, Kent Hadley and Jim McManus. The deal wound up favoring the A's slightly, but it also was part of a "pointless frenzy of moves" for the team, according to Hardball Times. As for Martin, the most famous name in the deal, he would be traded away the following year, then three more times the next three years. As talented as he was, Martin simply couldn't control himself and get along with management. Anywhere.

3. A's and Yankees, 1957: 12 players

Just 10 months earlier, Kansas City traded Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, Jack McMahan, Wayne Belardi and two players to be named later to the New York Yankees for Billy Hunter, Rip Coleman, Tom Morgan, Mickey McDermott, Milt Graff and Irv Noren. Curt Roberts went to Kansas City and Clete Boyer was sent to New York in the spring to complete the deal. Most notably, Boyer became the Yankees' starting 3rd baseman and stayed there for seven years, earning himself five pennants and two World Series championships. These teams loved to deal with each other: Ditmar returned to the A's in 1961.

4. Astros and Padres, 1994: 12 players

A modern blockbuster occurred on Dec. 28, 1994. The Astros traded Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Andujar Cedeno, Roberto Petagine, Brian Williams and a player to be named later to the San Diego Padres for Phil Plantier, Derek Bell, Pedro A. Martinez, Doug Brocail, Craig Shipley and Ricky Guttierez. The Astros' success was impeded by the 1994 baseball strike, but many fans expected Houston back at or near the top of their division the following year. That became a longshot when the team had to unload Caminiti and Finley in the prime of their careers to help the organization keep their star asset, Jeff Bagwell. Although Derek Bell had some success in an Astros' uniform, the deal wound up helping the Padres a great deal more and it's considered one of the worst trades Houston has ever made.

5. Mets, Mariners and Indians, 2008: 12 players

In a three-team trade on Dec. 11, 2008, the Mets sent Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Jason Vargas, and three minor leaguers (Maikel Cleto, Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera) to the Mariners. The Mariners sent New York relievers J.J. Putz and Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed. In the same deal, the Indians sent outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners for Mets' pitcher Joe Smith and Mariners second baseman Luis Valbuena. In the short run, all three teams rid themselves of perceived problem spots and paved the way for others waiting to step in. But none of the young prospects in the deal wound up making a splash in the Majors.

6. A's and Yankees, 1953: 11 players

The Yankees and A's got their trading trend started on Dec. 16, 1953, when New York shipped Jim Finigan, Dan Bollweg, John Gray, Jim Robertson, Vic Power and Bill Renna to the Philadelphia Athletics for Harry Byrd, Eddie Robinson, Tom Hamilton, Carmen Mauro and Lauren Babe. In a move that should surprise no one, the Yankees got ahold of Byrd, a top-caliber pitcher that the A's just couldn't afford to pay. It was a salary relief move that would give Kansas City some young players with which to build their franchise.

7. Padres and Cardinals, 1980: 11 players

The Padres traded Rollie Fingers, Bob Shirley, Gene Tenace and Bob Geren to St. Louis on Dec. 8, 1980, for Terry Kennedy, Steve Swisher, Mike Phillips, John Littlefield, John Urrea, Kim Seaman and Al Olmsted. Fingers was then packaged with several others four days later in a seven-player deal with Milwaukee. The Padres, with a roster chock full of forgettable names, finished in last place in both halves of the strike-shortened 1981 season. On the bright side, that spring the Padres drafted Tony Gwynn and John Kruk.

8. Mariners and Rangers, 1980: 11 players

The same week the Padres and Cardinals pulled off their deal, the Mariners and Rangers announced one of their own. On Dec. 12, 1980, Seattle sent Rick Honeycutt, Mario Mendoza, Larry Cox, Leon Roberts and Willie Horton to Texas for Richie Zisk, Rick Auerbach, Ken Clay, Jerry Don Gleaton, Brian Allard and Steve Finch. Yes, that Mario Mendoza, famous for finishing his Major League career with a .215 career batting average and who would be attached to "The Mendoza Line," the line representing futility. The trade didn't seem to help either team.

9. Mets, Brewers and Rockies, 2002: 11 players

The Mets struck a three-way deal on Jan. 21, 2002 when they acquired Jeff D'Amico, Jeromy Burnitz, Lou Collier, Mark Sweeney and cash from Milwaukee, and Ross Gload and Craig House from Colorado. New York sent Glendon Rusch to Milwaukee, and Todd Zeile, Benny Agbayani, Lenny Harris and cash to Colorado. Milwaukee also got Alex Ochoa from Colorado. It was all part of the Mets' efforts to revamp their roster in the offseason. Burnitz didn't wind up being the answer for the team looking for a big bat.

Buying in Bulk: Federal League Transactions

A century ago, teams turned to the Federal League for their talent. On Feb. 10, 1916, Chicago Federal League team sold Mordecai Brown, Clem Clemens, Mickey Doolan, Bill Fischer, Max Flack, Claude Hendrix, Les Mann, Dykes Potter, Joe Tinker, Rollie Zeider and George McConnell to the Cubs for cash.

Then, on Feb. 10, 1916, St. Louis Federal League team sold Eddie Plank, Babe Borton, Harry Chapman, Doc Crandall, Charlie Deal, Bob Groom, Grover Hartley, Amando Marsans, Ward Miller, Johnny Tobin and Ernie Johnson to the Browns for cash. Several future Hall of Famers switched teams in their own cities that week. Not a bad way to build a team: all at once.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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