The NFL Draft has captured the public imagination in a way that no one could have imagined three decades ago. There is an entire cottage industry related to the draft, which has become a multi-million dollar business.

The reason is obvious. Fans are passionate about their teams and the draft is the vehicle that offers hope for better days, even for teams with a skinflint like Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals doing the selecting.

As much as I love the draft, though, there is another time of the year that is equally as enjoyable: Major League Baseball's trade deadline. It offers a lot more tangible hope for a fan than a draft of players unproven at the professional level. Because for every Peyton Manning taken at the top of the NFL Draft, there are dozens more like David Carr and David Klingler who shatter dreams quicker than a Neftali Feliz heater.

You never know quite what you're getting, no matter how appetizing it looks, in the NFL Draft.

Such is not the case in Major League Baseball, whose trade deadline arrives Sunday afternoon at 4 ET. In that scenario, you know exactly what you're getting.

Is your team in need of production from an outfielder: Well, all you have to do is to check out the statistics on the Yahoo! Sports baseball page to know how Hunter Pence may impact your team's lineup.

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Do you think your team is a lock for the postseason if the bullpen could just close out games? Well, there is no question how well Heath Bell will handle that role. That's a done deal.

That's what makes the trade deadline so much more enjoyable than the draft. With the draft, you can speculate on what you are getting. At the trade deadline, you know.

There have been some epic trade deadline deals over the years, none likely better in recent vintage than the 1987 swap between the Detroit Tigers and the Atlanta Braves. The Braves were a mess of a franchise in those days, but had a veteran pitcher, Doyle Alexander, who was having a good season.

The Tigers were contenders and were in need of a quality starter. So they gave up a young and largely unheralded pitching prospect in order to acquire Alexander.

The trade worked, but for whom? Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA and the Tigers won the division that year. But Alexander then went 20-29 the next two seasons and retired.

The player the Tigers gave up? Well, that was John Smoltz. He became one of the great pitchers of his ERA, winning 213 games (210 of them for the Braves) and saving 154 more (all of them with Atlanta).

Did the Tigers win the deal because they accomplished their aim of winning the division? Or were the Braves the winners by giving up a guy who wasn't do much to help them avoid the National League West basement in exchange for a future Cy Young winner and eight-time All-Star?

Twitter was built for things like the trading deadline. Reporters now have a vehicle for their "insider" information and can let the fans know what they're "hearing," even if there aren't many people with direct knowledge of what is going on who are talking.

As a Pirates fan, I'm desperate for the team to dump an underachiever like Lyle Overbay for a guy who could, you know, get a hit more often than every now and then. So when I turn to Twitter, I hear that the Pirates are, or have been, "in on" established hitters like Pence and Josh Willingham and Carlos Lee and Jason Kubel.

With the kind of pitching the Pirates have gotten, an impact hitter could actually turn this team into Cinderella and do for Pittsburgh what Doyle Alexander did for Detroit oh so many years ago?

I know all about Alexander for Smoltz and Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell and I fret just like every other member of "Bucco Nation" that Neal Huntington will give away the few quality prospects the franchise for a .215 hitter.

There is hope, though, that help may be on the way. And that's what makes the trade deadline so great.

Andy Williams was right: It's the most wonderful time of the year. He was crooning about the baseball trade deadline, wasn't he?

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