Where Have All the Franchise Players Gone?

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January 3, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Khalid Bennett

One of the great things about the Yankee dynasty in the late ’90s/early ’00s was the “Core Four”. The “Core Four” consisted of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. They were together from 1996 all the way to Boston Red Sox collapse of 2004. They were even together through the tough times before another championship in 2009. Pettitte was the only one to leave to another team but smartly came back for a fifth ring.

You can even add Bernie Williams in the equation.

Now it’s December 27th, 2013 and we have past the craziness of the winter meetings. Jeter is the only one left from that “Four Core”. As the Yankees continue to make their usual blockbuster moves to win a championship, we lost another home grown Yankee. Robinson Cano seemed to be the next long term Yankee. Then he pulled an Alex Rodriguez on us. He signed a 10-year, $240 million contract to go to the Seattle Mariners. Trust me, I was shocked just like every other Yankee. So now, the Yankee roster consists of Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, and Ivan Nova as the current New York Yankees, who have stayed in the organization since day one.

This is about the decline of the one team/long term baseball player.

I don’t know what else to call it. I can’t say home grown because that means that the player grew up in the same city as the baseball team. I can’t say franchise player because that would assume that the baseball player is and will be the leader of the franchise to come. In reality, there have been good to great baseball players that have stayed on one team throughout their careers. So I’ll just call it the one team/long term baseball palyer.

Back in the glory days of baseball, the idea of star players moving from team to team was absurd. This was when baseball wasn’t considered a business. This was when baseball was played for fun. This was when baseball was really America’s past time. Can you say that Babe Ruth was the first one to start the trend of star baseball players moving to different teams? Well not exactly. A lot of people forget that Babe Ruth first started with the Boston Red Sox. He wasn’t the Babe Ruth that everybody knows. The Red Sox decided to trade him to the Yankees and that’s how he became a legend, hence the Curse of the Bambino. There have been players who have been legendary players on certain franchises that were on different teams. Let’s look at David Ortiz. Many of you reading this figure that he was a Boston Red Sox his whole career. Not true. In fact, David Ortiz was a member of the Minnesota Twins between 1997 and 2003. He wasn’t noticed due to all his injuries. He only hit 58 home runs and 238 RBIs in 455 games. Once he signed with the Red Sox, the rest was (unfortunately) history. He has won three World Series and is usually in the top 10 in home runs and RBIs. If he doesn’t go into the Hall of Fame, he’ll definitely be considered one of Boston’s greatest players. There are other baseball players like Ortiz I can talk about but I’ll get into what’s really important.

The main reason one can say for the decline of the one team/long term baseball player is because of free agency. According to a source, a free agent is a player who is eligible to sign with any club or franchise. They don’t have to be under contract with a team. There isn’t a specific year when free agency started in MLB. There really isn’t a player who was like the first one to go to a new team after being with the original team for a long time. But there is one player that has made free agency the way it is now. His name is Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Rodriguez is a special case when it comes to free agency and the decline of the one team/long term baseball player. Rodriguez was considered one of the best baseball players in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was so great that he was already on record to break every offensive stat. He started off his career with the Seattle Mariners. He spent seven years as a Mariner. He could’ve stayed with the Mariners but decided to sign with the Texas Rangers as a free agent. What was so significant about this signing? He signed with the Rangers with a 10-year/$252 million contract, which was considered the most in sports history. He only stayed in Texas for three years before being traded to the Yankees. And you know how the rest goes.

This was significant in baseball. Not only did it lead to free agency being vital in baseball, it lead to these ridiculous big contracts.

Baseball players such as Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, JD Drew, Josh Hamilton, and others fell victim to the big market and big contract signings. I get that they were already great players in the MLB but it seems like once they have a big contract, they decline. It hasn’t really been proving that signing a huge deal works in the long run. It also seems like playing with a team for a long time and being successful doesn’t mean anything, even if you win the World Series the previous year.

2013 has been a prime example of how free agency has affected the decline of the one team/long term baseball player. I can start with the Yankees. They signed Brian McCann from the Atlanta Braves for 5 years and $85 million. He was a pretty good offensive player for the Braves and could’ve been their catcher for a very long time but went to the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury had been an important player and lead-off hitter for the Boston Red Sox, who just won a World Series. Now he’s with the Yankees for 7 years and $153 million. And of course, they let Robinson Cano go sign with the Seattle Mariners for 10 years and $240 million. Cano seemed to be the next best second baseman for the New York Yankees for years to come. Now he’ll be considered another A-Rod type player.

So who will be the last great/hall of fame player to stay with one team for his whole career? It’s funny how with these new players coming on to the Hall of Fame ballot in the upcoming years, these might’ve been the last wave of players to play with one team through their whole career.

Who knows how free agency will affect the next upcoming baseball players? The way I see it, if you want to stay with one team your whole career, you better be a good role player and do just above average. And even then you may not know what your destiny might be.

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