Monday, January 6, 2014

Sign on the Dotted Line...

In today's world with all the blogs, the tweets, the Facebook updates, the Instagram photos and every other outlet associated with social media there is a steady stream of what can only be classified as "OPINION." If someone has the opportunity to scroll past the politically themed opinion posts they will move straight onto the sports themed opinions. And some times, throwing legislation and lobbyists out the water, the opinions held about sports are the most divisive and cutthroat.

I won't pretend to know anything about football because that's just not who I am and therefore not what I will make any reference to. I know baseball. I live baseball. I love baseball. I breathe baseball. So I follow every social media outlet there is and watch countless hours of the MLB Network to hear all of these opinions. What player has the best chances at be traded to [insert team name here]? Salary caps and a luxury tax won't stop [insert team name here] from throwing it's hand into the mix! How much is too much for a player? How old is "too old" for baseball? The divisive and cutthroat nature of baseball debates and simple conversations rises far above the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry and definitely raises similar overly dramatic reactions like those in the infamous "Pine Tar Game" of '83.

Surrounding the myriad of rumors and backroom deals, concessions and compromises, hardball and desperation is a question that I can't seem to move past when it comes to playing the sport of baseball: Loyalty. And the term "loyalty" has many facets. One, being a fan's affiliation with a team. Two, a player's affiliation with a team. And three, management's affiliation with a team. What is the common factor among these three parties in terms of loyalty?

As a little girl I thought if you were a Yankee player then you stayed a Yankee player. I born in 1984 and came into loving baseball with the birth of the Core Four. Of course I had that thought ingrained in my mind. Bernie Williams was always going to be a Yankee. Derek Jeter was always going to be a Yankee. Mariano Rivera was always going to be a Yankee. And except for a short lapse of judgement (and possible head injury, I'm not sure) Andy Pettitte was always going to be a Yankee. This was how my mind worked. This is what I believed to be the beauty of baseball. This is when I was innocent and didn't understand the complications of "loyalty."

Loyalty is comprised of winning... money... and legacy. The fans, the players and management want to win games. The players want to make money, management wants to spend just as much as they have to, and fans want the ability to afford a stadium seat and perhaps a bobblehead. And legacy: a fan wants a player that will carry that number and that uniform for his entire career. A player wants to be remembered for all they did for a team, the records they broke and the stadium they helped build. And management wants to have the ability to use the player's legacy to promote their team.

So when winning, money and legacy are added together in a probable equation of trying to understand baseball one can only understand the heated tempers that flair, the chairs that fly, the jerseys that burn and the heads that bang the wall as a result of a player choosing one of the three over all the others. If Cano had accepted the Yankees offer and stayed in the Bronx he would have been adored by his fans, fostered his blatant pinstripe legacy, and the Yankee franchise would have Robbie once again at 2nd base making plays and generating money. His name and number one day to hang, retired, in Monument Park.

Legacy was abandoned in the deal with Robinson Cano and the Yankees. When he chose to go to Seattle was it for the money? Was it because he was displeased with New York's management? Was he weary of the fans in the Bronx and their intolerance for big names not really stepping up to the plate? Did he put aside the Yankees "Dynasty" for World Series in hopes that a deal with the Mariners would give him more exposure and ample records to break? What dissection of loyalty occurred to remove such a beloved Yankee from the Bronx to Seattle?

Unless we are the player himself, we will never truly know. And I think that's what frustrates not only the fans and management, but also fellow teammates. Tempers rage and emotions run high because with the swipe of a pen and the swap of a jersey at a press conference that staple at second base or centerfield or on the mound that you watch for 162 or more games is no longer "your guy." He belongs to another team. Loyalty feels like betrayal. It becomes personal. This intensity is not the case obviously with every trade as some players have a dozen jerseys spanning their career with various teams. But when a player is a team hero... a staple on Opening Day... and he leaves your beloved team for another the question of loyalty is all that can be raised.

As long as there are players to be traded and deals to be made, baseball will be inundated with opinions and reactionary emotions. But at the root of it all is again, "loyalty." This time for the simple love, passion and loyalty for the sport of Baseball.

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