Monday, July 27, 2009

Is Loyalty in Baseball a Thing of the Past?

As a baseball fan, I've always had the utmost respect for players who play their entire career with one team. In the old days this was not an unusual phenomena, but since the historic 1976 collective bargaining agreement, these players have become an endangered species. The '76 agreement was monumental because it was the official start of the era of free agency.

On December 23, 1975, the Reserve Clause crumbled, and the dawn of a new era began in baseball. Pitchers Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos played the '75 season without contracts and then demanded the right to put themselves on the open market. A three man panel consisting of a representative for the owners, a rep for the players and an independent arbitrator, Peter Seitz, heard the case. Seitz casted the deciding vote, ruling that Messersmith and McNally were free and had no further obligations to their respective teams. Thus changing the baseball world forever.

A consequence of free agency is that players nowadays rarely play an entire career with one team. They either sign with the highest bidder or smaller market teams trade their high profile players before their contracts expire, just to get something in return rather than having the players walk away for nothing. Such a situation is happening with the Toronto Blue Jays who are shopping ace pitcher Roy Halladay around because of fear of losing him to free agency. There are however one-team players still around . Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees is a perfect example.

With the induction of Jim Rice, who played his entire career with the Boston Red Sox, into the Hall of Fame, I did some research to see how many such players played their entire careers with one team. Considering how many players have played in the Major Leagues over the past 130 years or so, I found it to be a short list. Less than 200 players had careers of at least 10 seasons in the majors all with one team.

After going thru the names, I decided to have a little fun. I put together two All-Star teams, an all-time team and a post-1976 team. The post '76 team is made up of players whose careers began after the 1976 season, hence, the free agent generation.

Remember, only players who played with one team are eligible.

All-Time Team:

C: Johnny Bench (Cincinnati Reds)
1B: Lou Gehrig (New York Yankees)
2B: Jackie Robinson (Brooklyn/LA Dodgers)
SS: Cal Ripken (Baltimore Orioles)
3B: Mike Schmidt (Philadelphia Phillies)
OF: Ted Williams (Boston Red Sox)
OF: Joe DiMaggio (New York Yankees)
OF: Stan Musial (St. Louis Cardinals)
SP: Walter Johnson (Washington Senators)
CL: Mariano Rivera* (New York Yankees)

Bench: Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, George Brett, Mel Ott, Al Kaline, Tony Gwynn, Bill Terry, Robin Yount, Roy Campanella, Carl Yastrzemski, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller

Post-1976 Team:

C: Jorge Posada* (New York Yankees)
1B: Albert Pujols* (St. Louis Cardinals)
2B: Craig Biggio (Houston Astros)
SS: Cal Ripken (Baltimore Orioles)
3B: Chipper Jones* (Atlanta Braves)
OF: Tony Gwynn (San Diego Padres)
OF: Kirby Puckett (Minnesota Twins)
OF: Ichiro Suzuki* (Seattle Mariners)
DH: Edgar Martinez (Seattle Mariners)
SP: Mark Buehrle* (Chicago White Sox)
CL: Mariano Rivera* (New York Yankees)

Bench: Alan Trammell, Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter*, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Jeff Bagwell, Kent Hrbek, Lou Whitaker, Mike Greenwell, Lance Berkman*, Todd Helton*, Mike Scioscia, Tim Salmon, Roy Oswalt*, Brad Radke, Bob Stanley

Note: Players with (*) next to their names are still active and could potentially play for other teams later in their careers. I'll make the adjustments if those situations occur. Roy Halladay and Jake Peavy are no-brainers, but I purposely left them out because of ongoing trade rumors.

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