I was watching the Brewers and Cardinals play Game Six of their series last night when my mind started wandering towards a thought I will be sharing here for the next few minutes. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder were competing for the teams they have been with for their entire careers. They are both free agents this coming off-season, and both have been speculated to be signing with another team. I for one would like to see them both stay where they started. Maybe it’s the old school baseball romantic that I am, that tells me they should stay. Or it could be that I am just old. Either way I hope they do stay.
Don’t baseball fans of today deserve to see the big sluggers stay with an organization for their career, or at least stay through their prime? I am pretty sure that all of us baseball fans can name an iconic ball player of their time that was with their team for all of their prime or even their full career. Back in the days when we didn’t need the afternoon announcement of the manager’s lineup because, for the most part, we already knew it, day in and day out. We also knew that our 3-4-5 hitters were coming back each year. We even knew that when our team had some prospects make the big club at the same time, we could count on several years of seeing these kids grow up together. It was exciting to see and to believe in. Now it’s more like college sports where the maximum time a player is going to be in town is four years at a time, and that’s only if they are good enough to keep the ownership from thinking the grass is looking greener elsewhere. Maybe it’s the 162 game schedule, or maybe I am jaded by Boston’s scrutiny of players, but I swear clubs go out of their way to dramatize the abilities of players in other organizations. It’s like being in a good relationship, when you really get in there and get close to someone, there are details that we all learn about one another. We understand what works and what doesn’t, we understand the strengths and weaknesses, we also understand “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” ― Aristotle. Baseball ownership seems to miss this for some reason.
So we have these two premier sluggers of their era. Pujols is already headed for Cooperstown. Fielder will be there too if he puts up numbers in the next six seasons like he has in his first six seasons. Did you know that of the top 20 home run hitters of all-time, there are only 3 players who played their entire career with the same organization? They are Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams. If you look through the list there are several other players who played with just two teams and most of their prime with just one organization.
Albert Pujols is in the top ten of just about every offensive category in the storied history of the Cardinals organization. If he stays in St. Louis and has an average Pujols year next season, he would pass Stan Musial as the Cardinals’ all-time home run leader, and in other categories he would trail only Musial, and fellow hall-of-famer, Lou Brock. Pujols has led the Cards’ to the post season seven times in his 11-year career, and they are going to the World Series for the 3rd time since he arrived in St. Louis. I think it would be great to see him stay with the Cards, and finish his career there. When he’s done, they can retire his #5, he can be one of the great Cardinals’ of all-time and take his place in Cooperstown with the Cardinals hat on his bust.
Prince Fielder in just 6 full seasons, is in the top ten of many of the Brewers offensive categories. If he does sign to stay in Milwaukee, he surely would battle with hall-of-famers, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor for the top three offensive spots in Brewers history. Fielder and the Brewers have been to playoffs twice in his six full seasons. If you watched any games played in Milwaukee this year, you can feel the great atmosphere there. I have been to Miller Park and it’s just a fun place. It has to be one of the few baseball stadiums that has a ‘football tailgating feel’ outside, and just plain excitement for the home team inside. The Brewers had the best home record in baseball this year, and that atmosphere in Miller Park is one of the reasons why.
I hope they both stay with their clubs, but I doubt they both will. The fans in St. Louis and Milwaukee certainly deserve to see their baseball stars stay right where they became stars. I know it’s about money. Too much of sports is about money. I just wish sometimes it could be about quality of life and what works. The money part is often times the part that breaks down in a baseball relationship, which means that part of it probably wasn’t right to begin with.