“Our job as fans is to embrace the new guys”- Rex Hudler
During today’s spring training broadcast of the Angels (lead by John Lackey) and Cubs Rex Hudler made the above statement.
That is a noble idea, but is it necessarily true? And if it is true, isn’t it much easier said than done?
To “embrace” the new players seems to imply that we forget our old heroes, which is why this is such a difficult task. Welcoming and embracing Gary Mathews Jr., for example, is the final farewell to Darin Erstad. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not ready to say goodbye to a leader like Erstad, I don’t know that I ever will be. It seems no matter how many seasons I sit through I can not adjust to the constant arrivals and departures of the next great man to see time in the Majors. If there is one consistency in baseball, it seems to be the inconstancy of a team’s roster.
In 1936, when DiMaggio finally made his Spring Training debut with the Yankees, Dan Daniel immediately championed him as “the replacement for Babe Ruth.” Imagine the shock of Yankee fans everywhere at hearing this. I am by no means a Ruth fan, if anything I am a Ruth detractor but to put myself in the shoes of New Yorkers in the 1930’s, I would have been appalled. Not only did they let Ruth go back to Boston (albeit in a different uniform), but now they are replacing him? A legendary figure being replaced? Its lucky for him that DiMaggio’s first club was the Yankees (that Barrow was “willing” to take a risk on a kid with a bum knee from San Francisco), because if he wasn’t there is no telling how the fans would have reacted. Case in Point? 1961.
Ruth’s last year with the Yankees was 1935. 36 years later, when Mantle and Maris have the great shoot-out, Yankee fans were not happy. The number of death threats that Maris received is remarkable. And this was 36 years later. You can argue that it was because Maris was not a “homegrown” boy (he had just become an All Star with the Athletics), whereas Mantle (the fan favorite) was. This can be compounded by the fact that Mantle was the “replacement” for DiMaggio, who was the “replacement” for Ruth, and incurred much less resentment from the fans.
So while it is difficult to embrace new players, perhaps it is easier to accept players who have come up through the organization. When Spiezio left the Angels between the 2003 and 2004 seasons I cried. But I had stated that I would be less upset if Robb Quinlan could take his spot. But even Kasey Kotchman would not do. And this year Kendrick will not replace Kennedy. And Cabrera is still no replacement for Eckstein in my eyes.
Its not to say that I don’t get excited over new free agent acquisitions. And I do understand that there are only so many spots on a roster. But my boys will always do it better than yours. And as harsh as it may sound the new guys need to earn my respect. I’ve seen too many players come and go for more money. I’ve seen great prospects fail at the Major League level. I’ve seen free agents not report to camp, or perhaps even worse not show up in shape. But I’ve also seen guys get traded after a great season, with seemingly no reward for an amazing career (sometimes with the same club). And what about Lou Gehrig he and Eleanor had been promised by Yankee management to be looked after, we all know how that turned out.
So I suppose I don’t think it is our “job” to embrace them. I think that it is our job to greet them with an open mind. Let them prove themselves to us, but don’t give them “the pass.” Here is to you Angels’ 2007 rookies and newly signed players. Show me that you can fill the great shoes of Erstad, Salmon, and all the others. But remember you will never replace them, but I do have room in my heart for a few new heroes.
So long Darin Erstad, you gave us some great years.
Too bad you are now a hated White Sock. Of all the teams, the White Sox, really? Do you realize you will now be playing with one of the biggest cheaters in baseball history. No, I am not refering to 1919, Buck Weaver, or even Shoeless Joe. I’m refering to more recent history.
Recall 2005. And the man I speak of probably will be written off shortly after his retirement, not revered as a hero, AJ Pierzynski. Josh Paul clearly had the ball in his glove. And Doug Eddings is possibly the worst umpire ever, and certainly the worst that I have ever had the misfortune of seeing.
Why Erstad, why? I don’t think that baseball players make too much money. I don’t argue with their salaries. Go make more money, but have a little loyalty and don’t go somewhere that directly screwed your hometeam over. That hurts.
And then their is the Podsednik issue. Was it not too long ago that Angel fans were suggesting "FIGGINS FOR PODSEDNIK, HEY WE COULD EVEN THROUGH IN ERVIN"? Well, gee, that would have worked out great for everyone. We could have given up one of the best utility players of our time, the rookie that lead our team in wins, and in return gotten a mediocore player that will miss the first 6 weeks of the season. Seems fair. NO.
And on another point, what is it with this Bears fan that is auctioning of space on her pregnant stomach for superbowl tickets? Seriously?? Who is going to buy something advertised by someone that likes Rex Grossman. Certainly not me. I hope companies, and advertisers keep that in mind, no one likes Rex Grossman, and I hope that no one would take anything someone claiming to be a Grossman fan seriously. Her one restriction is "no rooting for the Colts". Well fine, we don’t want someone who likes Rex Grossman rooting for us anyways.