Sunday, January 11, 2015


In the wake of big money, big data and a combination of both, I have been asking myself and been posed this question a lot lately, "is there such a thing today as the face of a franchise?"  Has this been a past trend that has become virtually outdated or invisible in recent years or months?  I say yes, franchise players have all but disappeared at this point in MLB and other sports as well, with big money and big data replacing the iconic symbol of the game.

MLB Network is in the midst of its "Face of MLB" competition on its Hot Stove for the next few weeks.  I never paid any mind to these sort of competitions because I felt it was sort of senseless.  But, this year, I have been giving it some thought.  With the retirement of Derek Jeter, the shift of guys like Cole Hamels to the auction block, Nick Markakis checking out of Baltimore and Billy Butler, who helped lead and ignite the Kansas City Royals back into the limelight and World Series, moving to the West Coast Oakland A's in a three-year deal worth $30 million, I sit hear baffled as to whether or not we can even honestly and assuredly vote for a franchise player today. 

There has been speculation among fans and bloggers alike that Brett Gardner is the Yankees' new franchise player but really, I am not sold.  Before I can actually make that assertion, I would need to first define what a franchise player is and what characteristics he holds.  According to ESPN's David Schoenfield of the Franchise Player Draft, a "franchise player is someone who you would build your team around." Some of the qualities of this player would be youth, resourcefulness, leadership and charisma.  "Youth can be overrated over a super performer sometimes," adds Schoenfield.  So, let's add super performer to the mix. 

Schoenfield also brings up the importance of building the middle of your club.  Pitchers, catchers, short stops and center fielders are important to general managers when building their clubs.  And one cannot underestimate the importance of power hitting.  You don't need to be the best player in baseball either. Even Mike Trout, arguably the best player in baseball all around, did not have the best season last year, but still goes first or second in a fantasy draft.  He has been compared to Willie Mays and has been called the Modern Day Mays on several occasions.

Now let's take Jeter and Gardner for argument's sake.  If the rubric for franchise player has these components: youth, resourcefulness, leadership, charisma, longevity and performance, Derek Jeter scores high on all five out of the six measures if we were voting last year.  Of course, when he was first selected, he would probably hit all six, but what about Gardy? Many like Gardy for his grittiness, his passion and work ethic.  He is young, he is resourceful, he carries himself well both on and off the field fulfilling charisma, but does he fulfill leadership, longevity and performance?  I am not completely sure he does, at first sight, but let's take a second look. 

Gardner is 31-years-old with a career batting average of .265 over seven years.  He has 40 home runs and 235 RBIs and 659 hits.  He plays a good amount of games, 768 in his career and has only a few minor injuries.  He carries himself well and always appears to be in good shape.  He has fan appeal but he is no Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera or Derek Jeter.  Those guys are the next level up and Gardy's not there yet or ever.  Until he takes on a leadership role and performs at a higher level, both on and off the field, he's not a franchise player according to the rubric.  

My argument actually goes much deeper than Gardy being awarded franchise player status though.  It is my fear that the franchise player is a thing of the past because of the focus on money and power.  I'm afraid that sports agents and greed have taken the place of the face of the franchise role and that makes for a very sour feeling in my soul.  

The game of baseball, much like technology today, is changing at such a rapid pace that I sometimes lose myself in its complexity.  And one of its losses for me is the face of the franchise, tossed out like yesterday's Atari game system, today's desk top computer and tomorrow's smart phone.   The Face of the Franchise: another relic of the old game of baseball.  

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer

BYB Hot Stove Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof

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