The Myth of the Franchise Player

An article by posted on September 18, 2011

Synonymous with the New York Mets is Tom Seaver. “Tom Terrific” is known as “The Franchise,” the player who was singularly responsible for making the Mets relevant. Adding him to the pitching staff with the likes of Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan, and coupling him with players like Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, caused the Mets to win their first championship in 1969.

Legend has it that the Mets were never quite the same after Dr. Evil himself, M. Donald Grant, traded away the Franchise, literally and figuratively, for some spare parts. It was true, in a way, but then again, so was the dynamic changing in baseball. Indirectly relating to the trade of Tom Seaver was the underlying notion that he wanted to be paid up, suckas.  Grant didn’t think Seaver was above the Mets name, and subsequently got rid of him by planting some unfavorable quotes in the NYC sports “tabloids,” if you will.

But the dynamic was also changing because of the era of free agency. And to that, I ask, is the “franchise player” still relevant?

You know who that is: the guy who is known for playing for one team; who made his mark with one team; who may have played for another team, but was never quite the player he was with that synonymous team. I think the closest we might have today is Albert Pujols. That, however, may change this offseason due to his contentious situation with being the best player in baseball (well, maybe Alex Rodriguez takes umbrage with that) and being a free agent. I think his brand with the Cardinals is significant, but as my friend Bill Ivie has said, the Cardinals were a great franchise before Pujols, they’ll still be a great franchise without him. Time will tell.

But then look at Carlos Beltran. Perhaps one of the most divisive Mets in recent memory, his injuries may prevent him from ever making the Hall of Fame. Yet, I had a Twitversation the other day with some other Mets fans about him playing a few more years, uninjured. I think if it walks and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, and Beltran cannot stay healthy. I said, the harsh reality is he could be another Moises Alou, a great player whose injury-marred seasons keep him from getting his call to the Hall. However, someone said, if he DID come around with great numbers and played into his 40s without as many injuries, it would be hard pressed to have him go in as a Met, even though he did play seven years with them.

I guess I am raising these questions because of the Mets’ own “Franchise Players” and “Faces of the Franchise,” David Wright and Jose Reyes.

The Mets and those of us who live, breathe and eat any information surrounding the team have a contentious situation on their hands, especially regarding Reyes’ status as a free agent after the 2011 season. Couple that with David Wright, which is another contentious situation in and of itself. While not a free agent, he has an option that he can decline if he gets traded (which makes him a less attractive trading candidate), but then he’s had a noticeable drop off, but on the flip side he’s had one of his first injury-plagued seasons in recent memory (he’s been relatively healthy, considering all the injuries this stupid team has had in the last three years).

It gives me pause because they are still young and productive, yet I wonder if perhaps we all need a change of scenery. Meaning we, as fans, with the same “cornerstone” players, and the players themselves. M. Donald Grant may have been a clueless idiot, but perhaps he was prophetic in trying to set with us, that a player isn’t above the Franchise. Well, he was wrong in the case of Seaver, but the dynamic of the game has changed since then.

Look at the Dodgers. Their two franchise players, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, are essentially the equivalent of our Reyes and Wright. They even have an A+ starter in Clayton Kershaw. And they STILL can’t provide a winning season (or make money)!  I would say that Ryan Braun is probably the closest to a “Franchise Player,” since the Brewers see him as part of their long-term plans (and also since it appears Prince Fielder is going to go to the highest bidder in the offseason).

Look, the Mets situation is precarious, and perhaps I am too close to it. I was discussing on Twitter the other day with my friends over at the Daily Stache about the Reyes situation. Basically, I feel like the issue is now that the Mets are mailing it in (something that Terry Collins is NOT happy about), we are going on our third straight losing season, our legs and asses are cramped up from wanting to jump for joy but we can’t because there is nothing making us do that, and now the prospect of losing guys we feel should be in Mets uniforms forever is something we are nonchalant about. “Whatever” has been my philosophy at this point.

I know things will change once the postseason is over, and who knows, maybe the Mets and Reyes will come to an agreement and we’ll all be happy. But I think what will make us happier is WINNING. Reyes and Wright certainly have not been enough. The onus is on the personnel to seriously evaluate the team and not attend to what the fans want. Yes, I know Reyes makes us a lot of us happy. And his injuries are a cause for concern, especially since they basically have said his running game (what makes Jose Jose) has been halted because of his hamstring issues this year.

I know I would hold onto Reyes simply for emotional reasons because I love him and want him to be a Met forever. The other more rational side of me says that the time is not now. This team is a few years away from winning, and would it make a huge difference to lose with him or without him.

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