Randy Johnson, one of my favorite baseball players ever, won his 300th game yesterday. For those that don’t know, 300 wins is a VERY big deal; in the 100+ years of professional baseball, only 24 total pitchers have achieved this feat, with only 10 of those 24 winning their 300th game in the post war era (including one Roger “Steroid” Clemens, does he really have to count?). This is easily Randy Johnson‘s best moment as a pitcher, and he is all but assured himself a spot in Cooperstown….But which cap will he be wearing when he is inducted?
Johnson is a perfect example of what legends of the free agency era have become. Lets look at the list of teams Randy has played for: Expo‘s (RIP), Mariners, Astros, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Diamondbacks again (just for one season), and Giants. Man, and I thought Brett Farve was ruining his legacy by leaving the Packers! Today’s superstars are mercenaries, and before you go looking for whose fault it is (Marvin Miller and Curt Flood not included), you must first look at the system.
Tom Glavine, another 300 game winner, was recently cut by his original team (the Atlanta Braves). Glavine, who began his career with the Braves, was told that he didn’t have the stuff to compete in the majors anymore. Pretty harsh right? Especially for a guy that is one of your organizations living legends. But before you start to demonize the organization, you also must realize that Glavine left the Braves in 2003 to pitch five years with Mets. Do the Braves really owe anything to a man who left them first?
The problem discussed in this article is not just a part of baseball; super stars like Lebron James in the NBA, and Brett Farve in the NFL have either hinted at moving away from their original teams, or actually went ahead and moved (in Farve’s case). The days of Cal Ripken Jr. are over, and the new sporting landscape is riddled with both selfishness and cut-throat cynicism. It is all about the bottom-line, and if you haven’t produced lately, well, your headed to the curb. This same analogy can be expressed in an even bigger scale, looking at the economic downturn, and the inevitable failure of large and historic companies such as GM.
There is no happy or uplifting way to end this story; we are witnessing the decline of loyalty in all walks of life, and it truly does sadden me. Although their are a few lone examples of guys who have stuck with an organization for the long run (Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning), even they are not immune to this decline; I would not be surprised to see both Jeter and Peyton in different uniforms by the time they retire. In the end, I think that we will be honoring individuals and not teams, even in team sports. I have been meaning to purchase a Randy Johnson jersey to frame and put on my wall, but there are just way too many jerseys to pick from…why bother?