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Goodbye, David Robertson. So long, Todd Frazier. See ya, Tommy Kahnle. (Was it Con-lee or Cain-lee; I was never quite certain.) We hardly knew ye.
Paul Konerko played 16 years for the White Sox. So did Frank Thomas. Mark Buehrle pitched on the South Side for 12 years. Now that Chris Sale (seven seasons) and Jose Quintana (5½) have departed, Avisail Garcia enjoys the greatest longevity as a member of the White Sox, having made his Sox debut on Aug. 9, 2013. Times change.
But this is not extraordinary. We change cellphones, hairstyles, diets, exercise routines, and lots more with great regularity. We change jobs about a dozen times in our working lives, and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one in eight Americans changes residences in a given year. Pity the oblivious guy who doesn't change his clocks twice a year. He shows up either an hour early or late unless he switches time zones.
George Bernard Shaw once said, "Progress is impossible without change. And those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything."
So this revolving door of change with the Chicago American League ballclub is inevitable. This is what progress looks like.
Furthermore, the arrival last Wednesday of Yoan Moncada, an imposing, athletic presence, represents the franchise's future, which has nothing to do right now with wins and losses. Pay no attention to the nine-game losing streak, the 12 losses in the last 13 games, nor the 21 setbacks in the last 28 contests. Means nothing.
Of course, in the days before free agency prior to the players challenging the power of the owners, there was much less movement. The front office was the lone agent of change. Ted Williams played 19 seasons in Boston and appeared in just one World Series. Ernie Banks was with the Cubs a like number of seasons and never played in October. Had either been able to market himself via free agency, a contender would have been offering a lucrative contract - which the thrifty Wrigleys and Yawkeys most likely would not have matched - and an opportunity to play for a winner.
Conversely, from a fan's point of view, there a sense of security and comfort knowing that athletes such as Williams and Banks were fixtures on the Red Sox and Cubs year after year. Sox fans could depend on Fox and Aparicio turning double plays season after season.
Wouldn't the Cardinal tradition be just a bit different if Stan Musial had not spent 22 years in St. Louis? Think of the legacies and footprints that Brooks Robinson (23 years) and Cal Ripken (21) deposited in Baltimore, never having been traded or jumping teams.
Didn't these players' longevity add to the popularity and identity of a franchise while sparking loyalty to the hometown ballclub?
Today only three players, who have played their entire careers with one team, have spent as many as 14 seasons in one place. They are Yadier Molina with the Cardinals, the Mets' David Wright (who's been disabled all season), and Joe Mauer of the Twins. There are only 15 players in the major leagues today who have played 10 or more seasons with the same team for their entire careers.
As kids our favorite player was Minnie Minoso, an electrifying individual who not only had immense talent but played at full speed regardless of the score, inning or where the Sox were in the standings. When he was traded to Cleveland after the 1957 season, I felt as though a best friend had moved away, not an inconsequential emotion for a middle-schooler. I still liked the Sox, but not quite as much. I viewed them - and just maybe life - a tad differently. Sure, it was just baseball. But seeing Minnie in a Cleveland uniform was a sobering and deflating experience. The world was not always kind.
Three years later, even with the benefit of maturation, awareness and a pinch of cynicism, I still was thrilled when the Sox bartered Minoso back. It took him exactly one game - the 1960 Opener - for Minnie to remind us of what we'd been missing. He drove in six runs and hit a couple of homers, the latter a ninth-inning walkoff to sink Kansas City 10-9. Today his photo hangs in our kitchen, an icon from childhood.
In retrospect, this face-of-the-franchise business seemed much more prevalent back in the day because an athlete who occupies this position today could be gone tomorrow, either traded for rebuilding or for a wealthier contract elsewhere.
Don't misunderstand. I'm confident there are 11-year-olds on the North Side and in the suburbs who revere Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant as much as we adored Minoso, Fox, and Aparicio. Rizzo at 27 is the older of the Cub duo, who will host the Sox for two games at Wrigley beginning Monday afternoon before moving to 35th Street on Wednesday. Aside from being fine players, Theo Epstein surely realizes that they also represent the identity of the team. They reinforce the loyalty to Cubdom, as if the franchise needed any more. Chances are good that each will be in Chicago for years to come.
But, as mentioned, this is the aberration. Try identifying similar fixtures in places like San Diego, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Oakland, or, lest we be remiss, the South Side.
Furthermore, fans of all ages are more than willing to accept former villains who wind up on the home team as long as they help the local outfit win games. I was at Wrigley Field a few years ago sitting by the visitors' bullpen as Aroldis Chapman warmed up for the Reds. The abuse he took from a few fans was merciless, ugly and cruel. Those same idiots were cheering for him last postseason.
Bulls' fans considered Dennis Rodman the worst kind of scoundrel when he played for Detroit, but welcomed him with open arms when he was traded here. At least they could have waited 10 or 20 games before embracing him.
The dinosaurs among us know full well that the world is a different place than it was when the White Sox were perennial contenders. Better in some ways and more troubling and alarming in others. While transiency existed decades ago - the flight to the suburbs most prominent - the smaller aspects, like more gigs on our computers, another tattoo, neater apps for our phones, or cars that park themselves, promote change on a daily basis. Most of us, whether we're 15 or 75, can handle it because rapid and constant change is part of our lives.
So in the small sliver of our existence that resides at Sox Park, we'll cringe not at all if Melky Cabrera is dealt away in the next few days. We'll hardly notice if Anthony Swarzak or Dan Jennings can't be found in the bullpen. Say goodbye to James Shields? No problem because the seed has been planted that five to 10 years from now, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and a couple of others will take their place year after year. Just like the old days.
1. From Patrick Cassidy:
I realize now why so many WSox fans are so bitter, despite having actually been to the Series before the 20th century ended. Although I would have thought it would have cleared up almost completely after 2005 and it for sure did not. It was Minnie being traded. I can understand because I missed him too.
And, though it was a lesser impact on me than Minnie's trade must have been to a Sox fan, I felt bad when Santo and Kessinger went to the Sox. Don't get me wrong, I was glad they stayed in town, but I wanted them to end as Cubs, likewise Billy Williams. By the time Holtzman and Jenkins were peddled, that team I loved was disintegrated anyway and Holtzman did get to a team that won the WS, so those did not bother me that much.
Playing the '59 Series without Minnie, as wonderful as Al Smith was (I did like him as a player), must have been at least a little bittersweet for you.
I hope Wright, Molina and Mauer will be able to end w/ their teams, especially Molina.
I suppose the phenomenon is a consequence of free agency both directly and also secondarily by the burgeoning of salaries since not many guys are willing to do the Dawson thing and sign for a lot less as aged veterans, though now I wonder if taking less money might have kept Buehrle and Zambrano in the game longer - I firmly believe both of them had innings left in them, say 3-5 seasons each by my reckoning.
I don't know what I would have done if Ernie had been traded. I do know that something went out of me when he retired, especially without ever having been to the WS. I have to confess, I have never felt the same about baseball since then. But actually I had already lost a little joy when he had to move to first. He was a decent 1B, but it was just not the same as seeing him glide around the left side, even though the finger-roll with the bat was the same.
I was glad when Minnie came back too. And if Abreu does not end here, I will be disappointed.
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Posted on May 22, 2019