Kind of a silly question, really. But Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com asks it, and he concludes it would not be popular if someone — say a guy named Ted Prisby — invented it today, because the only reason we like it now is because of the past:
But baseball thrives because of its nostalgia, because of the generations of memories it has produced. It’s romanticized because of its tradition, its old-time heroes and its folksy grace. Without that, baseball as we know it is nothing.
It’s those grainy images of Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Willie Mays that make us pay homage and keep coming back, season after season.
But I’m telling you, if baseball never existed, I think Ted Prisby’s new game would rank somewhere between beach volleyball and a tractor pull.
And if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass a-hoppin’.
I know the games is passed down in families and that the past is important to the essence of the game. But I refuse to believe that baseball is nothing more than a historical hangover or an exercise in nostalgia. I refuse to believe if, for no other reason, than any kid who is taken to a ballpark is wowed and those kids don’t know doodly squat about baseball history for the most part.
Maybe it’d be different if it were a startup sport in the mold of every other startup sport that happens. Corporate sponsors, small scale, a business model which is aimed at blurring distinctions between franchises. It would probably be a niche thing like every other new thing is a niche thing in our society, at least to some degree.
But even if baseball as it is owes so much to its history, that’s not its entire appeal. Not by a longshot.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.