Geography, taxes, octopus and other things that don’t matter in free agency

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A commenter this morning said that the Cleveland Indians make sense for Nick Swisher because he’s from Ohio. I love that stuff.

Swisher was born in Columbus and lived here as a kid and then moved to his father’s hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia where he went to high school. But he did come back and go to Ohio State, so let’s give him Ohio as his home for argument’s sake. Columbus is about 135 miles away from Cleveland. Or roughly as far as Springfield, Massachuesetts is from New York City. Yet, for some reason, I don’t see anyone talking about guys from there being good fits with the Yankees.*

The point isn’t to pick on that commenter, though, as a lot of people say things like that. The point is to note just how useless it is to cite such things as where someone grew up as having significant influence on multi-million dollar free agent decisions.

CC Sabathia is from California. Mark Teixeira is from Maryland. Cliff Lee is from Arkansas. Roy Oswalt has a farm in rural Illinois. All of these were supposed to be factors in where they signed or where they steered trades, but none of it mattered. Indeed, I can’t think of a a major free agent or a player with no-trade protection for whom such geographical concerns were dispositive in recent years.

Griffey to Cincinnati  maybe? Of course that was 12 years ago and probably had more to do with spring training homes than anything else. Javier Vazquez famously wanted to be east so he could fly to Puerto Rico easier. I recall Matt Williams needing to be in Arizona for family reasons at the end of his career.  But apart from that stuff, I’m drawing a blank.

Add geography to state income taxes, where the player’s wife likes to shop, Johnny Damon’s love of octopus and any other number of soft factors like that to the pile of things that are fun to talk about as we fill the time during the hot stove season, but which really don’t matter.

It’s the money and the winning, usually in that order, which make the difference. Everything else constitutes about a half of a percent of the determining factors.

 

*Spare me your “Massachusetts is culturally different than New York” stuff. I know it is. But Cleveland and Columbus are culturally different as well. Remarkably so, as are just about any two other places that are separated by that kind of distance east of the Mississippi river.

Hall of Fame should do away with cap logos on plaques

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As mentioned earlier, Brandy Halladay, wife of the late pitcher Roy Halladay, says he will not wear a cap with the logo of either of the two teams he played for during his 16-year career. Instead, he will wear a generic baseball cap. Brandy said, “He was a Major League Baseball player and that’s how we want him to be remembered.”

In the time since this news was reported, Blue Jays and Phillies fans have been arguing with each other and the takes are flying. Take, for example, this article by Bob Ford on Philly.com. It’s titled, “Roy Halladay would have wanted his Hall of Fame plaque to have a Phillies hat.” In August 2016, Halladay was asked which team’s cap he would prefer to wear if he got into Cooperstown. Halladay said, “I’d go as a Blue Jay.” He continued, “I wanted to retire here, too, just because I felt like this is the bulk of my career.”

Brandy hasn’t said why her family has decided to have her late husband wear neither team’s logo on the cap in his plaque, but the territoriality displayed by each city’s fans might be part of the reasoning. Ultimately, I believe she made the right call and it shows why the Hall of Fame should do away with logos on plaques entirely.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 1936, a time when players spent an overwhelming majority of their careers — if not their entire careers — with one team. Take, for example, the class of five inducted in the Hall’s inaugural year: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. Cobb played for the Tigers for 22 of his 24 seasons. Wagner spent 18 of his 21 seasons with the Pirates. Mathewson pitched for the Giants in 16 and a half of his 17 seasons. Johnson spent all 21 years with the Senators. Ruth was famously sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees and he still spent 15 of his 22 seasons in New York. There were rarely debates about which cap a Hall of Famer should wear in his plaque.

It is increasingly rare for a player nowadays to stick with one team for most or all of his career due to the advent of free agency and the frequency of trades. Hall of Fame candidate Curt Schilling, for example, pitched for five teams and the team he spent the most time with — the Phillies — is arguably No. 3 on the list of cap priorities behind the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. Fellow Hall candidate Manny Ramírez spent equal time with the Indians and Red Sox and also had three really good seasons with the Dodgers. Whenever a player who spent significant time with multiple teams is inducted into the Hall of Fame, the “which cap will he wear?” conversation comes up and inevitably pits fans of one team against the others. That’s not what the Hall of Fame should be about; it should be about celebrating the storied careers and the types of men these players are or were, no matter which team or how many teams he pitched for.

When you get to the core of it, the logo on the cap is just an advertisement, anyway. The Phillies and Blue Jays are businesses. Our human nature as fans — our territoriality, our loyalty, our sense of belonging — causes us to want to claim the superiority of one business and its associated laundry over another. Most of the time, this doesn’t seem out of place, but Halladay is a unique case as he made significant contributions to two franchises and was voted in posthumously, so he can’t speak for himself (he did in 2016, as mentioned). Brandy shouldn’t have to worry about upsetting one fan base or another picking a logo for her late husband, and she shouldn’t have to be second-guessed by fans who feel spurned. The Hall of Fame should follow Brandy’s lead and, going forward, induct all of its players without cap logos on their plaques.