SALINA, KaN. - Ted stopped by and shared the news. I never thought I would care about, let alone feel sorry for the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. Another generation of kids young and old had been disillusioned.
Immediately I had flashbacks to my worst moments as a Royals' fan - the trade of the hometown boy and reigning Cy Young Award winner David Cone to the Yankees, the Johnny Damon trade, the Carlos Beltran trade, etc. , etc.
Oh, I almost forgot, Ted's news. The Brewers' star player, Prince Fielder, left his team and signed a $215 Million dollar contract with the Detroit Tigers. To add insult to injury, the Tigers play in the same division as the Royals.
Ted can understand. He's a lifelong Cardinals fan. Earlier this off-season their best player, Albert Pujols, possibly the best hitter of his generation, left the only team he had ever played for and headed to southern California for a semi-load of dollar bills. Pujols' move came on the heels of another improbable World Series title. How does the star player turn his back on the fans after winning the World Series?
St. Louis is a so-called mid-market team. So now Cardinals' fans can relate to the small-market Royals as they watch their best player head off for a bigger paycheck elsewhere. Pujols' wife was quoted in the St. Louis Dispatch as saying that she and her husband felt "disrespected" by the Cardinals' five-year $135 Million dollar offer. Maybe that absurd comment will make it easier for Cardinals' fans to say goodbye.
An individual always roots for the team with whom he or she grew up. Ted grew up in Illinois near St. Louis with the likes of Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, et.al. I even have a good friend in town that roots for the Yankees. How can anyone root for the Yankees? It turns out he grew up near New York City, rooting for the Bronx Bombers. I understand. Other than that he's a great guy. I grew up with George Brett, Frank White and the Royals during their glory days. I'll stick with them no matter what.
But the Royals' long postseason drought has been particularly painful. The turning point came when Cone was traded away immediately after the 1994-95 baseball strike. Ever since then the team has languished in or near the cellar. To add insult to injury, Royals' fans have had to watch their one-time starting outfield - Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye, all play in World Series' for other teams. Damon and Beltran both come up through the Royals' farm system.
So what do Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols say to the kids of all ages who spent years idolizing their every move, the fan base that was the foundation of all their fame and riches? What do Brewers and Cardinals fans do with their old baseball cards? I know, I'm caught up in nostalgia for a world that doesn't exist anymore. I still vividly remember when the pre-Pujols California Angels won the World Series several years ago and one of their fans held up a sign in the stands that proclaimed his team to be "Fourteenth in Payroll, First in Heart." They'll have to discard that momento.
Maybe we need to bust the baseball players' union. After all, baseball is the only major professional sport without a solid revenue sharing program. But, now that I think of it, players switch the color of their jerseys in those other sports too.
There is a bright side to all of this melancholy musing. Spring training is here. All of the small market teams are 0-0, like everyone else. And this year, the Royals might have a team. Seriously! Not only that, all their star players are several years away from free agency. We have a window of opportunity. Let me tell you about several of their prospects!
Oops. I'm out of space. Hopefully there are tickets left for Opening Day!