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Monday, March 19, 2012

Peter Funt: Free agent fans

Being a free agent fan myself…I doff my ill-fitting Kirward Derby.

I’m finished being a sucker. Like many liberated fans, I no longer care about teams as much as individual players.

This is part of a gradual, but unmistakable shift that began decades ago when free agency set players loose and sports franchises started moving from one city to another. Until recently, however, fans were stuck with the local team and its roster.

Now, if you’re a Pujols fan in St. Louis, where he hit 445 homers and batted .328 over the last 11 years, you can root for him just as easily with his L.A. team. You can see every game he plays on satellite TV or computer and read details of his performance on Internet blogs. You can still have him on your fantasy baseball team. And you can frequent his website (Pujolsfive.com), like him on Facebook, or follow his tweets (@PujolsFive).

Many fans are still inclined to think of the local team as being “us,” in a civic-minded sort of way, overlooking the fact that pro athletes and their employers are in the entertainment business. Nothing wrong with that. But the notion that fans should slavishly root for a particular team no matter who it hires or where it opts to play is passé.

...But that’s it. I refuse to be part of, say, the Red Sox Nation as if it deserved the same allegiance as an actual country, and if the score disappoints me, I won’t bleed Dodger Blue.

Repoz Posted: March 19, 2012 at 05:18 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, cardinals

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Bhaakon Posted: March 19, 2012 at 07:06 AM (#4084056)
By rooting the laundry and being very careful not to give two bowel movements about the individual players, I find it much easier to be opinionated and snarky about them on the internet. And, really, that's half the entertainment value right there.
   2. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 19, 2012 at 08:18 AM (#4084064)
People are annoyingly individuated, and often disappoint you. Teams, by being endlessly renewed, are easier to forgive.
   3. Greg K Posted: March 19, 2012 at 08:32 AM (#4084067)
I think this does leave out the community aspect of being a fan. A big part of the reason that it would be so great if the Jays or Leafs ever won anything again is that it's awesome to celebrate in the streets with several thousand like-minded strangers.

I don't use the local team as "us" construction, but I think it's important to note that the us being implied in it isn't just you and the players, it's you, the players and thousands or millions of fans like you.

I'm also reminded of Bill James' old saw about how just because baseball is a business to players and a business to the owners doesn't mean it's a business to the fan.

Personally I root for laundry and players. I can probably count on one hand the Jays I stopped rooting for when they left Toronto. Halladay, Delgado, Zaun, Lilly, Wells, Marcum, Frasor (though now he's back!), Downs...even Scutaro being on the Sox can't phase me*, these are all guys that I continue to follow fondly in their post-Jays life. The one exception I have is of course the Yankees...I actually surprised myself how sympathetic I allow myself to be towards AJ Burnett now that he's free from their evil clutches.

*Or is that "faze"? I wouldn't want to be accused of breaking the Treaty of Algeron
   4. Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: March 19, 2012 at 08:59 AM (#4084074)
Personally I root for laundry and players. I can probably count on one hand the Jays I stopped rooting for when they left Toronto.

Yep, completely agree. When Jim Thome was popping 40+ homers a year in Philadelphia, it didn't change what he'd done as an Indian. Manny's still the same goofy iron-gloved manchild that came on as a pinch runner (!) in the final game at Cleveland Stadium. Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee...those are our (Cleveland's) guys, even if they're playing for other teams now.

I don't understand the idea that when players leave, even as free agents, they're somehow evil. I guess the way in which they leave has something to do with it - LeBron James pantsing Cleveland on national television was pretty damn cruel and tough to forgive, given that he grew up in Northeast Ohio and knows the region's fragile sports psyche - but I generally can't blame a guy for choosing the best situation for himself and his family. If I were a Cardinals fan, I'd still adore Albert Pujols. Count the ringzzzzz!
   5. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 19, 2012 at 09:09 AM (#4084078)
I don't wish an ex-Phillie well if he A) left as a free agent B) to a division rival. You're on notice, Jayson Werth. Billy Wagner, screw that guy. I guess Wes Helms has been more harming than helping the Marlins recently, but I still don't like him.

Oh, also if his name is "Adam Eaton".
   6. thetailor Posted: March 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4084118)
This guy is not a real fan. I've tried to quit being a Mets fan like a hundred times, and I just can't do it. If it were possible, trust me, I'd do it.
   7. John Northey Posted: March 19, 2012 at 10:51 AM (#4084163)
I've cheered the Jays on forever. The Leafs lost me a long time ago, but I just stopped caring about the NHL. For 'free agency' I tend to have multiple players/teams I will enjoy watching win (Texas is one of those which has helped the past couple of years) and others that I want to see lose and lose badly (Yankees, Washington, Miami - the last 2 due to Expos connections in a negative way). Having players and teams and even managers you cheer on or boo relentlessly makes sports fun. Once you lose that interest you lose interest in the sport (or at least in following that league).

If you go hopping team to team each year though then you really do lose something imo. 1985 for the Jays was amazing - seeing the expansion no ones come out and beat a strong Yankee team, as was 1992 when they finally won it all. 1993 was a bit less exciting as they just won it all the year before and started acting like the Yankees (dumping guys left (Key) right (Henke) and centre (Winfield) while signing top free agents).
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: March 19, 2012 at 10:58 AM (#4084172)
Halladay, Delgado, Zaun, Lilly, Wells, Marcum, Frasor (though now he's back!), Downs...


What, no love for Shea Hillenbrand?
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 19, 2012 at 11:01 AM (#4084178)
I don't get what problem this solves? Individual players can disappoint you (by sucking, or turning out to be creeps) just as easily as a franchise.

Is he suggesting you just become a perennial front-runner?

If I don't care about the Angels, why would I stay up late (assuming I'm in StL) to watch a 3 hour game where Pujols will appear for 10 mins of it?
   10. Greg K Posted: March 19, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4084189)
If you go hopping team to team each year though then you really do lose something imo. 1985 for the Jays was amazing - seeing the expansion no ones come out and beat a strong Yankee team, as was 1992 when they finally won it all. 1993 was a bit less exciting as they just won it all the year before and started acting like the Yankees (dumping guys left (Key) right (Henke) and centre (Winfield) while signing top free agents).

My life as a Jays fan followed this pattern as well...though I think 93 was less thrilling because I had been spoiled as a Jays fan. Born in '83 by that point in my life I had never known a bad Jays team. In my mind, the almost-but-not-quite Jays of 87, 89, and 91 were what disappointing seasons looked like (sad to think on it now). I almost felt bad rooting for the Jays in 93 because they were the Jays...obviously they were going to win the next 7 world series, so why not let these poor Phillies have a crack at one. One thing 10 year old kids don't have a ton of is perspective.

Was there some shennanigans with Winfield? I didn't really follow off-season scuttlebutt at the time but superficially he seems like an odd guy to put on that list. He was only with the Jays for one year and came aboard himself as a top free agent to begin with. I do still feel the loss of Jimmy Key though. A part of my childhood died when he left town. I always placed the "Jays dropping their roots and going for a championship" era before that. Bell, Moseby, Fernandez, McGriff were the quintessential Jays I grew up with and they were (necessarily) discarded as part of the march to the Championship pre-92.
   11. Greg K Posted: March 19, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4084192)
What, no love for Shea Hillenbrand?

Him, along with he who shall not be named, make up the "counting on one hand" exceptions for me so far.
   12. KT's Pot Arb Posted: March 19, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4084380)
This guy is not a real fan. I've tried to quit being a Mets fan like a hundred times, and I just can't do it. If it were possible, trust me, I'd do it.


Step 1 is admitting you have a problem. You just need to figure out what step 2 is and you're golden!


But the notion that fans should slavishly root for a particular team no matter who it hires or where it opts to play is passé.


Funt is emerging from that coma. Now what happens if you apply similar logic to political parties?
   13. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: March 19, 2012 at 01:47 PM (#4084405)
I actually surprised myself how sympathetic I allow myself to be towards AJ Burnett now that he's free from their evil clutches.
Well, if it makes you feel any better, Yankee fans were all that crazy about rooting for AJ the past couple of years either.
   14. Dangerous Dean Posted: March 19, 2012 at 03:45 PM (#4084509)
This guy is not a real fan. I've tried to quit being a Mets fan like a hundred times, and I just can't do it. If it were possible, trust me, I'd do it.


I said most of these same words a decade ago as a Rangers fan. I told friends that if there was a patch to get over Ranger withdrawal, I would use it. But every time I tried to quit watching their games or following the boxscores, they would reel me back in.

Now that they are a good franchise, I don't mind. And I see my friends who are Astros fans feeling the same way about their team.

Suckas.
   15. phredbird Posted: March 19, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4084528)
if i am perfectly honest with myself, i am not that interested in what happens to pujols. i'm not even sure i'll go see him in anaheim, and i live in L.A.

i don't wish him misfortune (except when the angels play the dodgers or stl), but otherwise i'm indifferent. i turned on an angels pre season telecast the other day hoping to see him bat, and when he did, i was surprised at how much i didn't care what happened. i used to agonize over every at bat with that guy ...
   16. Shazbot Posted: March 20, 2012 at 01:12 AM (#4084885)
#3 It is faze. Phase is another word entirely.

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