Letting Go of Fan Favorites
When I close my eyes, I can see the scoreboards all around the stadium go completely black before a hint of orange flame begins to creep across them all. The bullpen gates would open as the opening chord to Guns N’ Roses’ hit “Welcome to the Jungle” would play on the stadium speakers. Out of the bullpen would emerge a trim baseball player holding his glove tight to his chest as the stadium begins to rock with excitement to see one of baseball’s elite relief pitchers. Typically, this scene is preceded by a game in which the Royals had a lead through eight innings and the fans were going to see a victory punctuated by the genius of Joakim Soria’s pitching.
Of course, I give you this imagery because Joakim Soria and the Texas Rangers agreed to a two-year deal yesterday in day one of the Winter Meetings. Joakim Soria is one of my favorite Royals pitchers of the last 15 years and maybe one of my favorites of all time. I think a big part of what keeps him out of that conversation is simply that the team did not win while he was a member of the Royals, which is unfortunate because for a five year stretch, he was one of the best in baseball out of the bullpen. And now he’s gone, which is sort of what has become the norm for players across the big leagues. The days when players spend their entire career with one team are over. I don’t mean this to be some sort of “get off my lawn” type article, but even for young fans, sometimes it’s difficult to let go of fan favorites.
For me, there has been a growing divide between my head and my heart when looking at baseball and trying to make sense of things that happen. It’s not just with individual players, but even statistics sometimes. For example, I grew up reading the back of baseball cards, so my heart loves batting average and runs batted in, but my head knows that other statistics tell more of the story of them. But mostly it rests with individual players who I follow and become huge fans of. And when they inevitably go elsewhere, there’s very little to say other than the fact that it sucks for my heart. Of course, sometimes you look at the situation and realize that the player leaving is for the best of the team.
In the case of Joakim Soria, it will be hard to see him in another uniform, but the fact that he received two guaranteed seasons from the Rangers means the Royals made the right choice in letting him go. You’re talking about a guy who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, a procedure that we all know is very successful a first time but we have a lack of data on for a second surgery. His return in general is no guarantee and he’s not guaranteed to be good if he can make it back. I think the Royals were right in not playing that risk-reward game with their one-time All-Star closer. They simply made the right decision in this matter.
Based on rumors and some rumblings I have heard, we might be on the verge of having to battle between our heads and our hearts once again this week or in the coming weeks leading up to Spring Training. We’ve all heard the names thrown around that the Royals could deal in the hopes of finding that starting pitcher who could make a difference in their rotation. The names Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers have been mentioned more often in trade talks than a Kardashian when talking about trashiness. So what if the Royals do trade one of these players? The fact of the matter is that this team needs pitching to get better and while you can very easily argue that they should not rob Peter to pay Paul and weaken the offense, if the deal is right, it’d be hard to argue it isn’t the right deal.
I think I’m weird. I think you knew that, but I think I’m weird. And that’s simply due to the fact that I try to see things through the lens of something more than a fan, and to try to understand the reason the team makes the moves they do. Sometimes (often?) I struggle to see the reasoning behind certain things as the Royals do things that cause some serious head scratching. But a lot of the time, I can usually understand the cause for certain moves and maybe even like some of them. I know that’s a shocking thought. For me, when the Royals make a move, I like to write down my first reaction and then about four hours later see if I laugh at what I wrote down immediately.
While I absolutely love certain players who wear the blue and white in Kansas City, I ultimately remember that I cheer for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the name on the back. Yes, I find myself more attached to some players than others. Hell, I used to post on a Royals message board under the name “JoakimTough.” Clearly Joakim Soria was one of my favorites, but for the amount he was given by the Rangers and the talent in the Royals bullpen, it just didn’t make sense for them. And I’ll do my best to take the same amount of time to analyze any deal the Royals may make in order to not unfairly judge them based on the love of the name on the back of the jersey. All that said, unless they get back a big, big name for a guy like Butler or Gordon, my initial reaction is going to be poor. I may come around on a trade in time, but it’s hard to say for sure. What I can say with certainty is that I’ll really miss flames spreading across the Kauffman Stadium scoreboard.
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