In baseball's "golden days", it wasn't uncommon for a player to stick with the franchise he came up with for his entire career. Such a thing, however, has become a passing fad nowadays, and you can blame such a thing on the introduction of free agency, as well as the phrase "Money talks."
Before we begin, please understand that this article's purpose is not to contest the concept of free agency. I am a fan of the free agent market; it makes things interesting each and every offseason and gives teams more options, which is good. The idea of this article is to point out and stress the obvious need for more star players in the MLB to stick with the team that brought them up, gave them a name, a career, and a home.
Unless the player is a New York Yankee, they almost never stay with the same team throughout their career anymore. The stars typically bounce anywhere from a handful of teams (Mark Teixeira) to a new team every year or two (Jose Guillen). How can one ever become a "hometown hero" if one never gives himself the chance to?
Granted, situations may be better elsewhere (the grass may be greener on the other side), but players in today's game seem to be more concerned with money than ever before. They need the most bang for their buck, even if it takes until right before Spring Training begins to get that done. Many guys will sign with teams they know they will have a slim chance to none of competing with if said team offers them the most lucrative contract (Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals, 7 years/$126 million).
The MLB's free agent market has almost become an annual bidding war between the league's top financial teams, such as the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, for the top prize, with teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, and Florida Marlins left with absolutely no chance of obtaining such a high-profile guy. That's not what free agency is about.
In my eyes, free agency isn't about setting a record-size deal every other offseason, but for teams to have a way to constructively add to their team and build around the core that they have developed. You're supposed to have already developed your homegrown talent, your superstars. Free agency is supposed to offer you the building blocks to compliment your hometown hero with. But unfortunately, your hometown hero has already skipped town, off to find a bigger and better contract (Carl Crawford, Red Sox, 7 years/$142 million).
That's not to say a superstar shouldn't hit the open market and see how much he can get. A player has every right to do that, and it's always a fun thing to watch (unless he were to sign with your rival team, of course). But such an occurrence shouldn't happen as often as it does, because it only hurts the sport and the fans.
How many guys today have stayed with the team that brought them up for their entire career? Three, maybe four? For the sake of the fans, there needs to be more. There needs to be more Derek Jeter's, more Cal Ripken Jr.'s, more Jeff Bagwell's and Todd Helton's and Joe DiMaggio's. Fans of every team need that one guy, who's been there for better and for worse, that they can look at and say, "Man, he's this city's guy. He's been here through my childhood. He's carried us to the postseason and brought us back a title. Where would this town be without him?"
There's still hope with some current players, like Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Mauer, Troy Tulowitzki, and Albert Pujols (though admittedly, that situation is looking worse and worse as the days go by), to keep the Franchise Player alive in the game of baseball. But for the sake of the game, there needs to be more. Every fan deserves to have their city's guy.