When I was 15 the Mariners traded away Jose Cruz Jr. in the middle of a game in Milwaukee. He was with the team shy of 2 months, but in that time I’d fallen in love with him as a player and the idea of the Mariners outfield for the ages: Griffey, Buhner, and Cruz. They would have won World Series titles, blasted home runs, and covered the outfield with a blanket of defense rivaling the dominance of the Evers to Tinkers to Chance infield. ( I Believed Big before the Mariners needed to issue that directive.)
That trade broke my heart more than any boy did in my teenage years and I seriously questioned whether I could continue being a Mariners fan without him on the team. I asked myself the same question when Randy Johnson was traded. Alas, here I am. Still agonizing over a team that seems to relish stabbing my already bleeding heart.
I get attached to players. Sometimes I’m attached for baseball reasons. If you want to raise my ire, bring up that Randy Johnson trade at your own risk. Sometimes I get attached for other reasons. Jose Cruz Jr. did not turn into the Hall of Fame baseball player I imagined in my naivety, and I do realize that trade helped the Mariners win more than he would have.
I begrudgingly understand the business side of baseball that rips my favorite players from my team. I can accept that, for the most part, my love for Mariner players will be torrid, short lived affairs (speaking strictly metaphorically here). It’s okay to acknowledge the reality of modern baseball and still have a hard time watching players leave. As Leo Durocher famously taunted the Giants for occupying last place with a bunch of nice guys, winning can be an unemotional business unfit for warm fuzzies and feel good stories. Put the most likeable players together on an MLB team and you’re going to have a lot of hugs and tickles and not much scoring.
Maybe it’s easier when the team is winning and you know there will be another hero to adulate tomorrow night. As a Mariners fan, I don’t have much experience with that. Maybe in the absence of a winning team, we turn our desire for glory to the individual players and share their small victories and achievements. Maybe it’s the emotional drama that really draws us in and the small wins that keep us hooked.
Whatever it is, I don’t want to be a cold hearted baseball fan; that’s what my personal life is for. I’m going to continue to bestow my affections on terrible players who will end up as trade throw-ins and minor league relics.
It’s not fair when you think about it. The good players get the money, the fame, the adoration of millions. The players I like get school girl crushes and the league minimum.
Such is life.
P.S. Jack Z., please don’t trade Felix. Ever.