A number of baseball teams have made some serious moves this off-season. Johnny Cueto and the Kansas City Royals seemed to agree that parting ways was in each of their best interests, even if they just won a ring. With Zack Greinke, it feels more like the Los Angeles Dodgers lost the negotiations than the Diamondbacks won the ace. And if you haven’t seen your team trade, release, or fail to resign your guy this offseason, undoubtedly at some point in your life it’s happened. He might be your favorite player, or just a seemingly all-around good guy, but he’s now playing for another team.
It hurts when the team cuts ties with the guy. Whether they were moving forward with younger players, trying to trim their budget, or they thought the guy’s days were numbered, the team’s moving forward without him. Think the Chicago White Sox letting Mark Buehrle leave. Over the course of the previous season, you watched his stats dip from his career averages. He had a solid roster spot even though he was on the backside of his career. And when the season ended the team lowballed him a new offer, of course he didn’t take it. He shouldn’t have to play for an organization that isn’t committed to him and his future. But what happens to you, his fan? You find yourself in one of two camps: you want to keep they guy because you are desperately holding strong to his glory days, or you are thankful for the many years he’s given to the franchise and you wish him well. Either way, it’s hard to see him go.
It’s especially painful when the player chooses to leave the team of his own accord. Whether the team didn’t offer enough incentive (money, years, job security, etc.) or the player liked the ring-potential on another team better, it’s hard to get over the loss. There’s nothing you can do. It’s even worse when you lose them to a division rival. Think Johnny Damon and the Boston Red Sox. You’ve rooted for the guy for years. You bask in his accomplishments and empathize with his struggles. You hate to lose him, but there’s nothing you can do. You sit and think about why he’d want to leave. The team has great fans, good players, and is all in to win next season. You take his betrayal personally. It’s in situations like this you have to remind yourself that you can cheer for the player without rooting for the team. But it still burns.
When the next season starts you have a decision to make. You might tangentially root for that new team, if they aren’t a serious rival and you have no major animosity towards the franchise. You could even root for the player without rooting for his team. Or you can go scorched earth, burn your jersey, and wish dishonor on him and his family. Personally, I fall into the “respecting the player and his talent, while hating the team” side of the argument. There’s something to be said for appreciating the contribution the guy gave to you and your team. You can hold a fond remembrance of the good times, and like you do with some of your college memories, you blackout any unsavory bits. For those of you with me, you can hold your head up high because you, sir, are sportsmanship incarnate.
You can also watch baseball with a rational mindset, realize in this era of free agency and that it’s ridiculous to grow attached to a player, and choose to root for the uniform rather than the guys who wear it. Of course if you do, that’s fine, I get that, but you’re wrong and I hate you..