I haven't yet decided if I think Brandon Phillips' new contract is a good thing or a bad thing for the Cardinals.
But I'm pretty sure it's a good thing -- at least on some levels -- for the game of baseball.
While the Johnny Come Lately Reds and their loudmouthed -- but small -- corps of fans are somewhat irritating these days, I try to rememeber that they have been through a lot in the last 15 years or so. I went to the Great American Ballpark shortly after it opened to see the Cardinals play the home team. And I was struck by how many people were wearing jerseys or tee shirts with the names and numbers of players who didn't play there anymore. The team was basically reduced to a Class AAAA minor league team because as soon as their players reached their prime, it had to trade them because it couldn't afford them anymore.
That's not right for fans.
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Back then they weren't so obnoxious. In fact. they seemed pretty beaten down. I sat there in the stands wearing my Cardinals cap -- the blue road one just so no one would be confused about which side I was on -- and no one said a peep all night.
Something has to be done to keep star players in the uniform of their original team for the fans' sake. While the name on the front of the jersey is important, the name on the back is important to fans, too. If they weren't, why would the teams market individual players as much as they do.
Although St. Louis has a good team, I still find it a bit odd that Cardinals fans are rooting for a bunch of guys who used to be National League rivals to defend their World Series Crown. Matt Holliday used to tear up Busch Stadium (both versions II and III) as a member of the Rockies. Lance Berkman was the leader of the Cardinals' biggest rival during the first decade of the 2000s, Houston. And Carlos Beltran not only also was an Astro, but he was front and center with the hated New York Mets for seven years. Meanwhile the face of the franchise for the last 11 years now plays on the left coast.
There was talk on the TV broadcast the other night about who the face of the Redbirds is now. It's difficult to say because those core players are more identified with other teams. Ace Chris Carpenter in nearing the end of his career and can't be counted on to be healthy enough to play in the near future. Maybe Adam Wainwright is the guy? Or 2012 World Series hero David Freese? I'd say it's probably Yadier Molina. But it's hard to think of a guy who barely speaks to the media as the face of the team.
Anyway, it's good that the long suffering Reds rooters will at least get a chance to keep the team's two most popular players in Cincinnati through the rest of their primes. Of course, because of the current free agency system, the Reds had to pay a crippling amount to keep their stars -- about $275 million combined. And they were compelled to pay them into their late 30s, past their primes.
So, while this will make Cincinnati fans happy for the next few years, it could ultimately destroy the team's ability to compete over the long term. So, at some point, if baseball really wants all its teams to be able to compete, it's going to have to change its financial structure.