Sentimentality Vs. Reason
By Editorial Staff
It’s easy for most baseball fans to find themselves swept up in nostalgia. Baseball is older than most organized sports, which provides a rich and storied backdrop for our collective fan memory. Each season is 162 games long, providing fans with an almost daily drama filled with incredible feats and crushing losses. And, unlike other sports, the game reveals seemingly endless statistics over which fans can endlessly debate. The wealth of history and drama in the game can often blind fans (and managers and players) from the cold, hard truth.
Such a situation is happening in St. Louis right now. Cardinals fans are chirping excitedly about the signing of Jim Edmonds to a minor league contract and the standing offer to make the team out of Spring Training. Fans vividly (and justifiably) recall Edmonds’ glory years in a Cardinals uniform. They choke back tears remembering The Catch in the 2004 playoffs, the 12th inning home run to win the sixth game of that series, and a hundred other astounding plays and moments of leadership. In a franchise that has boasted some spectacular center fielders, Edmonds remains the best.
While sentimentality forces us to get misty-eyed at the prospect of seeing Edmonds in center field again, logic and reason must (and should) override that emotion. At 40 years old, Edmonds is in the dimming twilight of his career. He has rarely ever been one to play entire seasons without injury even in his younger years. The crashes to the turf hurt more, the fastballs just a little bit faster than a slowing bat. It’s true that Edmonds managed some decent statistics last year bouncing between Milwaukee and Cincinnati (particularly the .500 slugging), but it was in limited duty while dealing with injuries to his foot.
Reason tells us what sentimentality does not – that Edmonds’ pursuit of a position with the Cardinals is largely for selfish reasons. He desperately wants those seven home runs that will give him 400 for his career. Also, by giving Edmonds a spot on the major league roster, the team forfeits one of the younger players penciled in as backup in the outfield (Jon Jay? Allen Craig?) in order to display Edmonds, a fan favorite, like he is some sort of bizarre circus freak. The acquisition of Edmonds also puts undue pressure on an already-fragile Colby Rasmus situation; imagine the pressure of having the very person you’ve struggled to replace right there on the bench with you, waiting to replace you!!
Rather than commit itself to team building, the organization has in recent years resorted to plucking sentimental favorites and known veteran quantities (Lance Berkman, Aaron Miles, Randy Winn, Jake Westbrook, and Edmonds) from the scrap heap. Like a careless landlord, the team would love for the paying fans to ignore the broken foundation at third base or the leaky faucet in right field. Players like Edmonds provide the sentimental joint compound used to patch over chronic problems in order to get through another game … another series … another season.
Thankfully, baseball sentimentality doesn’t always disguise reality. And the reality is that this is a team that has a surplus of outfielders (including three left-handed outfielders!), and it should not give Edmonds a million dollars to play in the place of younger athletes in need of playing time. Reason tell us that this team has a potentially-great young centerfielder who has already struggled for playing time under a manager who has used him cautiously. Logic dictates that this is a team that cannot afford to open a roster spot so that one player can pursue his personal milestones at the expense of building a perennial winner.
In baseball, fortune often smiles on those who, through their perceptive powers, clearly see all facets of a game and make choices based on sound reasoning. The Cardinals, however, may find that choosing sentimentality over such sound reasoning will only lead to blindness in October.