These thoughts came about as I read a reply to my article on Monday with regard to MLB’s anti-trust exemption: loyal reader Rich Mahoney posited the question whether the fans of the Seattle Mariners might find Robinson Cano’s 10 year/$240 million contract worth it if they Mariners were able to win a title or two during his time with the Mariners.
That got me to thinking what cost would a fan be willing to endure in order to have their favorite team win a Championship? What would a die-hard Cleveland Indians’ fan think? Or perhaps a Chicago Cubs’ fan? Would anything be too much?
Prior to the Red Sox winning in 2004, there’s nothing in the world that is sports related that I wouldn’t have given up if only the Red Sox could win one World Series title during my lifetime. I had spent my entire life listening to my grandfather’s generation lament the fact that the Red Sox were always doomed to failure. One simple Championship would have quelled their potshots, and I would have enjoyed summers in New England even more than I did.
The worst thing about cheering for a team that can’t seem to get over the hump is not the losing, though that surely sucks. The worst part of cheering for a team that can’t win is the waiting for failure. Every season through 2003, it was always the same: walk around on pins and needles hoping that nothing goes wrong and that somehow THIS is the year that everything will go right.
As a Red Sox fan, it seemed as if 2003 was finally going to be our year. Then Grady Little happened, and a Golden opportunity went by the boards. Then-genius GM Theo Epstein went to work, fired Grady Little, brought on Terry Francona, and spent Thanksgiving 2003 serenading Curt Schilling until he finally agreed to come to Boston. At that moment, I was convinced that nothing could go wrong, that 2004 would surely be the year that the Red Sox win a Title. It had to be their year.
When it finally happened, when the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals to capture the 2004 World Series, a weight was lifted from my shoulders as a fan. I literally couldn’t have cared less if none of my favorite teams ever won a title again, because that moment was so magical, I could never hope to capture it with words. It’s a feeling that only long-suffering fans can understand[1. No, Miami Marlins fans, you are not long-suffering, though according to Back to the Future II, you’re due to end 106 years of struggle for the Chicago Cubs come 2015. So you’ve got that going for you.]. Fans of the New York Yankees will never have that feeling of appreciation of triumph that comes for cheering the fiercest of underdogs.
To come back to the Mariners: is their Cano gamble worth it? Are their fans willing to gamble on Cano and a bevy of up-and-coming players to take them over the hump? If the Mariners win just one title over the next 10 years, is that enough? Will it take two titles? Three? It’s a question I’d love to see answered.
The Mariners brain trust thought the Cano gamble was worth it, but once upon a time the Texas Rangers thought the same thing about Alex Rodriguez. He never delivered the Rangers to the promised land, however. Will Cano follow in his footsteps with Seattle?