The talk about trading Jacoby Ellsbury is descending to the lowest level of supply and demand. Technically players are property and a business has to control its assets and liabilities, but doesn’t it matter that Ellsbury was drafted and coached through the Red Sox farm system and was part of the last team to win the World Series? Is there any identity to a team, other than its wins and losses and paid attendance?
I realize I’m writing about a bygone era, when players hung on to teams for a whole career, the days of Yastrzemski and Evans. (Oh yeah, there was Carlton Fisk). But there is some pride in bringing a player of the caliber of Ellsbury or Lester or Pedroia or Buchholz to the majors to All-Star quality. Teams ask relentlessly to acquire these players, but it doesn’t mean we should ship them off at the first tempting offer.
Major League teams ought to have some identity other than the logo on their uniforms. Even the cynical Yankees had their Riviera and Pettit and Jeter and Posada. That was the Yankee identity during the years when they shipped out dozens of players and hired new mercenaries every year. Those guys became the ethos of a team of rent-a-stars. The Red Sox knew who they were playing when they went into Yankee Stadium.
Now that the Red Sox have shipped off their rent-a-stars they have a chance to forge an identity around Ortiz and Pedroia and Lester and Ellsbury. All the talk about moving the infirm while they still have legs to travel is degrading to a player who has busted his tail through the farm system and seven years with the parent club. And it’s not mere sentiment to keep a player of Ellsbury’s talent the year before he becomes a free agent.
Ellsbury is a bonafide lead-off hitter with power. How many years did the Red Sox pine for a good lead-off hitter? How much did they miss a reliable lead-off hitter last year? Now that he’s signed to a contract, they want to trade him for a back-of the-rotation pitcher?
So I’m not participating in the speculation about disposing of the weak while he still has market value.
But if you’re talking Cliff Lee or Felix Hernandez, I’m listening.