We have all heard the term Face of the Franchise. I have herd some say that we haven't had one since Jim Edmonds or McGuire. Others Say Chris Carpenter or Mat Holiday? what about Molina, or Wainwright? What defines a face of the franchise? Is it the best player say like Albert? Is it the fan favorite like Ozzie? Is it just one player or can it be multiple players? Does it change from year to year or does it change? who decides?
DEFINING A FRANCHISE PLAYER
There are those who think That a franchise face is the big national stars that put up big numbers. They say that it has to be a player who is in HR title chases, CY Young awards, MVPs. So as too bring a national spotlight on them and consequently to the team, like Musial, Gibson, McGwire and Pujols. These guys always put up numbers, always on at least one leader board. They are the ones that are talked about during broadcasts of other games or on the network talk shows and publications. One drawback is that the if the player creates controversy the team gets thrust in the middle of it. But if the player is well liked say like a Musial the rewards are positive. Another negative is these guys tend to not be around more more than 3 to 5 years unless you sign them to a long term deal. Contracts like that tend to have too many stipulations that favor the player and not the team in terms of, No Trade Clauses, Opt Outs and they are all pricey. They can be as much as 1/6th of a teams payroll an example would be (hypothetical) a team with a current payroll of $150 million dollars lands a top line Free Agent at $30 million per year. The payroll is now $180 million and 1/6 going to one player. Which can have consequences of there own.
Lunch Pail Guys
These are the players who don't put up the big numbers. They are not mentioned as much. Guys like Pena, Herr, Smith and Hrabosky. The guys who go out do their job and leave it all on the field and they endear themselves to the fan base with hustle and style of play. Ozzie Smith was no offensive powerhouse but his defensive prowess put him and the Cardinals on baseball's map. Just as Brock before him with his penchant for base stealing. Tommy Herr was not known nationally like Smith was but he mentioned by broadcasters when they talked about top second basemen at the time. These kind of guys tend to come through the organization and many stick around or become a journeyman of sorts.
Long Haul Guys
Guys that are there year after year guys like Lou Brock, Bob Forsch and more recently Yadier Molina. There are not many players that last 10 years in the league with 1 team. Let alone the vast majority or entirety of their career. They become a fixture and in a sense the face. When you think of Willie McCovey you think Giants. Rusty Staub you automatically think Expos. These are the guys that are there year after year. Some put up numbers, some don't. They become fan favorites to the point they are revered and considered untouchable by fans. Imagine if will what the fallout would have been if the Cardinals had traded a Lou Brock in say 1975. or the Giants had traded McCovey. Fan criticism would have been through the roof. The fan criticism is bad enough when teams don't go hard after long term who leave for free agency.
These are guys who become part of the community Like Lou Brock opening a florist shop, Musial, Shannon and Hrabosky opening restaurants and bars. Starting foundations and projects and setting up roots. Participating in community programs and being out in the public eye be it local or for a national cause. These players resonate not only with the fan but the non-fan as well. They are seen everywhere on local TV, radio, print media and Team promotions. You see them on billboards, posters. These type of players are the link to the communities they play in.
BRINGING A FACE IN
Can you bring a face into an organization? can some one from outside be more endeared to it's fan base the say Yadier Molina? Yes we have done that in the past with McGwire, Edmonds and Holiday. Even Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith came from outside the organization. But they didn't become the face overnight.
DOES THE FACE HAVE TO BE A PLAYER?
I would argue no, Managers can be just as much of a face as players can. Managers like Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog and Tony LaRussa were as much identified with the Cardinals as the players they coached. Their personalities and identity was reflected in their teams. They were out there for the community they embraced the city and the fans. Plus they are the boss.
CAN THERE BE MORE THAN ONE FACE
Here again yes I believe so. look at the 1982 team. Whitey, Ozzie, Juaquin Andujar, Bruce Sutter, Willie McGee. A lot of people outside of St Louis knew those names. 2006 LaRussa, Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen, Molina, Pujols, Scott Rolen, Edmonds. the same thing applies. I would say right now We have "Faces" Wainwright and Molina are nationally recognized by almost ANY baseball fan Carpenter has entered that discussion at least in terms of national media. The same can be said for Kolten Wong. CAN A FACE CHANGE Yes that is obvious trades always happen, retirement and with Free Agency and contracts "Faces" can change year to year.
DOES A TEAM NEED A FACE TO BE SUCCESSFUL. That is hard to say since just about every World Series winner has a name that almost everyone knows. But like with the Cardinals in 82 Contributions came from everywhere Forsch and Andujar 15 wins apiece during the year. McGee and his defense in CF and 06 multiple players of note. Meaning no central "Face", no one player being the center of attention.(Although an argument can be made toward Pujols getting the lion's share of media attention) It was the team that was recognized by the baseball community. It can be argued that the Cubs in 2016 did not have A face Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Fowler, Chapman, Areitta.
I think the idea of a franchise face is more of a marketing ploy to entice fans to follow and spend money. In my own opinion, the "Face" is a combination of things. 1. It is the performance. put up maybe not monster numbers but solid numbers. 2. The style of play. a guy that hustles and gives his all every game. 3. National standing. Having a place in national discussion be it awards or just being recognized as an important piece in the team's puzzle. 4. Bonding with the community. He doesn't need to go out and kiss babies like a politician. But he does need to recognize and embrace the community that makes his paycheck possible. to me the "Face" needs to be all of that Ozzie Smith WAS a face of the Cardinals NO gaudy offensive numbers but his style of play, his hustle, his attitude and connection to the community. People identified Ozzie Smith with the Cardinals. Just as they did with McGwire, Edmonds, Holiday, and more recently Wainwright, Molina and Carpenter. Having a "Face" on the team can be a good thing. I think all teams have one it varries on what a fans perception is. Thanks for reading, I welcome comments, you can find me Facebook Donald A Glenn Jr. email Bortas2002@yahoo.com Twitter @bortas2002