Thursday, April 10, 2014
Myth-busting: Single-team career stars are *not* becoming more rare
Indeed, Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's oft-mentioned former teammate, Carl Yastrzemski, tops a list of 36 players in major league history who have played at least 2,000 career games all with the same team.
If you've watched ESPN or MLB Network at any point during the last two months, you are no doubt aware that longtime New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the season. Jeter is among those 36 players, having played each of his 2,610 career games (entering Thursday) in a Yankee uniform.
On a recent MLB Network broadcast, I heard one of the commentators note that Jeter has spent his entire career in New York. They added that in this era of free agency, "you just don't see that too often anymore." That's conventional wisdom. Heck, I think I've probably said things like that myself.
But every now and then I like to research the facts behind the conventional wisdom, just to see if they are accurate. In this case, they are not.
Of the 36 players on that list, 23 are players who have played in my lifetime. For the record, I was born in 1976.
So, that means between the years of 1901 and 1976, a span of 75 years, there were only 13 players who played 2,000 games or more all with the same team. In the 38 years since 1976, 23 players have played 2,000 or more games all with the same team
Contrary to conventional wisdom, it's actually more common nowadays for a player to have a long career with the same team.
I won't bore you by listing all the players on the list, but among the 36 are some star players I recall watching during my 1980s childhood: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Robin Yount, Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken.
Others, like Jeter, are names familiar to fans who have followed baseball over the last 10 or 15 years: Barry Larkin, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Chipper Jones, Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton.
Don't get me wrong: Given the sheer volume of players who make it to the major leagues, it is still uncommon for a guy to spend a career that spans more than a decade in the same city. At some point, most guys get traded, or leave their original franchise via free agency. But the conventional wisdom that says single-team career stars like Jeter are becoming more and more rare is just plain wrong.
In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if this list continues to grow over the next decade. You can find examples of players who are candidates to join the list. Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia has played 1,025 career games (entering Thursday). He is under contract with the Red Sox until 2021, when he will be 38 years old. How about Evan Longoria? He's played 807 career games (entering Thursday) and is under contract with the Tampa Bay Rays through 2023. There's two possibilities right there. I'm sure there are others.
You see, this old-school lament that "players just don't stay in the same place anymore" is not quite right. They didn't stay in the same place all that often back in the old days either. If I ever try to tell you otherwise, remind me I'm wrong.