I like to start off every new year by celebrating the old -- the old players, at least. While Jerry Seinfeld is definitely right about rooting for laundry in sports, a few players continually remain steadfast in their commitment to their colors, and front offices occasionally keep guys around past their arbitration years.
I've done this in previous years (2013 and 2014 -- AL and NL versions), and this year is no different -- well, save some of the names. The two guys with the most history with their teams at this time last year were the AL's Derek Jeter (Yankees, duh) and Paul Konerko (White Sox, duh) -- and both of those guys have ridden off into the sunset. In addition, franchise stalwarts such as Howie Kendrick and Nick Markakis moved to the National League, changing the face of loyalty in the Junior Circuit.
Without further ado, here's our list:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Erick Aybar
Debut Date: May 16, 2006
Aybar is the middle child in a triumvirate of Angels long-term starters who began their careers in early 2006. With double-play partner Howie Kendrick moving on to the colder climes of, uh, well, Los Angeles, Aybar takes the role of longest-tenured MLB Angel. Teammate Jered Weaver is awfully close, and could move into the #1 spot sometime in the next 365 days.
Houston Astros: Jason Castro
Debut Date: June 22, 2010
For the second consecutive season, Jason Castro isn't just the longest-tenured Astro ... he's got the shortest tenure in the AL of any of the players listed in this article. Trade rumors have been swirling around the backstop since his uninspiring 2014 season -- the acquisition of Hank Conger and emergence of Max Stassi aren't helping -- so it's possible that Jose Altuve will take over this spot sooner rather than later.
Oakland Athletics: Coco Crisp
Debut Date: May 21, 2010
Would you have guessed journeyman Coco Crisp as the longest tenured Athletic? I would not have, yet here we are. We all know that Billy Beane loves to wheel and deal, and this has resulted in massive roster turnover for the green and gold.
I'd also like to wish a fond farewell to the A's standard-bearer for the last couple of years, Daric Barton. Barton has traveled north of the wall, where he will, ostensibly, not find work at the ML level. Godspeed, Daric, and may a flight of singles sing thee to thy rest.
Prefer the NL?
Prefer the NL?
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
Debut Date: August 22, 2008
Speaking of guys who can play first base in Toronto, Jose Bautista is the current long-term Jay. Since coming over from the Pirates in '08, he's been ... well, you know. He's joined in the Toronto lineup by a load of extremely talented dudes, now including Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, and Michael Saunders. Still, a lot of the run-producing load will fall on Joey Bats, and he could still anchor the Jays lineup for quite a while.
Cleveland Indians: Michael Brantley AND Carlos Carrasco
Debut Date: September 1, 2009
Brantley and Carrasco actually debuted for the Tribe on the same day back in 2009! Both players' trajectories shot up after a successful 2014 campaign, as Carrasco cemented himself (finally!) in the Indians' rotation and Brantley (you may have heard) had a pretty decent season and made a compelling run for the AL MVP award.
These are the only players to share a debut date (and inning! top o' the first!) in the three years I've been tracking this, so that's pretty cool. September callups! Catch the fever!
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
Debut Date: August 4, 2005
Hernandez is so good that I tend to search for him on stats sites as "King Felix" instead of his, y'know, real name. Although he didn't win the 2014 Cy Young, one could argue he's still getting better, year after year. Best of all, 2015 will only be his age-29 season, even though he has been a fixture by the Puget Sound for a long time.
Felix will stay a Mariner, likely until 2020 at the soonest. And we're all better off for it.*
* - Except for the Yankees. Sorry, Yankees.
Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones
Debut Date: March 31, 2008
I still feel like this should be Nick Markakis. Are we sure we're okay with Nick Markakis signing with the Braves? I mean, have we come to a consensus that it's alright for Markakis to no longer be an Oriole?
Adam Jones is a good outfielder (read: probably better than Mr. Markakis), though sometimes he gets a little more credit for his skills than his raw numbers would indicate. He's (probably) a poor defender who strikes out too much.
On the other hand, he's also really good at baseball. He runs the bases like a champ, hits for power, and plays just about every game, every season, at a fairly critical position. Below, you'll find a comprehensive, bulleted list of teams that would not find a spot for Jones as a cornerstone of their outfield:
Texas Rangers: Matt Harrison
Debut Date: July 8, 2008
Matt Harrison still pitches for the Rangers. (Theoretically, at least.)
Tampa Bay Rays: Ben Zobrist
Debut Date: August 1, 2006
The Rays have changed a lot over the past six months. They went from being a good team to being a bad team. They went from being a team with top GM and managerial talent to ... well, not top talent. And they went from having starters like Matt Joyce, Wil Myers, Jose Molina, and Jeremy Hellickson to having starters like Steven Souza and Rene Rivera and ... uh ... guys? Anyone?
Ben Zobrist is still in Tampa, however, and I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon. (Then again ... ) Sure, he's a free agent at the end of 2015, and free agents tend to run straight out of Tampa Bay -- but Zobrist is as much a Ray as anyone in the franchise's history at this point. He's Carl Crawford with less flash and more overall value. And right up until July 2015, at least, he'll stay with his team.
Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz
Debut Date: April 1, 2003
All hail the King of Boston, and the longest-tenured player with a single major-league club in all of baseball. Ortiz has three days of big-league time more than the next-closest player (hint, he's in the NL), and with the retirements of Mr. Jeter and Mr. Konerko, and the move of Mr. Rollins, there's a new sheriff in town.
Three World Series titles and countless clutch hits and homers grants Ortiz status as a Red Sox for life, and he'll probably retire at Fenway in a couple of years, rather than move on to greener pastures. At least some things stay the same.
Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon
Debut Date: April 2, 2007
Alex Gordon has taken a long strange trip from "the next coming of George Brett" to "basically Andy Marte" to "MVP-candidate left fielder" over his time in Kansas City. It's possible that now, both team and star player have hit their peaks. In three of the last four seasons, he's made a compelling case to be in the MVP discussion (non-Trout, non-Cabrera division), and he's a lifetime Royal, yet for some reason, he just doesn't seem to be someone who'll stay gold for much longer.
Perhaps it's the fact that so much of his perceived value comes from being a defensive wunderkind in one of the least-valuable defensive slots. Perhaps it's because he's only got one more year of team control, before he'll turn down his player option and hit the open market. Regardless, I'd say there's a greater than 50% chance that this is the last season the Royals' most recognizable player will be found in K.C.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander
Debut Date: July 4, 2005
Like the United States of America, Justin Verlander debuted on July 4th, had a really great run, and may have peaked going into 2015. That's right, I've got politcally-tinged jokes. More seriously, Verlander is extremely unlikely to lose his position as longest-tenured Tiger for a long while, as he's earned himself more than enough goodwill, not to mention a crazy-big contract that will keep him in navy and orange until 2019 at the soonest.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
Debut Date: April 5, 2004
Welcome to the Decade Club, Joe Mauer. It has now been over 10 years that the Minnesota native has taken the field for the Twins. And despite some fans' insistence otherwise, Mauer has remained a pretty useful player throughout.
Truthfully, I think that if you're looking for a guy to pull a Jeter and remain with his club for nearly two decades, I think this is baseball's best bet. Mauer is locked up long-term (until the end of 2018) with a tasty no-trade clause, and he's in that sweet spot where he's not coveted by every other squad, but also not such a poor performer that he'd be a straight salary dump. Might he end up in a different team's colors in a last-ditch attempt to win a ring? Sure, it's a possibility. But the Minnesota native may also stick around for quite a while.
Chicago White Sox: John Danks
Debut Date: April 8, 2007
The White Sox would probably be happy to dump Ol' Tobacco Fingers in a cost-cutting deal somewhere, but for the time being, Danks will hold the crown that Paul Konerko burnished for so long.
New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez
Debut Date: March 30, 2004
This is your truest Yankee. With the old captain out, all that remains is the most polarizing, disliked player in the majors since Barry Lamar Bonds. It's tough to imagine that he'll remain with the team in perpetuity; he's old, defensively challenged, and hurt by spending a year out of commission. Oh yeah, and the team and its fans revile him. But for the time being, when you think of current Yankees and loyalty, A-Rod takes the top spot.