Friday, July 9, 2010

Joe Mauer and LeBron James

Begin here: I didn't/don't/won't care where LeBron James plays basketball next year. It's the NBA; it's irrelevant to me. If he opted to pull a Jordan and play the outfield in somebody's farm system, I'd be interested; beyond that, nothing.

But I am struck by the parallels between James and one Joseph Patrick Mauer — both of them major stars in their respective sports, born within a few months of each other, drafted by their (essentially) hometown teams, with plenty of regular season successes on their resumes and no championship rings on their fingers.

One stayed. The other left.

I believe this: That at the pinnacle of American sports today, the greatest reverence is given to the superstars who stay put — who become, in the public eye, synonymous with the uniform.

Cal Ripken with Baltimore. Derek Jeter with the Yankees. Tony Gwynn with the Padres. Kirby Puckett with the Twins. You can come up with their equivalents in the other sports if you feel like it.

We prefer the guys who take the responsibility for the situation they're in and try to make it better. The guys who bounce around looking for a bigger payday or a cushier situation, not so much.

Had Alex Rodriguez stayed with the Seattle Mariners in the winter of 1999-2000, I believe he would be a beloved figure nationally. He's richer financially for the choice he (and his agent) made, but he's never going to shed the "A-Fraud" label. Brett Favre's become a national punchline for his waffling; I think the snickers would be far fewer and much softer if he hadn't turned himself into a wanderer chasing one more ring.

Maybe James is going to win a whole bunch of titles in Miami. Maybe the three superstars and a bunch of scrubs concept will fall apart over the reality of one ball per court. I don't know enough about pro basketball to have an opinion worth your time.

But his national persona — the LeBron James brand, if you will — is diminished today, diminished permanently. He's never going to get it back.


  1. I completely agree. Contrast his grandstanding behavior with the dignified manner in which Kevin Durant announced his extension. I bet Durant wins a title before the three egos in Miami.

  2. I also concur... MLB is full of examples of players since the advent of free agency who changed teams often and lost their possible way to the HOF in the process... and so many others that were (and wore) the brand of the team they were on: Puckett a prime example. Had he indeed bolted for Philly, or elsewhere, would his numbers have meant the same to the writer electorate in 2001? Whereas - in another blog somewhere today (Gleeman?) they ponder whether or not T. Hunter will have the stats for a HOF plaque someday. At this point I would have to say no.

  3. The Packers made Favre a wanderer. He'd still be there if they had wanted him. And its not as if he's an aging shell of himself and just can't let go. The guy had an MVP-type season for the Vikings.

  4. First, I'm still reeling from the Torii Hunter HOF reference--too funny.
    To the point, I think a distinction needs to be made between the two sports and between greatness and reverence. In basketball, you can't be considered historically "great" without winning titles. Because of the nature of the game, this is not considered true in baseball.
    LBJ is making this move in an attempt to be considered "great." At the end of his career, his "reverence" would be moot (to him) if he wasn't considered historically "great."
    With that said, LBJ has a mongo ego, but should we really expect anything different from someone who is only 25 and has already been worshiped for ten years? LuckyBucky