How might former Mets reliever/captain Johnny B. Badd react to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford claiming, “there should be no captains in baseball” following Jason Varitek’s inability to strike fear in the hearts of his chicken-chomping, beer-swilling Red Sox teammates? I don’t know for sure, but I’d hate to see a writer as talented as Bradford end up in several pieces, spread around a Staten Island landfill.
This isn’t football, where practices are much more prevalent than games, and the captaincies are determined on a year-to-year, and even week-to-week, basis that respond to specific circumstances on a team in any given year. Once you give out the ‘C’ in baseball, there is no turning back. It doesn’t matter if the player’s role is altered, his responsibilities are tweaked, or if the clubhouse dynamic does an about-face. Like it or not, you have your captain.
In his book, “Watching Baseball: Discovering the Game Within the Game,” Jerry Remy — who was named captain of the California Angels at the age of 24 in ’77, puts it succinctly when writing, “There’s probably no need for a captain on a major league team. I think there are guys who lead by example. You could name the best player on your team as captain, but he may not be the guy other players will talk to or who will quietly go to other players and give them a prod.”
Paul Konerko has been captain of the White Sox for six seasons. And while he jokes about the reverence of the title, citing the inability to execute such tasks as argue penalties like his hockey-playing brethren, the first baseman seems to possess an authentic ownership of the role. But there is also a reason why if Konerko left via free agency prior to the ’11 season the White Sox were going to go without a captain — it simply is not a necessity.
And even Derek Jeter has felt the hollowness of the title as the years have gone on. In a poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal in the middle of the ’11 season, Yankees players were asked which Yankee player would be most likely to be voted class president. The shortstop didn’t get a single vote.