Who Is the Face of Every MLB Franchise?
There are different ways to determine the person identified as the face of each franchise in Major League Baseball.
Some may look at a player who consistently puts up big numbers year after year. Others may define that person as the one who's accountable and acts as the team voice.
Some teams are fortunate enough to have several players who could fit the above criteria. But for our purposes, we will look at the player on each MLB team who is the most recognizable, embodies the direction of each team and has the skill and personality to represent his team in a positive fashion.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton
Right fielder Justin Upton has taken his share of criticism this season after putting up a career year in 2011.
Upton, the first overall draft pick by the D-Backs in 2005, debuted in 2007 just three weeks shy of his 20th birthday. He quickly turned heads with his five-tool skills and immense talent.
Through the years, Upton has matured and become all about putting his team first. In mid-April this year, Upton hurt his left thumb attempting to break up a double play. He continued to play despite a fluid build-up in the thumb that limited him.
Upton's reason for not taking time on the disabled list to recover? His outfield mate, Chris Young, was already on the DL and shortstop Stephen Drew was still recovering from a broken ankle the previous year. Upton didn't want his team behind the eight-ball so early in the season with several stars already hurting.
Upton has been the subject of trade rumors for more than a year, yet he continues to brush them off and try to lead by example.
You can't ask for much more than that.
Atlanta Braves: Brian McCann
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones will end his 19-year career at the end of this season, having served as the face of the franchise throughout his years in Atlanta.
Back in March, Jones told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that mantle should be passed on to catcher Brian McCann.
Brian McCann is solely going to be the face of this franchise starting this year. He's a great kid. He's a great player, and he's the kind of guy you want to build a ballclub around. It would be sad to see him go somewhere else. Unfortunately, the business of baseball and economics of baseball may not allow it. We'll have to see.
The business Jones was referring to was, of course, the status of McCann's contract. The Braves hold a team option for next season, and with McCann's performance this season, there's no guarantee the Braves will exercise that option.
However, McCann is one of the most respected men in the Braves' clubhouse regardless of his numbers. As a native Georgian, McCann plays in front of a hometown crowd that truly appreciates his efforts.
McCann's down year offensively is indeed troubling. However, he's also been battling a sore right shoulder that could require offseason surgery and more recently right hamstring tendinitis and knee issues.
I don't believe the Braves are ready to give up on a player who has won five Silver Slugger awards and earned six All-Star selections in seven-plus seasons.
McCann will be back, and he will be a more than worthy replacement for Jones as the face of the franchise.
Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones
The Baltimore Orioles thought so highly of 27-year-old center fielder Adam Jones that they signed him to the richest contract in franchise history.
The six-year, $85.5 million extension in late May ensures that Jones will be in Baltimore until at least 2018.
It also means that Jones will continue to be the face of the franchise.
It's an honor that Jones said he takes very seriously.
You see a lot of different guys go to free agency and switch teams. I fit here in this city. I fit here on this team. I fit in Camden Yards. I really don't see myself wearing another white uniform that doesn't have 'Orioles' across the chest.
Jones embodies what has become known as the Oriole Way—adding his good defense and ability to hit the long ball to a formula that also includes solid pitching. Jones also embraces his city, as evidenced by being awarded a key to the city by Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Friday night.
From Brooks Robinson to Boog Powell to Jim Palmer to Cal Ripken Jr., the Orioles have been represented by class individuals. Jones clearly now belongs on that list.
Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has been missing from the lineup for all but one game since July 16, and the Sox have clearly missed his presence.
Ortiz is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Considering the state of the Red Sox offense, there's a strong likelihood Ortiz will be back. If not, GM Ben Cherington would become a subject of ridicule on the local airwaves.
Ortiz will be finishing his 10th season in a Red Sox uniform, and already he is one of the most popular players in franchise history. While second baseman Dustin Pedroia could easily be considered the face of the franchise, Ortiz's willingness to be honest and upfront, along with his considerable hitting skills, gives him the nod.
Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro
With a new seven-year, $60 million contract and a team that will be built around his skills, Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is now the unquestioned face of the franchise.
For his part, Castro said he is ready to take his team to the next level.
I think I'm ready. I think I'm ready to take on this responsibility here with this team and help the other guys who are coming up like (Alfonso Soriano) helped me. I think I'm ready for that in the field and off the field.
Castro has certainly done his job on the field. He is the only player in majors with at least 10 home runs, 10 triples, 25 stolen bases and 75 RBI. He's the first NL player to achieve the feat since Jimmy Rollins in 2007.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a long-term plan to turn the Cubs into perennial contenders. Castro will help lead that effort.
Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko
First baseman Paul Konerko is so highly thought of by White Sox management that GM Kenny Williams briefly considered making him a player-manager before hiring Robin Ventura last year.
Not many players in baseball are that well-regarded.
It's not just Konerko's consistent production, either. He is widely respected for his intuitive thinking on the field and his quiet way of leading by example.
When he retires, he will take his place as one of the most popular and loved players in franchise history.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
When first baseman Joey Votto signed a 10-year, $225 million contract extension in early April, none other than Reds manager Dusty Baker was ready to declare him the face of the franchise.
It means a lot not only for the franchise but for the city. It means that kids grow up emulating Joey Votto. In modern baseball, either a guy declares free agency or the team trades him. People don’t basically stay around that long. It means a lot to city to have Joey as the face of the franchise. He’s a very good role model for the task.
That's certainly high praise for the slugging star who won the National League MVP Award in 2010.
Reds owner Bob Castellini echoed Baker's sentiments. "He's a winner and he exemplifies what the Reds stand for," Castellini said. "Who he is and what he does represents how we're trying to build this team."
Cleveland Indians: None
Last week, the Cleveland Indians relieved manager Manny Acta of his duties after the Tribe suffered through their worst month in franchise history.
A 5-24 record in August cost Acta his job, despite doing all he could do to halt the slide. Team meetings, lineup changes, altering daily routines—nothing Acta did was enough to stem the tide.
While Acta took the fall, he was not the reason for the collapse. His under-performing players were, and not one of them stepped up as a leader.
Carlos Santana? Benched by Acta in late August for failing to run out a grounder. Not exactly leadership by example. And certainly not the first time it's happened.
Asdrubal Cabrera? Way too many instances of lethargic play for my liking.
Shin-Soo Choo? He may not even be there next season.
Chris Perez? He's too busy ripping fans and management.
In fact, the Tribe could be listening to offers this winter for Cabrera, Choo and Perez.
The trouble with the Indians had little to do with Acta. The trouble was a lack of field leadership on a team clearly in need of it.
Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton
First baseman Todd Helton is watching helplessly as his Rockies try to avoid their first 100-loss season in franchise history.
Hip surgery ended what turned into a lost season for Helton, who only played 69 games and finished with a .238 batting average and only seven home runs.
Helton plans to play in 2013, hoping to end his career with a bang instead of a whimper.
Until that happens, Helton—one of most popular players in Rockies history—is the undisputed face of the franchise.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander
With a Cy Young, MVP and Rookie of the Year award, five All-Star selections in the last six years and a World Series appearance, Justin Verlander has collected a lot of hardware.
He can also add face of the franchise as an accolade as well.
Verlander leads the Tigers rotation, but also is the embodiment of team play. Verlander wants the ball in every key situation and lends his support and encouragement to his teammates as well.
The results are great and the awards are nice as well. But all Verlander wants to do is win. I'll take 24 other guys like that on my team.
Houston Astros: Jose Altuve
The Houston Astros will enter the 2013 season with a new mind-set and a new team.
Having unloaded most of their veterans for prospects, the Astros will leave the NL Central for the AL West next year. It will be a fresh start in more ways than one.
But the Astros do have one returning youngster who has already shown great promise and could well represent the character of the team for years to come. That would be second baseman Jose Altuve.
At just 22 years of age, Altuve already has represented Houston at the All-Star game and was one of the bright spots in an otherwise dismal season.
Altuve, who has stolen 35 bases, will finish his first full season in the majors with a batting average hovering near .300. His hustle and effort are exactly what the Astros will be looking for from the many fresh faces who have recently arrived.
Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler
For the past six seasons, designated hitter Billy Butler has worked tirelessly to become one of the elite right-handed hitters in the American League, and the results are evident.
Butler entered play on Sunday hitting .313 with 29 home runs and 107 RBI and will likely collect his first Silver Slugger award. He continues to refine his hitting skills on a team loaded with youngsters struggling to find consistency.
Butler won't stick out in the minds of Royals fans on the level of a George Brett. But on a team that has known nothing but losing for several years, he provides stability.
Los Angeles Angels: Torii Hunter
The Los Angeles Angels are loaded with stars, both new and established.
Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo have garnered most of the attention this year. However, one particular player stands out in terms of character, accountability and class—right fielder Torii Hunter.
He is putting up one of the best seasons of his 15-year career. On Sunday, Hunter delivered a key two-out, two-run double in the top of the ninth inning against closer Joe Nathan of the Texas Rangers, giving the Angels a 5-4 victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
Hunter has been on fire in the second half. He has the third-highest batting average in the American League since the All-Star break. His leadership and on-field example have been keys to keeping the Angels in contention for a postseason berth.
Hunter has mentored both Trout and Peter Bourjos, and continues to be one of the classiest men in all of baseball.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp
Center fielder Matt Kemp has certainly not had the kind of season he expected—injuries took care of that.
However, the seven-year veteran is still the heart and soul of the Dodgers, even in a diminished capacity. Just as the Dodgers, who cling to a glimmer of hope for a postseason berth, refuse to go away quietly, Kemp, their on-field leader, has done the same.
Despite pain in his shoulders and knees, Kemp continues to battle, hitting his 23rd homer in the fourth inning Sunday against the Colorado Rockies to give the Dodgers a 2-1.
Chemistry may be an issue for the Dodgers, considering all the personnel changes made over the past several weeks. No doubt that will be discussed if, in fact, the Dodgers are eliminated from playoff contention.
However, no one will deny that Kemp is still the player to lead the Dodgers into the future. With his work ethic and tireless drive to succeed, the Dodgers couldn't follow a better example.
Miami Marlins: Jose Reyes
The Marlins are searching for answers to a disappointing season. They're also looking for a new face of the franchise.
From 2006 until earlier this year, Hanley Ramirez was that man. Despite temper flare-ups and a few issues, Ramirez was the player the Marlins built around, the player deemed to be the savior.
However, with his trade to the Dodgers and other deals made by the Marlins, they're now looking to the future with uncertainty. They're also looking for that one player who can lead by example.
Jose Reyes should be that man.
Reyes has not had the type of year expected when he signed his six-year, $106 million contract. Batting .284 on Sunday afternoon, Reyes was 53 points below last year's NL-leading average.
Still, Reyes represents a player who has won a batting title, been selected to multiple All-Star teams and been in the trenches of meaningful October baseball.
Manager Ozzie Guillen believes that Reyes can be that man for the Marlins as well.
"We expect [Reyes] to be the leader," Guillen said back in July. "We expect him to be the guy. I expect him to be the guy. He did it before and he should do it again."
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun
Left fielder Ryan Braun put up numbers last year that were good enough to earn him the NL MVP award over Los Angeles Dodger center fielder Matt Kemp.
Braun's done himself one better this year.
With the exception of batting average, Braun is having a better year statistically in 2012. He leads the National League in home runs, RBI, OPS and total bases, and his .320 average is fourth in the NL.
Braun is certainly worthy of consideration once again for the NL MVP, and he also led his Brewers in a late-season charge for a playoff berth only to fall just short.
Braun is the unquestioned leader on the field, and by the time all is said and done, he'll end up rewriting the Brewers' record books.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
It's easy to look at the best player on any given team and automatically assume they are the face of the franchise. But that's not necessarily the case.
For Joe Mauer and the Minnesota Twins, however, it is.
Mauer, born and raised just miles from Target Field, isn't just a hometown favorite. He isn't just the best player on the team. He takes time to acknowledge the local fans and is often seen at local hospitals and charities doing whatever he can to help out.
Mauer has been a terrific ambassador for the Twins since arriving in 2004, and while his team may be struggling in the standings, Mauer continues to do whatever he can to lead by example.
New York Mets: David Wright
Third baseman David Wright still hasn't signed a long-term contract, so while his future in New York may remain in doubt, no one doubts that he is the face of the franchise.
Wright bounced back from an injury-riddled 2011 campaign to put up nice numbers—a .306 average, 21 HR, 91 RBI, .886 OPS and just 10 errors in 152 games.
Wright never shies away from questions from the local media. He's honest and accountable about the struggles of his team.
Last week, Wright set the franchise mark for hits, breaking the record held by Ed Kranepool, long dubbed Mr. Met.
Mets fans are hoping that the Mets and Wright can, in fact, come to terms on a new contract. They want a new Mr. Met.
New York Yankees: Derek Jeter
The New York Yankees are battling fiercely with the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East title and are once again being led by their erstwhile captain, Derek Jeter.
It would have been easy to assume that Jeter, now 38, would experience a natural regression of skills due to his advancing age. Apparently, no one told Jeter.
He collected 200 hits this season for the eighth time in his career, matching the franchise record held by Lou Gehrig. In addition, Jeter's .318 average is just eight points behind Miguel Cabrera in what has become a five-man race for the AL batting title (Cabrera, Joe Mauer, Mike Trout, Adrian Beltre, Jeter).
Jeter is still getting it done after 18 seasons, and he still represents the Yankees with class, distinction and honor.
Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes
The Oakland Athletics are in dogged pursuit of a playoff berth in the American League, certainly a surprise given their payroll and the cost-saving moves they made during the offseason.
A's GM Billy Beane traded away three-fifths of his starting rotation and his closer during the winter, leading many to believe the A's would struggle in 2012.
However, the players brought back in those trades have largely delivered. In addition, a player signed over the winter has largely contributed as well—Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
In his first full season of professional baseball outside of Cuba. Cespedes, as of Sunday night, was hitting .291 with 23 home runs and 82 RBI. He has clearly shown he was up to the task despite reservations from critics who doubted his ability to adapt to life away from Cuba.
As the A's move forward, Cespedes will be right there leading the charge. With a contract that takes him through the 2015 season, fans will have the chance to see Cespedes continue to develop and continue to lead the A's offense.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
A member of the Philadelphia Phillies since 2000, shortstop Jimmy Rollins has seen just about everything during his 13 year-career.
Rollins has seen the Phillies lost almost 100 games during that first year in 2000. He's seen the team struggle to find its way toward the top in the early-to-mid 2000s. He's seen the Phillies finally reach the top of the NL East in 2007 after he proclaimed they would do so. And, in fact, Rollins' MVP season helped get them there.
He's seen a World Series title, finally achieved the following year in 2008. He's seen five straight NL East titles. And, finally, he's seen losing once again, with the Phillies this season looking at a possible .500 record and third-place division finish.
Through it all, Rollins has been the face of the franchise. While Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee can claim the headlines from time to time, Rollins has been the one constant for the Phillies over the past 13 seasons.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen
With the Pittsburgh Pirates loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, they extended a dubious record. Their 82nd loss assured the Pirates of their 20th consecutive losing season, extending their North American professional sports franchise record for futility.
It wasn't for a lack of effort, however.
These Pirates competed hard in the NL Central through August before eventually fading. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen was front and center, leading the charge.
McCutchen has put together a career year. He leads the National League in hits and runs scored, is second behind Buster Posey for the NL batting title and has 31 home runs and 94 RBI, both career highs.
McCutchen agreed to a six-year, $51.5 million contract in early March, ensuring that he would remain with the Pirates until at least 2018.
McCutchen rewarded his team with his efforts. And while the Pirates fell short of their goal, McCutchen has clearly shown he's up to the task of leading this team into the future.
San Diego Padres: Chase Headley
The San Diego Padres have been waiting for six years for third baseman Chase Headley to reach his offensive potential. He finally delivered this year.
Headley leads the National League with 113 RBI following play on Sunday. His 31 homers are a career high as well.
Headley had been constantly mentioned in trade rumors for the past year. But with his offense finally developing and new ownership in place, those rumors will likely go away.
Headley is under team control through the 2014 season, so there's certainly no urgency to deal him now. In fact, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com believes the Padres are better served by signing Headley long-term.
If that occurs, Headley figures to continue being the centerpiece of the offense and the new face of the franchise.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
The San Francisco Giants clinched their second NL West title in three seasons on Sept. 22 with 10 games to spare. They can thank catcher Buster Posey for helping them get there.
Posey, coming off an devastating ankle injury following his home-plate collision with Scott Cousins last year, has put together a remarkable second half that could earn him an MVP award.
Posey had a decent first half, hitting .289 with 10 HR and 43 RBI. However, those numbers pale next to the .389 average, 13 home runs and 57 RBI he's produced since the All-Star break.
Posey is eight points ahead of Andrew McCutchen in the race for the NL batting title and is a front-runner for the MVP award. His pitching staff still marvels at his skills behind the plate, and in just two-plus years, he has clearly endeared himself to local fans.
Posey clearly showed that he was capable of putting a team on his back. When Melky Cabrera was suspended for the rest of the regular season on Aug. 15, questions were raised about whether the Giants had enough offensively to hold of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Posey answered those questions and more.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
With Ichiro Suzuki gone, a torch has been passed in Seattle.
Mariners' starting pitcher Felix Hernandez is the new face of the franchise, and deservedly so.
Hernandez draws the biggest crowds at Safeco Field whenever he is slated to start. In addition, he has stated on numerous occasions that he loves playing in front of his fans in the Northwest, wants to be part of the rebuilding process and wants to act as a mentor for the new pitchers in the system.
Can't ask for a much better role model than that.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina
With the departure of Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals were devoid of a leader who could take charge offensively and lead by example.
Catcher Yadier Molina has done both.
Molina has always been regarded as the one of the great defensive catchers in the National League and as a player who could handle a bat.
This year, however, Molina stepped up his offense more than just a notch. Through Sunday, he was fourth in the NL with a .317 average, with career highs in home runs (22) and RBI (75).
Molina is also in line to capture his fifth consecutive Gold Glove. With a contract that takes him through at least the 2017 season, Molina has taken a firm hold on the title of face of the franchise.
Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria
After the Texas Rangers defeated the Los Angeles Angels in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves on the brink of elimination from the playoffs.
Third baseman Evan Longoria's absence from the team for three months is part of the reason why.
Longoria has produced 14 home runs and 51 RBI in just 70 games. Imagine the impact that kind of production for a full season would have had on a team that ranks in the bottom third of the the league in most offensive categories.
Longoria is the main cog in the wheel driving the Rays' offense and has become the face of the franchise. He signed a team-friendly contract that could be extended through the 2016 season. So for at least the next four seasons, Longoria can continue to help keep his Rays competing in late September.
Texas Rangers: Michael Young
Throughout his career with the Texas Rangers, Michael Young has been bounced around like a ping-pong ball from position to position.
Yet through it all, he manages to give a max effort despite where he is on the field. It's his belief in helping the team win that makes Young the face of the franchise.
Young continues to do whatever is needed by manager Ron Washington.
Young has played 82 games at various infield positions this season, with an additional 71 games as the DH. While Young isn't the focal point of the offense, he's still a major piece in a potent lineup.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
While injuries to key members of the pitching staff helped derail the Blue Jays' season, Jose Bautista's wrist injury completely derailed the offense.
The Blue Jays have produced the third-fewest runs in the American League since the All-Star break, with Bautista missing all but four of those games.
Bautista has become the heart and soul of the Jays. His absence clearly shows that.
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
Before the 2012 season began, third baseman signed a six-year, $100 million contract. Zimmerman had suffered through seven losing seasons, and he believed the Nationals were finally ready to turn a corner.
On Sept. 20, that corner was finally turned as the Nationals qualified for the postseason, assuring that postseason baseball would be played in the nation's capital for the first time since 1933.
Zimmerman was the franchise's first-ever draft pick, has made Washington his home and has long been a fan favorite. While youngsters Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper may be the darlings of the media, Zimmerman is the clear face of the franchise.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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