Greg Maddux (far right) will not be affiliated with a team. Could this be the start of a new trend?
A popular story from this past week is that first-ballot Hall of Famer Greg Maddux will not be enshrined in Cooperstown as a Cub or a Brave; he will have no logo on his plaque. Since he played nearly as many seasons in each place—11 in Atlanta and 10 in Chicago—the decision seems to make sense.
Tony LaRussa, arguably one of the best coaches in baseball history, will not have logo affiliation on his plaque, either. LaRussa managed the Chicago White Sox and more notably the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, where he won a combined three World Series titles.
This "no logo affiliation" trend seems like it could only just be starting.
For these two Hall of Famers, the decision may have been dictated partially by the desire to keep options open in multiple cities. Maddux is currently the special assistant to the general manager for the Texas Rangers, but he reasonably could make a move back to Chicago (where he's already been in the front office) or Atlanta to be a general manager or other high-ranking front-office member.
Reports have surfaced in the past couple of weeks that LaRussa could be interested in becoming president of the Seattle Mariners, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today breaking the story. While it doesn't seem like he will be getting a job like that right now, it's an example of why he needs to keep his options open by going into the Hall of Fame without being affiliated with a single team.
Now, this isn't to say that going into the Hall of Fame with a particular team is the end-all be-all, but it does seem to make a significant difference when keeping front-office-job availability.
Consider Nolan Ryan. He pitched for Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers. On his Hall of Fame plaque he is affiliated with the Rangers. While recently resigned from the position, Ryan was the president of those same Texas Rangers. Even though he worked with the Astros as a special assistant from 2004 to 2008, theoretically he may have had more options open had he been inducted without team affiliation.
That is to say that if he wasn't affiliated, he may not be locked just to the teams that he played for.
Of course, teams that a player spends years playing for are more likely to hire them as an executive than a team they didn't play for. Nonetheless, psychologically having no affiliation in the Hall of Fame makes it seem like the player is more likely to land positions outside of the teams they played or coached for.
However, there's a more glaring reason why this trend could just be at its beginning. With more and more players opting into free agency earlier and jumping from team to team, the majority of great players will play for numerous teams.
Back in the day, great players played most if not all of their careers with one team, and that's why it was easy to identify them with one club when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Now some players are leaving their teams in their primes to get more lucrative deals elsewhere.
Not to say that he's a Hall of Famer quite yet, but look at Prince Fielder. He grew up as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers then signed a big deal with the Tigers, and he will be taking the field this upcoming season with the Rangers.
Who would he be affiliated with if he made it to the Hall of Fame?
Then let's look at a player who has likely already stamped his ticket to Cooperstown. Miguel Cabrera began his career with the Marlins but was then traded to the Tigers in a blockbuster deal. He has had most of his best seasons with the Tigers, and if he spends the rest of his career in Detroit, he could be enshrined with a Tiger logo on his plaque.
As of right now, though, he has played five seasons in Florida and six seasons in Detroit.
As more and more players jump from city to city in search of more money upon entering free agency, we will have fewer and fewer players identified with one particular team. As a result, players will either have a very tough decision upon being inducted into the Hall of Fame, or they will choose not to be affiliated with any team at all.