Since he burst onto the scene with Jeff Francoeur in the middle of the 2005 MLB season, Brian McCann has gone from promising talent to franchise player and superstar. He’s been an all-star all but two seasons, one his partial 2005 campaign and one the injury ridden 2012 season. He has won five silver slugger awards. At the age of 28 and headed into the final year of his contract, McCann has made himself extremely valuable.
He might miss a few games at the start of this season but should be healthy after long awaited surgery to repair his shoulder. There is every chance that McCann will have as big of a season if not bigger, than he’s ever had. Only once in his career has he come close to MVP honors (21st in 2010 MVP voting), but this season could be his best chance yet to have that kind of a season.
And then what? That is the question that some Atlanta Braves fans are asking. There is no question that McCann will be worth a ton on the free agent market. It’s even likely that he will be worth more than the Braves will be able to afford. Will McCann go the free market route? He has every right to do just that. The Braves are far from ignorant of the matter and are trying to position Christian Bethancourt to be the possible full time starting catcher in the 2014 season.
Honestly, that is the more likely road for all parties to take. Is it the only option though? Actually no, it isn’t. There was a player, recently retired, that would have been worth a humongous payday on the open market even now, post retirement. Numerous times in his long career he reworked his contract to help the team and to help himself stay with the team. That man is Chipper Jones. Chipper simply wanted to play in a Braves uniform for his entire career. For him, that meant that it was okay if he didn’t maximize his earning potential. Does the Georgia native McCann, who grew up watching the Braves as a kid, have the same intangible inside of him that would allow him to be willing to remain a Brave for the majority if not the entirety of his career?
Right, now we really can’t say one way or another. McCann is a great guy. That much is clear. Still, that doesn’t mean he would be willing to cut himself short on money just to stay with the Braves. If he did want to ask for the highest possible pay increase, there is nothing in that desire that would make him a bad guy. It’s just what they call, “the business of baseball”.
I for one enjoyed the fact that Chipper never let the business of baseball get in the way of the game he wanted to play and the field he wanted to play on. I think McCann could possibly have that special quality that could allow him to be willing to take less money to have continuity in a time where that is so rare. One of the most amazing things about Chipper Jones was that very quality. It set his legendary career on another level to put baseball first and business second.
The next several years of McCann’s career will likely determine if he has a hall of fame caliber career. Maybe he will be willing to add to his stats one day, the nice asterisk that he put baseball first as well. It would be exceptional in that no one would or should blame him if he decided to move on. ‘Exceptional’ is what the hall of fame should be about, however. There is little doubt that Chipper Jones is headed to Cooperstown in a few years. Brian McCann could never find a better path to follow, if he chose to make that exceptional choice. Here is hoping the Braves would extend him the same respect and gratefulness they showed Chipper, if he does.