My goal is to add perspective to subjects other than the regular headlines.
Contact Stephanie at s.betweenthelines@yahoo.com



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Burnett Makes the Best Trade for #34

Sometimes when Major Leaguer's are traded, they want to keep the same jersey number. The problem is, many times that number is already occupied by a member of their new team. What's a millionaire to do?!

Since I have a special place for #34's, I took great notice to the trade between New York and Pittsburgh that sent starting pitcher AJ Burnett to the Pirates, and I wondered what a fellow #34 would do since his signature number already adorned Daniel McCutchen's back. Why worry about this? As I wrote in a previous article "Jersey Numbers" many players feel a particular attachment to certain numbers. Whether it be their lucky number, the digits they wore in high school or college, or a even a tribute to a family member or favorite player growing up, there are countless reasons as to why a player feels attachment for a certain number... and there are infinite ways he can win it back.

AJ Burnett is widely recongized with the #34 on this back

So, back to my question... What is a ballplayer to do when his jersey number is already in possession of someone else? As I noted, most of these guys are millionaires and as you would probably guess, they use some of those millions (usually closer to the thousands) to buy the number off the new teammate. Other times, it gets much more creative. For example, in 1993 when Rickey Henderson was traded to Toronto he paid $25,000 to the then-owner of #24, Turner Ward in order to gain the rights to his treasured, hall of fame number. Roger Clemens, who was once turned down by Paul O'Neill to get his prized #21 when Clemens signed with the Yankees, did win the bid in Toronto with Carlos Delgado by offering a $15,000 Rolex in exchange. This past month, even Jonathon Papelbon exchanged a Rolex-for-a-Number with Antonio Bastardo so that he could keep his #58 with his new Phillies team.

When the Giants acquired Carlos Beltran on their 2010 playoff run a reporter asked Bruce Bochey, who wore #15 as the Manager what he was going to do once Beltran (who also wore #15) got to the team. "Nothing that a Rolex can't fix," joked Bochey. In Beltran's official press conference announcing his introduction to his new team he added, "I asked him if he wants one with or without diamonds." Bochey had no sentimental value to the number, and forked it over to the all star after the joking with the media. And the joking didn't start here. John Kruk, one of baseball's more colorful players, once traded the ownership of this number to Mitch Williams... for two cases of beer.

All of this brings us to the best yet, in my opinion, and that involves how AJ Burnett reacquired his beloved #34. The current owner, Daniel McCutchen, is a league minimum player, which means while he still makes a hefty salary of $415,000+ per Major League year, he still doesn't come close to the likeness of Burnett's contract originally from the Yankees which is a five years/$82.5 million deal. McCutchen has a baby due in May of this year, so instead of offering a flashy piece of jewelry, Burnett is doing something a little more personal and lot more respectable. He is starting a college fund for his new teammates unborn baby. I first heard this on MLB Network Radio's Inside Pitch show and the news resonated by the shows host, Jim Bowden matched that of my own - pure adoration for such an unlikely gesture. This is my area of baseball, the ethical, person-behind-the-uniform part. The part where the human element prevails on their public platform. Where they make a gesture that, while normally in plain fun, is now something to be idolized because of the recognition of future values. Burnett is making a gesture to the McCutchen's family, not just the player himself.

Daniel McCutchen with his former number.

It's a heart warming story for sure, and while it shows the value these players hold for the digits that don their backs it also shows the value they hold for one another. It's a story that connects teammates not by money, but by personal virtues and that is always something to be idolized and preached to fans of the game. AJ Burnett just earned some incredible accolades... and who knows, maybe the baseball gods will send some good karma his way this year!

The Baseball Life,
-S


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For more information on the college 529 fund, visit this link: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/7-things-didnt-know-529-080150781.html