Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Pro-Sport retirement circuit is off-putting

(Daily Collegian File Photo)
(Daily Collegian File Photo)

On November 18th David Ortiz, the beloved Red Sox player, announced that he will retire after the 2016 season. The decision came as a surprise to many considering the high-level of production Ortiz has continued to contribute. What has become clear, with the start of the Red Sox season, is that announcing retirement prior to the season of his retirement creates unnecessary distractions and diminishes sports’ fundamental backbone of collective effort.

Every act is celebrated; the last game at JetBlue park, the last opening day, the last opening day at Fenway; it’s melodramatic really. Over the course of the season there will be five promotional giveaways of Ortiz related apparel, ranging from a fake gold chain to a canvas print of him wearing a gnome hat. Obviously, Ortiz has had a remarkable career with the Red Sox, but continuously devoting time to glorify an individual contradicts every lesson sports supposedly teaches players, like teamwork, camaraderie and sportsmanship.

And while other players would not likely vocalize it, fetishizing an active player is distracting for teammates as it disrupts the goals of coaching. A manager is responsible for making decisions that will place the team in a position to win. Sometimes those decisions require the removal of a big name player who is not producing results, but during a retirement tour, such a maneuver is more difficult to execute because there is a public pressure from the fans who want to see the player “one more time.”

Though one could argue that if the fans demand such treatment of retiring legends then it shall be done because they fund sports, there is undoubtedly detraction from the community-oriented mindset that predicates teamwork. Noteworthy too is that the Hall of Fame voting is “based upon the player’s record, playing ability…and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Contributing calls to mind a player’s influence on teammates and leadership, essentially asking, was this player’s presence beneficial to the organization? But if that presence is dominated by egoism and distractions, which farewell tours represent, then no, the player has not positively impacted their team.

On a surface level, baseball is seemingly based on individual performance. When an individual is at-bat, it is perceived as the pitcher versus the batter. However, there is an intense amount of collaboration that needs to occur for a team to win. The pitcher needs the catcher to help call pitches and establish locations and the batter needs to observe the at-bats of teammates to understand the pitcher’s approach and various pitches.

Placing extra emphasis on the individual can mislead younger players to develop the mindset that the individual trumps the team. A teammate who does not understand the importance of collaboration brings down the overall effectiveness of a team.

Yes, the way every player decides to retire is his choice, but professional athletes are role models for not only their younger teammates but also the young fans who look up to them. Each action on the field is observed and often emulated, which is why the city of Boston recently banned tobacco from baseball parks.

The only benefit of announcing retirement prior to the season is that it provides an organization time to plan for the loss of a player. New players can be tested at the departing player’s position or the player himself can mentor a replacement. But if that is a player’s reasoning, then it makes far more sense to simply inform the front office privately and avoid the distractions.

Retirement tours are becoming the new norm for great athletes, however the effects can prove distracting to teammates and disillusion future players’ thoughts about sports, ultimately proving to be in poor taste.

Michael Agnello is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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    ColinApr 19, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Michael Agnello you are wrong!