A little while ago, the folks at ESPN.com SportsNation asked me if I would be interested in participating in a series called "Face of the Franchise," in which four panelists selected their choice for the best current representative of a Major League Baseball team. The panel would consist of a writer from ESPN.com, a beat writer or columnist from that team's city, an analyst from "Baseball Tonight," and a team-specific blogger.
After briefly wondering if someone was pulling a joke on me (and doing the requisite Google search), I said "Hell yeah, I'd be interested" and started thinking hard about my choice. And when I say "thinking hard," I mean agonizing over it, like Rob in High Fidelity when the reporter asked him what his top five favorite songs were. This was going down for posterity. My name would be on this. My Tigers fan (and blogger) credibility would be at stake.
The only rule I had to follow was that my choice had to be currently associated with the team. I couldn't pick an old-timer like Ty Cobb or Al Kaline, or any of the players I grew up watching, like Alan Trammell or Kirk Gibson. A few choices came to mind right away, and I began to consider whether or not I could write an interesting paragraph on this person, and the likelihood that he could be chosen by the other panelists.
I also asked a handful of friends who they would pick as the face of the Detroit Tigers, but no clear choice stood out. Actually, that was kind of reassuring. I wasn't just being anal-retentive or indecisive.
Then I imposed a couple of my own rules. 1) My pick had to be a player. An manager, owner, or broadcaster could certainly be the face of a team. But in my mind, fans don't go to the ballpark or switch the game on because of a manager or owner. Players get us excited; they're the ones we watch. 2) Casual fans, or even people who don't follow sports had to be aware of who the player is. I probably didn't follow this rule very closely because it somewhat conflicted with the first rule. For instance, if I ask my mother about the Tigers, she'd probably mention Jim Leyland, if anyone came to mind. But if I talked to baseball fans in other cities, who might they name?
After considering all these factors, I'm not sure that my choice ended up being any different from who I was leaning toward in the first place. If you've been reading BYB regularly, you can probably guess who I picked as the face of the Tigers. But you can read the official pick here, along with those of Rob Neyer, Jon Paul Morosi, and Eric Young (whose pick will go up tomorrow).
But how about you guys? Who do you think is the current face of the Detroit Tigers? It'll be much more fun to see who you'd choose, and if we'd reach any kind of consensus. The comments section awaits your input.