Players Careers With One Team

Tuesday, March 13 2012 @ 12:29 PM EDT

Contributed by: John Northey

A thread on BBTF about Chipper Jones got me to thinking about how long players stay with one team and has it changed drastically recently. So I figured, what the heck, lets check!

Using the Lahman Database - all stats from 1871 through 2011 in MS Access/SQL/csv format - I was able to make a table of players who have stayed with one team for various lengths of time and for their full careers.

Some basic trivia first...

Fun stuff. Now on to the single franchise players.... Wow does that cut the number down eh?
For those 115 who played 1000+ games with just one 1 franchise we see the following breakdown... Another interesting bit there. Peaked in the '70s with 18 (Banks, Clemente, Kaline, Mazeroski, Brooks Robinson are highlights), but the 1980's, the first decade with free agency from start to finish, had the same number (8) as the 1960's which was the last decade without.

However, there is a piece missing. How many players retired with 1000+ games total in each decade and what percentage stayed with just one team? Interesting... the golden age (1950's) when many books were written and teams started to move was the most 'loyal' time for players but the 1970's was a close 2nd despite the start of free agency. The 2000's dropped to just 1/3rd of the peak level and, outside of the 80's, was the lowest since the days when Babe Ruth was a top pitcher and Ty Cobb the best hitter. Also interesting to see how little loyalty existed pre-1920 retirements. Probably due to rival leagues appearing and disappearing (Players League, American Association, Federal League, Union Association) and teams coming and going often too (NL had a massive contraction in 1900) plus the American League coming to life in 1901.

Basically what this shows is players being with just one franchise was an extremely rare thing in the early days of baseball, then it became common for players retiring in the 40's/50's and 70's with two big drops, the 1980's and the 2000's. The 80's would've had most stars who peaked in the 70's when free agency first came to being. I suspect 10%+ of 1000 game players will not stick with teams anymore, that a 5% rate is most likely going forward for an assortment of reasons. From teams trying to cut their budgets (Montreal in the 90's/00's, Oakland & Tampa Bay today) to players hanging on to break records or reach milestones or just not wanting to quit.

Also of note: just to make everyone depressed not one Jay has played for 1000 games with just Toronto. Our top 'single franchise' guy is Garth Iorg at 931 followed by the top active player, Adam Lind at 621 then it drops to Russ Adams at 286 and Travis Snider at 232 (!) with Danny Ainge at 211 the only other one over 200 games. Jerry Garvin's 196 is the highest for a pitcher followed by Casey Janssen at 166. The guys with 1000+ in Toronto are Tony Fernandez (1450), Carlos Delgado (1423), Vernon Wells (1393), Lloyd Moseby (1392), Ernie Whitt (1218), George Bell (1181), Willie Upshaw & Rance Mulliniks (1115 each), Joe Carter (1039) and Jesse Barfield (1032). Whitt was the closest to being a 'pure Jay' with just 110 games elsewhere while Moseby, Wells, Upshaw and Barfield only played for one other team. Carter actually played more games with other teams than he did for Toronto (1150 vs 1039).