Who Is the Face of the Franchise?

Recently several friends and I embarked on a conversation to try and identify who was the “face of the Arizona Diamondbacks”. For many years this was a question with a simple answer. From 1999 until his departure at the end of the 2006 season the face of the team was nearly unanimous given to outfield Luis Gonzalez.

Gonzo had all the qualities necessary to be named to such a post. On the field he was one of the best players the Diamondbacks had ever seen. He could hit for power, drive in runs, and he collected extra base hits like clothes collect lint.

When Gonzalez left after the 2006 season there was a huge void left behind. At the time first baseman Conor Jackson went to team officials expressing his desire to take over that role. What Jackson did not understand was that seldom does the team dictate who will get that moniker. Instead it is up to the fans to deem a player as the face of the franchise.

During the 2007 season outfielder Eric Byrnes who had taken over for Gonzalez in left field was christened by the fans as the face of the franchise. His boyish good looks coupled with his kamikaze attitude in the outfield made him a perfect fit.

Unfortunately Byrnes could not maintain the high level of success necessary to keep him at the forefront of being the fan favorite nor the face of the franchise. Injuries and lack of production soon found Byrnes booed as much as he was cheered. For the second consecutive year he will have missed substantial playing time almost making him non-existent as far as the fans are concerned.

Right fielder Justin Upton would seem to be the logical choice. He has the talent that should make him a perennial all-star and vault him onto the national stage. He is a 21 year old wonder kid that has huge potential. The problem is he might be too young to be able to handle the pressure that comes with being the face of a franchise.

Upton’s personality and demeanor come across as someone who is quiet and reserved who more or less keeps to himself. This introverted trait will make it difficult for him to really become the face of the franchise.

Many in our discussion group attempted to make a strong case for third baseman Mark Reynolds as the face of the franchise. His gritty attitude and the ability to launch balls deep into the stands make him a natural fan favorite.

Earlier in the season with the Diamondbacks struggling it was Mark Reynolds who called out his teammates and challenged them to work hard for the remainder of the season. This public outcry was met coolly in the clubhouse but the result was that the team began to play better.

The problem with Mark Reynolds becoming the face of the franchise is that his style of play is not one you would want players emulating. His 151 strikeouts and 13 errors both lead the team. This is not the kind of role model you would expect to become the poster child for the team.

I have no doubt that Mark Reynolds will become a valuable member of the Diamondbacks for a long time. I just wonder whether he will be able to polish up the loose edges to make them more palatable for the fans.

When Reynolds is hot there are not any hotter as witnessed by his selection as National League Player of the Week this week. Unfortunately when Reynolds is cold there is none colder. This roller coaster type of player will end up driving the fans insane. For him to be considered these parts of his game need to be cleaned up.

Our conclusion is that for now there is no clear cut winning and that the mantra of “face of the franchise” will have to wait a little longer before it is bestowed upon anyone.

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