Athletes are motivated by many different things. For some, it's all about the money. For others, it's about personal fame and the quest to become "the best." But for many, the ultimate goal is to win a championship, to hold a trophy at the end of the season and be able to declare that no team is better than theirs.
For Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, winning is what matters most. And that's why he's hoping to be traded to a contender.
Talk began that the direction of the team would start to change after the Brewers got off to a terrible start in 2015. Rather than continue trying to "win now forever" by dipping into free agency to fill roster holes, the franchise began the process of rebuilding from within by trading veteran contracts in order to replenish their pool of prospects. For a home-grown veteran like Lucroy, himself the subject of repeated trade rumors, that was an unwelcome change.
Luc understandably expressed frustration with the team's play on numerous occasions during the past season, but these comments also began fueling some speculation about whether or not he wanted to remain in Milwaukee for the long haul. After it was reported that Jonathan would not be attending the "On Deck" fan fest event at the end of this month for the first time in his career, some of his comments sparked further debate about the catcher's future. Always one for honesty, Luc finally cleared the air in an interview with Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel.
"I'm not going to sit here and say we're going to compete for the playoffs next season. If I did that, you'd call me a liar. I'd lose credibility and respect. I want to win and I don't see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That's what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy.
As a competitor, I'm not okay with rebuilding. I'm not okay with losing. You don't want a player to be okay with that. They don't want a player to be okay with that. As fans, you shouldn't want a player to be okay with being average or being a mediocre team, and I'm not.
We need to do a lot to get better. We have some holes to fill and some of them won't be filled for a few years. You've got to have firepower to be competitive. When you trade away veteran players, you don't have that firepower.
I'm not upset about it; I'm not bitter about it. I'm just saying the truth. People have been asking me all off season what's going to happen. I'm honest and I tell them. I don't believe in mincing words. This is a game you want to win at."
It's important to add that while Lucroy would prefer to be traded to a contender, he in no way 'demanded' to be traded and is still planning on reporting to camp in a Brewers' uniform unless someone tells him otherwise. "Whatever jersey I'm wearing, I'm going to go out and give it all I've got," he added, "As of right now, I'm a Milwaukee Brewer and I'm getting ready to play for them."
In essence, Lucroy believes what most of us have been thinking or saying for the last several months. That for both the team and the player, a trade would be mutually beneficial. It's not very often that an athlete is so honest and open about what he desires, which is an admirable quality to possess.
Jonathan Lucroy has been marketed to us as the "every man," someone that just about anybody can relate to. Quiet, honest, hardworking, and very dedicated to working with military veterans, it's hard not to like a person like Lucroy. He took a below-market value extension, an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, early in his career to secure his future and dedicated himself to becoming one of the top players at his position. There just seems to be something so "Wisconsin" about that.
But really, we as fans can't relate to Jonathan Lucroy. He's a millionaire professional athlete who has achieved about as much as he can with his current employer and now wants the chance for bigger and better things. We can harp on how players "aren't loyal" anymore but with the way free agency is, that's just how the game works these days. Players come and go, and what we really root for is the laundry that they wear. After the Brewers turned away Lucroy's extension overtures last season, he knew his remaining time in Milwaukee would be limited. But he didn't know that the team would go into the tank and that the outlook for the entire organization would be changing. He didn't sign up for wasting two years of his prime production with a rebuilding ball club.
In the end, it turns out that Jonathan Lucroy isn't the mythical player that the fans wanted him to be. He doesn't want to be the leader and face of the Milwaukee Brewers, and he doesn't have to be. He doesn't owe the Brewers any specific loyalty, he is nothing more than an independent contractor and the Brewers just happened to be the one team out of 30 possible that drafted him way back in 2007. His goals aren't to spend the rest of his career in Milwaukee or help guide the young pitchers as they begin their major league careers or to teach a young roster how to carry themselves as professionals. Those are goals that fans created and unfairly placed on Jonathan's shoulders without asking him first.
For MLB athletes, playing baseball is their job. Like any of us, athletes have their own goals and desires for their jobs and careers. Jonathan Lucroy's stated goal is to win a World Series, and now we know that like just like the rest of us, he does not see that as a possibility with the Milwaukee Brewers before his contract runs out.
So now let's do the guy a favor and get him to a contending team before 2016 starts and his trade value has the chance to fall even further.