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Columnist
Crede situation best example of how business hurts baseball
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/8/2008 12:17 AM

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Joe Crede's situation illustrates just how much the unavoidable business of baseball stinks.

Everything else about the game is great, from the first inning to the last and from April to October.

But when money, agents and contracts get in the way, a baseball fan might as well retreat into a discussion of the Bear Stearns bailout for entertainment.

Players come, players go, and the sport endures, but that doesn't make it any more comfortable when a Joe Crede is stuck somewhere in between.

After hitting a grand slam Monday to beat Minnesota 7-4, Crede was called "Mr. Clutch" by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

The crowd at Comiskey Park for the home opener gave Crede a huge ovation during pregame introductions. He thanked them with the eventual game-winner in the seventh inning and received an even bigger ovation.

Part of the conversation between parents and kids during the car ride home had to be, "How long can this love affair last?"

The same question was asked a decade ago, before the Sox eventually parted with Robin Ventura even though everybody here adored him and he adored everybody here.

Ventura thrived elsewhere, the Sox survived here, and fans found another third baseman to cheer.

That doesn't make it any less awkward this time.

Crede should be with the Sox for another decade, but they wanted to trade him during the winter. When that didn't happen, he figured to be dealt early in the season if he started fast and his surgical back proved healthy.

Judging by all the speculation, it's surprising Crede isn't playing for a West Coast team by now with Josh Fields playing third base for the Sox.

Instead, general manager Kenny Williams points to Crede as an example of some of the best trades being the ones never made.

A Crede deal can't happen now. It can't, can it? The Sox are 5-2, Crede is batting .393, and it would be criminal to break up this team prematurely.

So unless something drastically changes, Crede will be here the remainder of the season … on his way toward free agency.

Then the uncertainty will resume for Sox fans.

This is crazy, absolutely crazy, this business of baseball. The craziest part is that Crede insists, "I want to be here the rest of my career," and the Sox need a player of his talent and character.

"That's what my agent is for," Crede said when asked how he balances his desire to remain here with the desire for a contract he perceives as fair.

Crede's agent is Scott Boras, the infamous Scott Boras, with whom Williams gets along about as well as Tommy Lee gets along with Kid Rock.

So this is Williams' biggest challenge now that he appears to have assembled a team that can contend this season -- figuring out how to re-sign Crede.

Seriously, Fields unlikely ever will be the fielder or clutch hitter Crede is. He'll have to hit a remarkable number of homers to be as popular.

Having two third basemen like Crede and Fields -- one proven in the majors, the other a prospect in the minors -- might be OK for the Sox, but it has to be uncomfortable for Sox fans.

That's why the business of baseball stinks as much as the high cost of energy.

mimrem@dailyherald.com