... the trend to longer contracts for younger players might be a reconnection of the fan base in each city to the team, which, by gawd, is actually the same team for a few years instead of a rotating cast of extras.
...While I admit that this makes me older than dirt, I can still tell you the Pirates line-up from the early 70s was
c - Sanguillen
3b - Hebner
ss - Jackie Hernandez, later to be replaced by the infamous Mario Mendoza who weighed about 173
2b - Cash
1b - Ok, this one's getting away from me, but he was a big, hefty 1B
LF - Willie Dornell, of course
cf - Al Oliver
rf - The Great One - it really doesn't matter who played right field after him, does it?
But the benefit of this continuity was that these were our Pirates whether they finished 1st or 3rd or worse. From one year to the next, we could be committed to our guys going out to do battle w/the Braves (who at that time murdered the ball but had no pitching), the Cubs (pitching w/so-so hitting), or the evil Reds - hitting, pitching, the works. Each team had it's own character, which made the game all the more enjoyable. So now, maybe P'burgh fans will get some of that back w/a core of Maholm, McLouth, and Doumit, plus whatever other young players we actually keep for a few years.