Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just This Side of Glory

I have a real soft spot in my heart for career minor league types.  To get a cup of coffee in the majors once in a while, tasting the bigs, but never quite making it, languishing in the minors year after year as young upstarts pass you by, seems a cruel fate.

The Tigers have a couple of those guys--Timo Perez (just re-signed to a minor league deal, with the slap-in-the-face incentive of making somewhere around $4- or 500,000 if he stays in the majors all year--what a low blow), and Mike Hessman.

Hessman's got the true "country strong" power as Rod Allen would say.  He hits moon shots out of the park.  Trouble is, that's about all he's got.

Perez has shown flashes of goodness up with the Tigers, but gets just a few call-ups, and those are fading fast with all the young outfielders down on the farm.   See Ian over at BYB's piece today for Timo's 2007 numbers with the Tigers, and other good stuff.  I agree it seems odd to retain him at this point, but I have to say, I'm glad about it.

I'm sure it's offensive to them to have me feeling sorry for them, and wanting to protect them.  Maybe they feel sorry for me--someone who is obsessed with watching others do what I never could.  I mean, at least they're playing ball.  They could be working at a wastewater treatment plant or risking their lives in a coal mine every day for a pittance.   Not that I'm saying they couldn't be doing anything decent if they didn't play ball, I just mean there are a lot worse things than the minor leagues.  I kind of love minor league games, and wish I lived in a town with a minor league team.  They're inexpensive, filled with all kinds of hokey promotions for kids, and you get to see a lot of young talent.  But coming from a lifer's perspective, when you compare it to the bigs, it might get a wee bit frustrating to come that close and never quite get there.

Then there's a player like Chris Shelton, who hit 9 home runs in the first 13 games of the 2006 season, and has never been heard from again.   Designated for assignment countless times, he's now signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners.  I wonder whether it would have been better for him never to have hit all those homers, than to try for the rest of his career to regain the fleeting greatness.

I guess it's all in a person's own perspective.  Some are happy that they were a part of something and once did something, while others are tortured by what might have been, and the inability to get back to that place.

I think also of Craig Monroe, who had such a magical 2006, hitting so many clutch four baggers.  He hit five home runs in the 2006 post-season, 2 in the ALDS, one the ALCS and 2 in WS, and hit .429 in the ALCS with .786 SLG.  He's really struggled since then, hitting .202 with 8 homers last year in 163 at bats.   He's  now a Pittsburgh Pirate.  Actually, I just saw that he made $3.8 mill last year!  All sympathy is summarily withdrawn.

No, in reality, my heart can't help but go out to those who glimpse greatness just out of reach, or grasp it momentarily as it slips through their hands.


-s said...

This story is dripping with nostalgia.


OldEnglish said...

Ha--thanks for the syrup content check. I've got a really snarky piece in the works as I type.

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