Thursday, January 31, 2008
The Tragic Paisan of Woonsocket
As the discussion following DJF's "battle of the beej" post quickly (and justifiably) turned into a love-in for Tampa Bay's raking and rakish converted centerfielder BJ Upton, my thoughts turned to one man: Rocco Baldelli. My heart breaks with the realization that Rocco has all but lost his job in center field. The move of Upton to center allowed the Rays to trade Delmon Young for pitching help and keep BJ's ridiculous bat in the lineup everyday. As an added bonus they reduce Upton's chances of Knoblauching his way around the infield or Offermanning his way around the bush leagues. The more pressing issue remains: what about the poor man once known as the next Joe Dimaggio?
Rocco's story is littered with bad luck and bad breaks. This cursed bastard first blew out his ACL playing basketball with his brother. Then, while rehabbing his knee, he injured his elbow so severely that TOMMY FUCKING JOHN SURGERY was needed to repair the damage. A 23 year old center fielder needed tendon transfer surgery! Instead of drilling quality moviestar trim, he was having holes drilled into his ulnar bone.
Rocco knew that a life of suburban coffee shops, Honda Civics and calling everyone he meets "guy" wasn't for him, so he bounced back from his ridiculous string of injuries to have an excellent 2006 season. His 90 game run of health showed all of the five-tool abilities that made him a near rookie of the year and top draft pick. Another nagging injury allowed Rocco only 35 games and 137 AB during a disappointing 2006 season and has left him on the outside looking in.
The offseason addition of Cliff Floyd's gossamer tendons & left handed bat combined with the continuing presence Rob Deer 2.0 add up to a logjam at DH/right field/trainer's table in Tampa. The thought of Rocco in powder blue on a Friday night makes me more than giddy, but the Jays need another right handed bat like they need another mildly obese backup catcher. Hopefully he'll find a home in the hinterlands of the National League, preferably somewhere with a natural grass field and national TV deal. Rocco and Frenchy in the same outfield would spell disaster for any runner trying to score on a live ball hit to the outfield, not to mention my heterosexuality.
Ed. Note: Mr. Baldelli was healthy enough in 2006 to play the Jays in Toronto on my birthday. Rocco + Aaron Hill's walkoff homer + numerous tallboys = a great birthday for me.