As many of you know, I read an assortment of sites during my day; MLB Trade Rumors, Awful Announcing, The Big Lead, Free Darko, Fire Joe Morgan, and of course Deadspin. A few days ago I ran across a link on one of the sites - can't remember which - that took me to a flash game featuring Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The game boasted a simple premise: destroy the enemies which ranged from various New England Patriots to cars and then to someone who made me truly ponder life as a professional athlete; former quarterback Kordell Stewart.
Athletes, like milk have expiration dates, they won't play professionally forever, they can't. I suppose that stands for all career paths, but I can't imagined being told at age 30 that no longer were my services wanted in the thing that I was the best at. Kordell was more than a member of the football proletariat, he was a starting quarterback for a successful team, and yet at the age where most are just reaching respectable levels in their occupational hierarchy Kordell's time was up. Pack your bags and hope that you saved enough so you won't have to lower yourself to poor advertisements and reality television.
Kordell no longer could play, but he was given opportunities that he never capitalized on; however he got his shot. Some aren't so fortunate; I'm not talking about the career minor leaguers - I'm sure spending your time just shy of the ultimate goal is frustrating and demoralizing, but most organizations reward persistency with a handful of at-bats or innings. No, I'm instead discussing those whose bodies won't allow them to ever get the bat off of their shoulder.
Rocco Baldelli is an enigma; cursed with a body that simply won't execute like it did before. There's no reason to believe he doesn't work out and take care of his body; running backwards and stretching aside and maybe the lack of blame makes it harder to take. The very tool that earned him his fortune and fame - being the Golden Child of the Rays is surprisingly spotlight lending - has betrayed him to the point of comedy. Rocco was everything at 21, the world was his, but since it's been an executed in tragedy. I've written about Rocco before, and I will again, he's an easy subject to transcribe on and his weaknesses are almost always relevant. Of course I've joked about Rocco before, and I likely will again, but examining how fragile his psyche might be is simply terrifying and depressing.
In many ways Rocco has been set up by faith to be Nomar Garciaparra. Memorable name, hype, look, and injuries; eventually he'll have his chance at salvation and redemption, in the end history will repeat itself and Rocco won't be the benefactor of the move. Faith seems to hate Baldelli, although I won't go as far as to blame faith for him breaking his fibula in high school, but perhaps firing Scott Boras and negotiating his own contract for less money and more incentives is proof, or the 2006 second half, or not being traded last off-season because the team had faith in him. All teases, and unfortunately for Rocco the word may describe his legacy if faith interjects.