First of all, let us say that we have nothing against DRays Bay. We are always eager to support other Rays fans, and we read their site regularly. However, we need to take them to task for their most recent post, “Why the Hate for Rocco?”. In the article, they wonder aloud why fans are giving Rocco Baldelli a hard time this season. They then proceed to give us numerous reasons why we should be happy that he is patrolling center field for the Devil Rays.
- The first piece of evidence that they lay down is that Rocco was the best option in the 2000 draft. We have commented on this before at RI, and MaverickBall did a thorough analysis of the 2000 draft. It can be argued that Rocco was the best player taken in the first round of that draft. Still, that doesn’t mean that fans have no right to be frustrated by a player that missed more than a season, and now looks like a shell of his former self. On top of that, with talented players in the system, like Elijah Dukes and B. J. Upton who continues to struggle at his new position, there appear to be other options in center field now, regardless of his draft status. In actuality, the team is now stuck with Rocco because he is signed long-term and has lost trade value due to his fragile nature.
- They then mention that Rocco has been cursed by the label that apparently one scout gave him by labeling him the “next Joe DiMaggio”. In fact, nobody ever called Rocco the “Next Joe DiMaggio”. Rather, scouts likened his play to Joe D. and mentioned on numerous occasions that he looks like the The Yankee Clipper. He is a center fielder, tall, lanky, Italian and runs with a very long stride. Many consider DiMaggio one of the top 5 baseball players of all time and a scout knows it would be foolish to think that a minor leaguer that had only a partial season above A ball would be the “next Joe DiMaggio”. For DRays Bay to call DiMaggio “a darn fine ballplayer” is a bit of an understatement. Joe D. hit .346-46-167 with only 37 strikeouts in just his second major league season. Nobody ever thought Rocco could do that…In defense of DRays Bay it is easy to think that some fans misinterpreted those scouts analyses, but there is no reason to perpetuate them.
- They next mention that fans expect Baldelli to be a Hall of Famer. Hall of Fame? Who ever thought Rocco was heading to the Hall of Fame? As fans we would just be happy if he were named to an All-Star team. Heck, we would be happy if he played in 150 games.
- If the Joe DiMaggio comparison wasn’t silly enough, DRays Bay then tries to argue that Rocco is NOT injury-prone. Since he has been in the Major Leagues he has torn an ACL in his knee playing whiffle ball (not football as mentioned in DRays Bay), had Tommy John surgery on his elbow and missed the beginning of this season with a bad hamstring. Football players don’t have that many serious injuries in a 10-year career. Rocco managed to do all that in the span of two years. The author tries to justify the elbow injury as being caused by Rocco “overcompensating for the knee injury.” Rocco is not the first player to tear his ACL. But he is the first one we remember ever needing Tommy John surgery because of it. That is the sort of thing that happens to injury-prone players. What’s next? He gets a concussion watching a bad movie and then six months later he needs shoulder surgery because he overcompensated for his head injury?…They even mention that his off days are becoming fewer. However, Joe Maddon still feels the need to give Rocco off-days on day games following night games. That is a move usually reserved for aging veterans.
- The author then picks one game out as the “defining moment” of this season for Rocco Baldelli. First of all, Rocco has only managed to be healthy enough to play in 72 games, so it couldn’t have been to hard to find his best game. But lets look at that July 9th game against the Yankees. Rocco went 1-3 with a walk, 2 runs and no RBI. Yep. sounds like his best game of the year. Seriously. Still, it is sad that only one game in the entire 2006 season can be used to sum up the “greatness” of Rocco Baldelli. Can we get a few more of those, please? Better yet…how about an occasional 4-4 with 5 RBI. Before the injuries we expected games like that. Now we are apparently happy when he goes 1-3.
- Finally they admit that Rocco has not lived up to his expectations, but that they will be happy when Rocco returns to form and “is hitting over .300, hits 15-20 homers, and drives in his fair share of runs while maintaining good defense.” Are those numbers good enough for Rocco? Are those numbers good enough for a center fielder that will never steal a lot of bases (too many leg injuries) and only plays above-average defense? Let’s face it. At this point, Rocco is a below-average major league center fielder, and the injuries suggest he will never be much better.
Don’t get us wrong. We love Rocco. We wear our #5 jersey proudly. But even as big fans of Rocco, we expect much more from him and until he gives the Rays a solid, injury-free year, we are going to have our doubts and wonder aloud if Elijah Dukes or B. J. Upton should be in center field for the foreseeable future.