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.


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  1. youALREADYknow says:

    Amen.... although Rocco is and has been a league average centerfielder, not a below average one.

    The doubts arise when people think he'll be a perennial All-Star. I doubt he'll ever consistently become an above-average centerfielder although I expect him to have some great years here and there.

    He still has a ton to prove to me for me to be happy about his team options for 2008-10 and the millions of dollars he would receive. Quite honestly, we may have more than 2 options to replace him by then.

  2. Jake Larsen says:

    Silly Gaines and the ever so loveable YAK....

    First off, you mention Dukes and Upton as if it's already in the works that one of them is going to replace them.

    1. Dukes has yet to prove anything close to the fact that he has the mental capability to shut his damn mouth and control his temper. For a "smart" player, he's pretty f'in dumb and immature.

    2. Upton is not moving to CF, why won't anybody understand that it's a pipedream and Friedman himself had to suggest to Upton a move to 3B. How quick do you think he'll respond to them asking to move to the outfield, which his statistics would pan out to average to almost above average.

    Next, my co-writer RJ never argued that Rocco was injury prone or not...he instead just stated that Rocco isn't always injured. Most Rocco haters complain that Rocco's always hurt and he can't stay healthy. Noone complains about Griffey or J.D. Drew, do they? J.D. Drew has probably had 1 healthy season for his entire career, but not many dodger fans are complaining about him.

    All major league baseball players are injury prone, if one wants to get technical. Any human being can be considered injury prone.

  3. The Professor says:

    I only mention Dukes because he is considered an outfielder with great 5-tool potential. yes he has his issues and we have been on his case all season, but he IS an option. As or BJ, he just committed an error in 6 straight games! Many think he would be better suited in the outfield, much like his brother who has already made the move. Personally I am still hoping he is a shortstop, but have serious doubts.

    as for Griffey and Drew. Are you serious? Every baseball fan both KNOWS about their injury histories and COMPLAINS about them. Who hasn't wondered aloud how many home runs Griffey would have if he had stayed healthy. And do you think Reds fans have been happy about his injury streak in the outfield. A Reds fan will tell you that everytime he starts to run for a flyball, they cringe.

    JD Drew? has been better this year, but last season he only played 72 games and PLENTY of Dodger fans complained. "What a terrible acquisition, we knew he would get hurt" blah, blah, blah. This season Drew will play in more than 135 games for only the second time in 8 seasons! Cardinals fans comlpained and now they are looking at the Dodgers fans and saying, "we told you so". In fact, Drew is a great comparison for Rocco. similar players. similar potential Drew is bareley the player most thought he would be when he first came up. .282-15-81-2sbs is not a good year considering how good he was supposed to be and probably what we can expect from Rocco in 5 years.

  4. RJ says:

    How do you compare JD Drew to Rocco? JD Drew is/was supposed ot be much more of a power hitter than Rocco.
    Also your telling me that 81 RBIs out of Rocco wouldn't be a good year? That would make him the LEADER on the TEAM. Rocco will hit for a better average than Drew is / will.
    I'm not sure why you think he won't steal bases considering he is 9/9 and if you notice he's being very selective about when to run.
    I know you'll come back with some "Rocco's never going to hit in the .310's because his past numbers don't suggest it" Well CC's career BA is .291, he's batting .302, Rocco's is .288, he's now hitting .299, that's an .11 jump in each of their BA's over their career. What makes you think that can't continue?
    Also you act as if Rocco hitting .300 +, 15-20 homers, and RBIs (which you can't really say it an individual stat since it is the most team related of stats) are somewhere in the 60-80 range out of either the leadoff or two spot, that's pretty darn good.

  5. The Professor says:

    and why do you think that Rocco is so selective when running?

    Hey...we're going to give him the benifit of the doubt but he needs to come back next 150+ games hit .300-20-80 with 20 steals...but what would really make us happy is .310-25-90 and 30 steals. That is where Rocco should really be at this point in his career.

  6. Zim says:

    Rocco is way down the list of concerns for the Rays. Leave him alone. He was injury prone in high school (but not the minors), so there is real reason for concern over hie health. But when playing, he's been solid (the team played much better upon his return) and gives the team a very good base OF (Carl-Rocco-Delmon) that they hopefully can pencil in for 4 more years (when Carl's current deal runs out).

    Any talk of Upton in the OF is crazy; he's been up twice now for extended stretches and hasn't hit enough either time to justify an IF spot, much less an OF spot yet. His defense/arm is actually worse than expected (and not much was expected). If Ozzie Smith and 2 years in the minors can't help, I'm begining to think nothing will.

    Dukes sadly is going to blow his career before he makes it to the majors.

  7. RJ says:

    why do I think he's selective, hello he's 9/9, and he doesn't run everytime he gets on, a la selective, and usually when he DOES steal he makes it pretty easily.

  8. youALREADYknow says:

    Rocco is way down the list of concerns???

    Last I checked when a guy is due to make a combined $14mil in 2009-10 on a team whose payroll is likely to be around $40mil, he's a concern.

    I'm not even going to mention specific names as to who could replace Rocco. The bottom line is that unless he's a consistently well above-average centerfielder who can be counted on to be an EVERYDAY player, he won't be worth $6-8mil to this ballclub. I don't care WHO replaces him if he doesn't live up to his potential, all I care is that he is replaced.

    People who choose to backup their Rocco arguments by arguing against Dukes and Upton are simply wasting their time. Those are 3 different situations that really don't relate to one another. The situation with Rocco is simple... all he needs to do is perform at a high level consistently.

    He's made strides this year since injury to come back performance-wise. He still needs to work on the plate discipline and he still needs to show power progression. If he can even slightly improve in those areas and stay healthy, he will have proven to be a consistent above-average major league centerfielder and we won't be having this discussion in 2 years. If he can't, I'll be the first one on the "Get Rocco out of town" bandwagon hoping that he brings back a good haul in a trade that can help this team make the playoffs and compete for a World Series.

  9. Jake Larsen says:

    "Hey...we're going to give him the benifit of the doubt but he needs to come back next 150+ games hit .300-20-80 with 20 steals...but what would really make us happy is .310-25-90 and 30 steals. That is where Rocco should really be at this point in his career" - C. Gaines

    Last time I checked, Rocco is going on 25 and not 27....

    He's 2 years from his "peak" years, so if he gets 20 next year...that means that his peak years will be worth watching.

    "Last I checked when a guy is due to make a combined $14mil in 2009-10 on a team whose payroll is likely to be around $40mil, he's a concern." - YAK

    Our payroll won't be 40 MIL in'll be around 60-70 MIL then.


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