Say it ain’t so, Rocco!January 8, 2009 at 1:42 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays | 2 Comments
It is with much sadness that I learned this evening that Rocco Baldelli has played in his last game for the Tampa Bay Rays (a game in which he hit a home run in the World Series). It’s tough to see one of my favorite players, who had been in the organization since 2000 and on the major league team since 2003, leave the team. But it’s even tougher to know that he’ll be playing for the hated Boston Red Sox in 2009. Despite my disdain for the Red Sox, they have had one player who I’ve cheered for in recent years – another former Ray, Julio Lugo. Now I’ll have to root for two of them.
Back in August, I wrote one of my favorite posts about Rocco Baldelli and why he’s a “hero worth rooting for”. It’s actually the third most highly read post that I’ve written. You can check it out here to read about Baldelli’s admirable career and his triumphs over injury.
Anyway, I can’t say that I didn’t see this coming. Honestly, I probably would not have re-signed Rocco Baldelli either if I was the Rays general manager, Andrew Friedman. Even though he was recently given a more promising diagnosis, no one knows how much Rocco will be able to contribute to a team in 2009 and beyond. He probably won’t be able to play in consecutive games, and he might need to be taken out of a lot of games early when he does play. The Rays have a lot of outfield depth, especially after adding Matt Joyce and Pat Burrell this offseason. It’s probably better to move on and let Fernando Perez or Justin Ruggiano fill the backup outfielder role.
I can also understand why playing for the Red Sox would be an attractive opportunity for Baldelli. He grew up in Rhode Island, his family still lives there, and he’s very close to them. I’m sure that it will help him to be close to his family if and when he experiences physical setbacks. He has a lot of fans in New England too. When I went to the Rays game in Fenway Park in September, several Red Sox fans told me how much they admired Rocco Baldelli. I hope he does well there – except of course when he plays against the Rays. It’ll be fun to watch him swing and miss against James Shields’ changeup, Scott Kazmir’s slider, and Matt Garza’s curveball.
So farewell, Rocco. Thanks for the memories. I’ll never forget all of the hope that you gave me as a relatively new Devil Rays fan in 2003 when I predicted that you’d be a Hall of Famer and lead Tampa Bay to greatness. I’m glad that you were able to come back and play a role on the 2008 team in August, September, and the postseason. You’ll always be a Ray in my heart.
It sure will be strange to see Rocco Baldelli in that ugly Boston uniform, but at least it won’t be as strange as seeing John Smoltz in one!