"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Alas, Poor Kubel

Being Jason Kubel was a pretty good deal until last week.

Rewind to April and put yourself in his Nikes for a minute. You're a 22-year-old outfielder, starting the season at AA New Britain. You flash a little leather, make a few pitchers cry, and next thing you know you're packing your bags and heading to AAA Rochester. You flash a little more leather, make a few more pitchers cry, and nail down your organizational Minor League Player of the Year honors by hitting .352 with 22 homers, all before the end of August. Because that's when you get called up to The Show, just in time to have a shot at making the playoff roster.

So, you hit .300 in the big leagues for a month, make that playoff roster, play in the playoffs, and then you're off to spend a few weeks in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, the instructional league for top prospects. And as you're flying to Arizona, you've got to be thinking about that arbitration-eligible right fielder making several times your salary and due for a raise. A raise the team may well be ready to take a pass on, thanks to your availablity as a younger, cheaper option.

And then, in your first game in the AFL, you collide with another outfielder on a fly ball play and tear a ligament in your knee so badly you're expected to miss the entire 2005 season. How rusty will your skills be after an enforced year off? Will you need to spend 2006 in AAA just to catch up? Will you have a bum knee for the rest of your career? Will you lose speed, lose power, lose confidence? Even if you make a full recovery, will there be an opening in The Show when you're ready again?

It makes me sad, it really does, how quickly a shooting star can become a burning question mark. One play, just one ordinary everyday play, and suddenly everything changes. The personnel options available to the team shrink drastically, budget questions have fewer solutions, and one young man's future hangs on a surgeon's knife and the recuperative powers genetics and his own ability to follow doctors' orders allow him.

Good luck, kid. Get well soon.

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