With a Name like Rocco, Never Count Him Out?

 

 

Those around the Tampa Bay Rays fan circles have heard me preach this sermon before about a possible Rocco Baldelli redemption in 2010. I have been known on more than one occasion this year to go into a sort of “prodigal son” type oratory with regards to Baldelli. His inclusion back into the Rays farm system today originates not from any acts of sorcery , psychic premonitions or a magical spell being cast, but the subtle reality that Baldelli always knew he was not done with baseball, and always felt more at home with the Rays.

The addition of Baldelli’s name on the dotted line today doesn’t seem forced on us, minutely trivial or even have the slightest hint of a publicity stunt. Today’s signature is Baldelli’s subtle way of again returning to his baseball roots to a Rays organization that that stood besides him as he suffered through his medical chaos. This could be his unique way of showing his undying devotion to a franchise that did not turn their backs on him as a player, and of a clubhouse that stood proud with him as he toiled to again regain prominence in the Major Leagues.

His signature today spoke volumes about a man who wanted to reward a kindness, evoke again a yearning competitive nature, and show that a determined devotion not only to the game, but to yourself can bring about a career resurrection. I am not blinded by the fact this will not be a vintage 2002-2006 Baldelli on the clay and turf that will be fighting to regain some lost time, and possibly a last chance to regain some baseball glory. I am also not naïve enough to suggest Baldelli is the total answer, but he is an adequate solution that comes at a great price for such veteran knowledge. Sometimes it is not about the money people.

 

Already there are rumbles and grumbles that his signing could be a omen that the Gabe Kapler era could come to a close soon. But in reality, when we see Baldelli moving through the Rays farm system with vigor, then we will be able to embrace Baldelli’s return with more enthusiasm and vitality. But it is key to note that Baldelli could probably have gone elsewhere as he got healthier after rehabbing his shoulder injury this season. The Rays were probably not the only people watching Baldelli’s progress with angst and excitement. But he chose to stay with those loyal to him in the past.


Baldelli sought out a position with the Rays for a reason this Spring. It might of had nothing to do with the Rays organization standing tall alongside through thick and thin before Baldelli returned to the Rays outfield in Seattle in 2008. It definitely did not have anything to do with his choice to play for his childhood idol team in Fenway Park either. Baldelli doesn’t owe the debt of his Major League career to the Rays, but he does have some finite unfinished business with them.

Baldelli was on that bench in Philadelphia during the 2008 World Series and saw that game quickly jettisoned out of the Rays reach. Baldelli soaked in the pain and agony along with the wet and cold that night, and internally knew this Rays team deserved more. He saw the Rays heads go down one-by-one, he saw the Rays spirit and excitement slowly drain from their faces. Baldelli knows how close that series really was, and he wants another chance to change the outcome. Motivational angst, even about an sporting event have made outnumbered armies conquer (Evil) Empires or desolate (Red Sox) Nations.

Baldelli might not have the agility of his former Major League self, but he has gained the aspect of baseball intelligence that will serve him, and the Rays better in the long run. What he lost in mobility and range, he has picked up in positioning and anticipation, ingredients that most young players regard as trivial. His mental thought processes to play this game have been enhanced, while his physical attributes might still better than most still playing. But the most honest emotion Baldelli has going for him right now is he still has that hunger.

Determination and hard work can only take you to a certain limit, but yearning and a hunger to succeed can vault you into the middle of the pack with ease. You could see it this Spring as he worked out lightly to regain touch and feel for the game. Seeing that Baldelli smile again as he exited the Batting Cages at the Trop earlier this season made you proud. His eagerness to get back into that Batting Cage again for another round of pitches, just inspired you more each time. You saw it in his progression in his strength while throwing in the outfield of Tropicana Field as fans and friends whistled for his attention. You just knew Baldelli was going to wear that Rays number 5 again this season.

 

No matter if Baldelli returns in September or possibly sooner, he is a veteran presence that could evoke some fear from American League pitching staffs when he steps into the batter’s box. His acquired Major League offensive skill level has shown he can hit for power, bunt or even go to the middle to get the man in (GTMI). That is a key component of the Rays attack that is really missing right now. Baldelli can be an easy fix to a complex series of problems that has plagued the Rays, and led to improbable losses this season. The addition of a skilled veteran like Baldelli, who also has some unfinished business within the Major Leagues could be a step in the right direction for the Rays.


When he goes to the plate tonight for the Class-A Charlotte Stonecrabs, it will be a renewal of sorts for Baldelli. This is another chance for Baldelli to again rise like the fabled phoenix and provide a possible late season difference for the Rays. No visual magic, no offensive sorcery, no mirrored images of his former self. It is Baldelli’s chance again to show his determination, his undying spirit and his overall veteran presence could be the push upwards the Rays need to fight for their second American League East title. He resurrected his career in 2008 after people doubted him and his abilities to even come back again and play at all. I pity the people who counts Baldelli out again because one thing you can not measure with statistics is heart. And in that category, Baldelli is still batting 1.000.
 

10 Comments

Shows what I know. I had no idea Baldelli was back in the Rays organization. I thought he was still somewhere in Red Sox country. Nice to see him return to the team that stuck by him, as you said.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
The moment I saw him this Spring, themotors began to turn awaiting his return to the Rays.
Got the same feeling in 2008, and we went a pretty long way. Just feel Rocco has the ability to change the game a bit with his intelligence and persistence.
I will not count Baldelli out until he says he is finally done and puts hiscleats in a box.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Actually, I wasn’t even familiar with Rocco Baldelli until I read this entry. Great work and thanks for sharing! I definitely learned a lot about him.
http://hyunyoung.mlblogs.com

Hyun,
There is actually a lot more about Baldelli, but did not want to go too retro into the pastand his medical situations and mis-diagnosis.
I guess you can call me a fan since I own 1 of 20 Baldelli lithographs presented by the Ted Williams Hitter’s Museum for auction back in 2007.
They are actually really well done.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

He’s sort of a fan fav, eh? Like Rex Hudler or Jose Oquendo back in the day for the Redbirds… not the most talented, but gets ‘er done. Yeah? I wish him the best.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Jeff,
He was called by someone once the “new Joe DiMaggio”, which comes with a huge amount of pressure and stress to live up to the hype.
I really thought he was living up to it before his fatigue syndrome bit him in the behind. Baldelli has come a long ways since a mis-diagnosis for his aliment, plus a few injuries that might have been caused byhim not trying to play at full speed, but play cautious baseball.
But his baseball intelligence, and his spirit can be fantastic on this club as another leader who has been to the Big Game.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Double R ~ You knocked this one out of the park my friend. I always found Baldelli a fascinating story and the fact that he and the organization have had continued and unyielding respect for each other is special and very uncommon today.
He deserves every word of credit your eloquence evokes.
mike
http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.mlblogs.com/

Mike,
Always liked talking to Rocco. He was alsways a positive person and very respectful, even if a Rays fans was being a bit of a pest.
He is the type of guy each teams needs on their roster as an example of someone doing it right at this level.
Even if Rocco doesn’t get back to the MLB level, his determination and spirit will always have a place in Rays lore with me.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Aww i’m such a big fan of Rocco Baldelli! He seems like such a sweet person, hard working too. He had so many obstacles and that misdiagnosis must have drove him crazy! Glad to see he’s back where he started! Hopefully he finds a spot in the big leagues :) Best of luck to him!

Oh and hope CC is doing okay. Saw that play in the first and it didn’t look very good. Ouch!

http://mimi.mlblogs.com

Mim,
First off. Carl Crawford is day-to-day wioth a testicular contusion….or in Layman’s terms…A fastball in the coconuts with no cushioning. Thank goodness the Rays team hotel had a case of frozen peas in the freezer.
Rocco will endure, but he did get off to a rough start last night going 0-4, then being replaced during a 19 inning game in Port Charlotte.
Rocco had to go home, it was past his bedtime.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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