Friday, December 17, 2010

Comebacks to Root For

Every baseball season is a clean slate full of unwritten stories waiting to unfold. We've all been fascinated by the off season market as teams jostle for position to compete in the unwritten season. Some teams have made moves that already have pundits placing them in the 2011 World Series. But even with all kinds of new talent in place, a lot has to go right for these few blessed teams. One small story among all the other off season stories caught the Fan's interest. The story stated that the Yankees signed Mark Prior to a minor league contract. As soon as the eyes read the name, an emotion was palpable: "Golly, I hope he can make it back to the majors." That sentiment led to thought on others that are out there we could root for to make it all the way back to the majors. Here are a few the Fan could come up with:

Mark Prior - The name alone speaks of unfinished work. He was like Stephen Crane, who died at the age of 26 and a genius was lost. Mark Prior was a pitching genius. Through his one big season and the sputtering of other partial seasons, Prior still ended up with a lifetime mark of over ten strikeouts per nine innings as a starter. By the time he last pitched in the majors (2006), he went 1-6 and still finished with a lifetime mark of 42-29. Prior pitched an inning in Triple A in 2010, the first inning of any kind in organized professional baseball in four years. It was a scoreless inning and he struck out two batters. Is the talent still there? Can he ever make it all the way back? The Yankees must think so because they signed him to a minor league deal. He's only 30 years old. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Brandon Webb - In the four years between 2005 and 2008, Brandon Webb won 70 games and lost only 37. During that span, he won a Cy Young Award and came in second twice. 2008 ended a five year run of never missing a start. He led the league in starts in two of those years, innings pitched once, batters faced once. He had a two year run where he was over 150 in ERA+ and in 2008, it was 141. And just as suddenly as could be, it was over. He pitched six innings in 2009 and none in 2010. Now he's ready to return and news outlets are reporting that he is near to picking a team to play for. Several are interested. Let's hope he can find the right home and resume was was turning out to be a beautiful career.

Jake Peavy - Last the Fan heard, Peavy will not pitch until at least June. Let's hope that is optimistic. Peavy won 19 games in 2007 and won the Cy Young Award. He was again very good in 2008 but his record did not reflect his excellence. He was traded to the White Sox in 2009 for the stretch run and went 3-0 before again coming up injured. He pitched 17 games in 2010, but we hardly noticed. He showed an excellent K/BB ratio despite mixed results and then he was shut down for the season. He makes a lot of money, so he's all set there. But we'd love to see him come all the way back to the front line pitcher he once was.

Dontrelle Willis - This, besides Mark Prior, is probably the most pie-in-the-sky wish of them all. The trevails of Dontrelle Willis are well known and don't need to be repeated here. He has signed with the Cincinnati Reds and maybe the National League and some miracle can happen and we can all see Willis smile that wonderful smile again.

Pedro Martinez - Talk about your long shots. Pedro pitched for the Phillies down the stretch in 2009 and was destroyed by the Yankees in the World Series. He hasn't pitched since except for the WBC last year. We'd love to see him come back and twirl those whiffle ball sliders just a few more times.

Magglio Ordonez - Had to get a non-pitcher in here. Mags was having a great season last season when he was lost for the remainder of the season with a major injury. The Tigers have signed him to a $10 million deal, so you would think they expect to play him regularly for that kind of money. It would be nice to see him pick up where he left off. He is 36 and if he can have another productive three years, he becomes a marginal Hall of Fame candidate. Great career numbers we'd love to see added upon.

Chris Capuano - He was really a great comeback story last year. But he's a free agent now and it would be great to see him continue his comeback and get a full year in with someone. Excellent peripherals in his 60+ innings last year.

Manny Ramirez - Can the Fan write a piece like this without including Manny? A large percentage of baseball fandom would be happy if Manny went away like Barry Bonds, but this Fan would love to see one more big season from the goon.

***UPDATE***  Just thought of another one: Chien-Ming Wang

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