Maybe Scott Rolen isn’t done. Maybe, like Jack Nicklaus back in 86, who stared at an Atlanta newspaper opinion piece taped to his refrigerator declaring him “Gone. Done. Finished. Clubs are too rusty” —and came roaring out of the pines and the past to win the Masters one more time—well, maybe Rolen too has something left in his bat. Maybe he gives us one more summer of hits and veteran savvy to go along with all that leadership that has marked him as the de facto captain of the dugout.
… maybe it’s not just one scout who thinks he’s done. Maybe he’s just the only scout to say so in print. Yeah, Scott Rolen is smart. Yeah, he’s a pro. So was Pete. But even Pete got old.
Nobody outruns time. Junior couldn’t do it. The body always betrays the mind. This is old news. Nobody knows that more than Rolen, who hasn’t been physically right in a long time—long before he put on Cincinnati red. He hasn’t hit since July of 2010. Old baseball players who suddenly begin playing dramatically better usually end up answering questions in front of Congress or grand juries at some point. That’s not Scott Rolen. Thankfully, he’s got too much pride, too much professionalism to have played that game.
So, where does that leave us? With an aging star who clearly and understandably wants to leave on his own terms. Do the Reds wait and hope Scott does the right thing? Do the Reds leave Rolen’s fate in the hands of a manager who wears magnetic bracelets and compression sleeves, looking for all the world as if he, too, thinks he’s ready to hit the on deck circle at any moment? Something just tells me that Johnny Lee Baker is not the guy who’s going to tell Scott Rolen it’s time to get off the stage.
Yet, as unfeeling as it sounds, get off the stage he must, if the Reds are to contend into September and beyond. Rolen said on Friday he was going on the disabled list. He said he was in pain and not healthy. He said he was not helping the team. My first take on this news was that this was simply Scott Rolen, a prideful man in full, trying to find a graceful way out of the woods. This was not the shoulder acting up again, but a way of going gently into that good night. Then, I read the following, courtesy of Tom Groeschen at the Enquirer:
“I don’t see this as a real longterm thing,” Rolen said. “It’s not a surgical procedure or anything that we’re going down that road again. It’s just I’ve had a tough time and I’m in a bad spot right now. It’s inflamed and it’s fatigued and it needs to settle down. It needs to be rested.”
The fan in me is hopeful that Scott will know when it’s time to say “enough.” The cynic in me reads the above and thinks: not so much.
The problem with the Reds’ offense is not that they don’t have Carlos Beltran in LF or a healthy Rolen at third. The problem is that they get zero offensive production out of both positions. Zero. Zip. Nada. Add the continuing struggles of one Mr. Drew Stubbs into the mix, and the Reds have to generate All Star production at most of the remaining five spots almost every day, or accept that they will continue to be what they are: a team that leaves too many runs in the batting rack. Again, nothing new here.
So, why won’t the organization do something about it sooner rather than later? Why does it often seem like the team is the last to recognize a problem and deal with it? This is more than just the ideology of the manager. The front office also bears significant, if not most of the responsibility here. In my opinion, this is an organization that from the top down tends to think of itself as one family. They put people first. Maybe to an extreme. It’s part of the reason they took so long in recognizing that Johnny Gomes, perhaps the most popular player in the dugout, was not the answer in LF last year. It will almost certainly play a part in the final chapter of Scott Rolen’s baseball career. In fact, it may well be the achilles heel of the Cincinnati Reds. Like a large ship that needs time to reverse direction, will the Reds take too long in making critical course corrections, specifically people decisions about not only Rolen, but the futures of Chapman and Dusty Baker?
Because there isn’t a rain delay long enough to give Bob Castellini and Walt Jocketty time to fiddle while the 2012 season burns.