This year marks the 60th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s iconic play Waiting for Godot. The two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, pass their time waiting for the appearance of a man named Godot, whom neither has actually met. Godot, of course, never arrives.
Interpretations of the play vary. Beckett himself was evasive about its symbolism. On its face, the play is both a tragedy and comedy about two men and their distractions while they faithfully … wait. Wait for Godot, for salvation, for whatever. Beckett depicts waiting as a fundamental part of the human struggle, similar to conditions like hunger, sadness, confusion, and bad bullpen management.
Reds fans have been waiting since the third inning of Opening Day for the return of left fielder, Ryan Ludwick, who was injured on an extreme hustle play sliding into third base. Manager Dusty Baker said that day, “It’s just a temporary setback.”
The initial estimate for Ludwick’s return was three months, sometime around the All-Star break. That timeline proved overly optimistic. Now nearly four and a half months later, the left-fielder appears close to taking the field at GABP. He’s been playing in rehab games for Dayton and Louisville since July 24. The maximum allowable time for rehab assignments is 20 games, which would end around August 12. Tuesday, Dusty Baker told reporters that Ludwick may be back by the end of the week.
Unlike Godot, it looks like Ryan Ludwick will appear. But is our wait over?
What can Reds’ fans realistically expect when the 35-year-old returns? It’s hard to say. There is quite a bit of variance in the impact of shoulder injuries. It’s a positive that Ludwick throws left-handed and the injury was to his right shoulder. Though he hit just 4-for-36 (gulp) in rehab games, Ludwick did smack a home run Tuesday for Louisville.
Unfortunately, that’s about the end of the good news.
Expect for Ludwick to suffer diminished power initially as the post-operative weakness slows his bat speed and prevents force from transferring from his legs through to his swing. The Dodgers’ center fielder, Matt Kemp, had similar labrum surgery this past off-season. His hitting (.263/.319/.382) has dramatically fallen from his previous two seasons (.314/.383/.562). That’s just one example and Ludwick’s case may be completely different.
The torn labrum also presents a serious long-term risk. If Ludwick comes back too soon (I know, hard to imagine the Reds mishandling this), he runs the risk of permanent damage that could jeopardize his career. Reds’ fans need to look no further than Scott Rolen for the dramatic impact a chronic shoulder injury can have on a hitter’s power. Renewed damage to the labrum could make the outlook for Ludwick returning to his previous performance levels extremely unlikely.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we may not be finished waiting after all.
Because it wasn’t Ryan Ludwick we’ve been waiting for, it was his powerful right-handed bat.
The Reds knew those risks, they witnessed the experience of Kemp, Rolen and other players. Despite that knowledge and against my unsolicited advice, the club made no move to replace Ryan Ludwick. General Manager Walt Jocketty recently defended the club’s inaction by saying “You can’t trade for people like (Ryan Ludwick).” Hmm, Ludwick himself was traded at the deadline in both 2010 and 2011.
Waiting for Godot opens with Estragon pulling at his too-tight boot, trying to take it off. He unsuccessfully tugs and tugs with both hands, then rests. He tries once again, fails and gives up.
“Nothing to be done,” says Estragon, in the play’s first spoken line. And that’s exactly what the Reds did about the loss of Ryan Ludwick’s bat. Nothing. Nothing to be done.
Like Beckett’s sad, but hopeful characters, Reds’ fans continue to wait. And as any Tom Petty fan knows, that’s the hardest part.