The winter meetings start today, and besides preparing for that I’ve had a lot going on: K-Rod was traded, so Jeremy Jeffress is in the mix to be the closer in Milwaukee; Seth Lugo was added to the 40-man roster, and Carlos Asuaje was part of the Craig Kimbrel deal. I had three free agents signed (Jiwan James, Jaye Chapman, and Jim Miller). Which is all to say I haven’t had much time to write, but sometimes the topics write themselves. This one is about Steve Clevenger and the week he has had.
Steve has been a client of mine since he was a shortstop at Chipola Junior College; he’s just a wonderful human being on top of being a very good ballplayer. He was drafted by the Cubs, where he soon made the move to catcher, made his major-league debut, then was traded to his hometown Orioles in the Jake Arrieta trade. It was a dream come true on all levels.
Imagine making it to the majors and getting to play for the club you grew up cheering for. Alas, not every perfect situation turns out perfectly. Steve’s time in Baltimore was not the experience it should or could have been. After Matt Wieters got hurt—an unfortunate situation, which robbed baseball of one of its top talents for a season—the door seemed to be open for Steve. That didn’t happen right away, and when Caleb Joseph was chosen instead he took the job and ran with it. Steve played sparingly in September 2014, then, after a good spring, he was optioned to Triple-A for Ryan Lavarnway. It was only after the trade deadline that he was finally called up and given a shot to play; he was two singles shy of hitting .300 in The Show.
Steve was traded to Seattle Wednesday for Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhauser. On a personal level, leaving Baltimore is tough. His family is there, and so much of his personal history is, too. But on the baseball side of things, Steve and I couldn’t be more elated. Steve will finally have a chance, at age 30, to show everyone what I've known for years, that he is a quality baseball player. His versatility was never needed in Baltimore, but will be in demand in Seattle. His swing is just perfect for Safeco. I’m biased, of course, but I really believe he could have a breakthrough.
I have been involved in big trades before. I’ve had clients traded for Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, and most recently Kimbrel. I’m used to it. But when a player is dealt for the first time like Carlos Asuaje was this month (another column), or even for a second time, like Clevenger was, it is always jarring. The player is informed by the ballclub, then the player calls me. I have to analyze the situation on the spot to calm the player down, assure him things are fine (so far they have been for the most part), and stress that the new opportunity represents a fresh start. This is one of the stranger aspects of being a ballplayer: Many times another player’s misfortune can mean your own good fortune. And many times the feeling of being “rejected” is actually the best thing for you. After all, every trade involves a new boss who wanted you enough to give something up to get you.
Steve is married, just moved, and just had his first child. It is going to be tough going back to Arizona for spring. His family and his wife are so supportive of his career that I know his transition will be easier than most players. You must have a strong support system of family and agent to get through your career or else you're lost. We have all long believed in Steve, and we’re elated knowing that the best is yet to come—that he’s far more than just a “backup.” I cannot wait for him to show Seattle fans what he can do.
While we were all attending to the business of baseball, a terrible thing happened when Tommy Hanson died. These are the things that none of us anticipates in baseball, and that none of us wants to contemplate. But such tragedies feel more prevalent than they should be: Nick Adenhart killed by a drunk driver, Brad Halsey committing suicide last year, Mike Nolan murdered, Oscar Tavares dead in a car wreck last fall, amateur standout Charlie Donovan passing away just last month, and now Hanson. It’s an awful string of awful news.
Baseball players are, in fact, role models, most of them reluctantly so. Yes, they are fairly compensated for their work, but many players are uncomfortable with the attention. I am not tying the players I listed above to any kind of depression, but it’s on my mind with so many players dying needlessly young. People forget this all the time, but it’s important to remember that ballplayers are just like everyone on earth. They can get hit by a drunk, make a bad mistake, deal with temptations, self-medicate, or face depression. The stories of Donnie Moore, Ryan Freel and Hideki Irabu over the years are reminders of this, but then there’s a tendency to just as quickly forget.
We all can relate to death. I have had 43 surgeries, family members have attempted suicide, my grandmother has cancer: All death is horrible. When those we look up to for entertainment, it’s important that we remember them at their peaks, and appreciate their fragility. We are all subject to the whims of fate. Appreciate every second you're here, and if you choose some of those seconds to watch baseball, well in my book all the better.
Rest in peace Tommy Hanson.
Res Ipsa Loquitor
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