The Detroit Tigers need to send Bruce Rondon packing. Not as in sending him home for the season but as in sending him anywhere for the rest of his career.
A “me first” attitude or general eccentric behavior can be tolerated but that player better be a superstar to get away with it. Barry Bonds was every bit the loner with his teammates as he was with the press but it was his home runs that made him tolerable, never beloved.
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Sammy Sosa was so popular with his Cubs teammates that in 2004 pitcher Kerry Wood took a bat to Sosa’s boombox after he left the clubhouse before the final game of the season was over. Sosa’s skills were in decline by then but the Cubs used the clubhouse incident as the main excuse to trade their all-time home run leader that offseason for journeyman infielder Jerry Hairston and two prospects.
Rondon committed the ultimate athletic crime of not giving his best effort while on the field. That type of player is dangerous to a clubhouse, especially on a team that has no postseason hopes but is focused on ending the year on a positive note. That the Tigers’ players universally voiced support for this move by management speaks positively of their character and the effort they’re still giving every game.
The frustrating part of this entire episode is Rondon has the raw talent to be a superstar closer. He can throw in the upper 90’s and has even hit 100-mph on the radar gun on some occasions. Rondon is also someone the Tigers stuck with and threw their support behind while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery because they believed in that talent. Unfortunately he decided to fit the description of “million dollar arm, ten cent head.”
There is not going to be a moment of awakening for him. There never is with this type of player. Former outfielder Milton Bradley played with eight teams in 10 seasons. He was always ready to start fresh until his behavior, never his fault, made him impossible to keep around. Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano finally did learn that fighting with umpires, teammates whileÂ destroying water and Gatorade dispensers wasn’t going to win him additional games. Unfortunately his epiphany came after his wicked slider had straightened out and his fastball was gone.
The Tigers gave him every chance to win the closer job after Joakim Soria was traded and he did worse than fail, he didn’t try. They did the right thing by cutting this cancer out of the clubhouse. Now they need to move him permanently. The only way Bruce Rondon will contribute to the Tigers returning to the playoffs is if he’s some other team’s problem.