Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Still holding on

Sometimes being a baseball fan means losing touch with all rational thought.

I was over at Community Gum the other night, keeping tabs on the massive Fleer break. Jon was busting a box of 2001 Fleer Platinum, a rather average set that I value anyway because I wasn't collecting in 2001.

Like a total dweeb, I had one page open to Jon's video break, another page open to my want list, and another page open to teamsets4u.com. I needed three Dodgers to complete the team set for Fleer Platinum, and I wanted to see if I got them all.

The three players I needed were Darren Dreifort, Chan Ho Park and Gary Sheffield. But the player I really wanted was Dreifort. I have always had an irrational attachment to Dreifort. Not irrational in any kind of stalker sense, but just irrational in the sense that I have never really stopped thinking that he is going to be a future Koufax.

Yes, I realize that's ridiculous.

But anyway, I was watching Jon break open packs. He pulled the Chan Ho Park card. A few packs later, he pulled the Sheffield card. That was great, but then packs and packs went by and there was no Dreifort card. As the packs dwindled down to the final few, there was some nonsense about a Tom Seaver jersey card and a John Smoltz parallel, but nothing about Darren Dreifort.

Finally, Jon came to last pack. He opened the wrapper ... and the first card revealed was Dreifort.


I think part of the excitement of getting the Dreifort card, was this article that appeared on the Dodgers' site last week. The author talked to Dreifort who was in Dodgers camp, and the article insinuated that Dreifort was considering a comeback at age 38.

Now, the rational side of me knows that the possibility of this happening is almost nil. Dreifort could barely keep from falling apart at age 27. The guy had "danger" stamped on him for years. If the completely lost 1995 season wasn't a tip-off, then the name Scott Boras certainly was. Dreifort had a losing record, an above 4 ERA and hasn't thrown a major league pitch since 2004. There is no way he's going to find a spot in a major league rotation if he hasn't been on a mound in seven years.

But the irrational side of me says, "Come on! Give him a chance! He's got to be better than what we have in the bullpen now!"

I have always thought this way with Dreifort. When he would go on the disabled list for the 63rd time, I shrugged and said, "He'll be back. And he'll be better than ever."

When he signed that massive $5-year, $55 million contract in 2001, every other Dodgers fan thought it was ridiculous, a scheme by Boras, and a jinx. I thought it was a prelude to greatness.

And, now, years after the subsequent pain of nine wins in five years, Dreifort waltzes into spring training, bringing to the surface all of those irrational thoughts again.

Somewhere, way back when, I must have received a promise, a promise that Darren Dreifort was going to be the best pitcher for the Dodgers since Koufax and Drysdale. And there's part of me who won't let go until that promise is fulfilled.

So, if Dreifort, somehow, some way, ends up on the mound in a major league game this year, everyone else will be thinking:

"This is pathetic. Is this what the Dodgers have become?"

But I'll be thinking:

"All right. Dreifort's back! All-Star Game here we come."

I'm sure there are players like this for lots of other teams. But hopefully their fans are a lot more level-headed than I am. It'll be sad if I'm 78 and Dreifort is 70 and I still think he's got potential.


  1. This sounds like the part of me that swears up and down that Don Mattingly found his swing again in the last month of his career, and the part that cursed the Yankees for jettisoning Bernie Williams, who still had way more magic in his bat than some guy named Kevin Thompson did. The part that checks in on Dontrelle Willis all the time, and hung on his every pitch last season to see if he'd keep it together. Baseball has a way of making us foolish enough to believe, and sometimes, even if it's brief, it does pan out.

    I can remember a time a few years ago when a guy named Hamilton got a standing O for his first at-bat with the Reds, just for having the tenacity to make it to the majors after all of his struggles. Time will tell how that plays out over the rest of his career, but he's off to a pretty good start.

    I think it'd be remarkable, if slightly suicidal, if Dreifort came back.

  2. He would have been the next Koufax, the problem was he threw with the wrong darned arm.

  3. I'll alway remember former Dodger GM Fred Claire blurting to the LA press prior to the 1993 amateur draft that the Dodgers, who had the second overall pick, would be happy with whoever was available to them between Darren Driefort and Alex Rodriguez after the Mariners made the first pick.

    In my opinion, the Mariners because more interested in A-Rod as a result since Claire was telling everyone he viewed him on par with Driefort talent-wise even though Darren was viewed as a can't miss prospect for years as a result of outstanding collegiate career at Wichita State and Alex was a relatively unknown entity at the time.

  4. I feel the same way about Ben Petrick for the Rockies. I keep thinking one of these days he is going to make a miraculous comeback and finally give us the All Star catcher that we need. Sure he has been out of baseball for 5 years or so, but it still COULD happen.

  5. Yeahhh, I had the video of the break playing with my team set checklist in hand and an open Beckett to check the odds on any inserts I may hit.

    Is there a Cardboards Anonymous?