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The questions of a career minor leaguer


Looking at this picture again, it’s a bit sad. Santos’ words to Santiago: “Remember Me.”

(I know it’s late. There are no excuses. Luckily Omir Santos gave me some gold.)

Omir Santos’ fame lasted but one fleeting moment.

He was recently designated for assignment, which means the Tigers took him off the 40-man roster. The club could either trade him, put him on waivers so they could send him back down to the minors, or release him.

Santos told the club he didn’t want to go to the minors, opting for free agency.

Less than a week after his game of destruction and ultimate redemption, Santos is out on the street with a MLB career that looks likely to come to an end. I’m no GM, but I don’t know many teams that, in June, are in the market for a career minor league catcher who spent nine innings proving he didn’t belong in the big leagues.

Sure he could go to the Mexican League or back to his native Puerto Rico, but it got me thinking. He got his Disney moment, leaving everyone feeling warm and fuzzy and reminding us the simple joys of sport. If his career up to this point is any indication, that one moment is his ceiling. The game of baseball just proved to him he wasn’t good enough.

He’ll largely be forgotten, most players like him are. Outside of a seven year old who experienced the best baseball game he’s ever been to on that Saturday, few will remember the errors and the emotion and the sacrifice fly. Santos will be just one of the many players who passed through the MLB on their way to the normal life.

But how do you make that decision on when to be normal?

Why would a 31-year-old career-minor-league catcher leave a guaranteed paycheck on the table to go into a dead free agent market?

Maybe this is it. Maybe he realized that he wasn’t good enough and it was time to move on. If he did, there’s something to be said for realizing that even though you love doing something, you just may not be good enough.

But maybe he didn’t. Maybe he thinks there’s something left. Maybe he realized that he blew his opportunity in Detroit and needs a fresh start.

He may resurrect a career and become a serviceable MLB catcher for a couple of years. But what if he doesn’t? What if he languishes in the minor leagues until he finally takes off the mask for good? Will it be worth it?

There’s stories of Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi regretting how much time they spent coaching and not doing other things. But they were coaches, who spent decades in their crafts. I’m willing to bet 99 percent of star players would say their careers were worth it (at least in baseball, in the NFL where players can barely walk by the time they’re 40).

They made millions, became commodities and got special privileges.

But if you started on a path down that road and the finish line never materialized, would you still want to take the journey? In your tunnel vision would you be able to recognize that it’s not going to happen and that’s never going to happen? When you did would you be able to walk away?

There are a lot of Omir Santos faces.

I’m not sure anybody has the answer.

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