adrian cardenas cubsBefore the 2012 season, the new Chicago Cubs front office grabbed a fringe roster guy off of waivers – as they had many times already, and would many times over in the coming years – by the name of Adrian Cardenas. He was a former top 100 prospect who’d stalled out a bit at the upper levels of the minors, but who still showed a great approach at the plate, and numbers sufficiently good that he could hold down a big league roster spot if he could play serviceably at second base. At the time, he was even still ranked among the Athletics’ top 20 prospects, and was let go by them only because of a lack of options and a roster crunch.

For nothing, it was a swell move, and Cardenas became a number of folks’ favorite incantation every time Darwin Barney did something silly at the plate. Cardenas was the starting second baseman that year at AAA Iowa, and hit quite well in the process. Eventually, the 24-year-old was called up and, over the course of a couple promotions, got a small cup with the Cubs: 67 plate appearances, to be exact. He didn’t do much in that time, but it wasn’t the kind of sample you’d put too much stock in. And, as the year closed and Cardenas was removed from the 40-man roster, there was still hope he’d return on a minor league deal. Even at 25, Cardenas would have been fine depth to have stashed at Iowa, and he very well may have gotten another shot in the bigs.

But then he vanished. No minor league deal with the Cubs. No deal anywhere, actually. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked what happened to Cardenas, and unfortunately couldn’t offer you an answer beyond, “I’m not exactly sure, but he’s not playing baseball right now.”

Today, Cardenas came forward with the answer in an article for the New Yorker. You’ll recall that Cardenas was an eloquent, erudite dude (he was getting his degree at NYU while playing for the Cubs), so the fact that he wrote something for the New Yorker is not a huge surprise. Spare yourself 10 minutes and give it a read.

While it’s a fantastic and well-written read, I’m not sure that it provides clarity into Cardenas’ situation beyond some variation of “he didn’t feel like playing baseball anymore.” I suppose that probably is the thrust of it, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that, given that his article suggests he felt his life priorities had gotten out of whack because of the unique nature of trying to succeed at professional baseball.

It’s a reminder that, for every superstar, there are a dozen journeymen. And for every journeyman, there are two dozen career minor leaguers. Doing what these guys do – for all the money that might hopefully be at the end of it – isn’t easy, and as much as we try to reduce them to numbers on a screen, we cannot. They’re actual, real human beings with lives to live.

  • Bill

    Sveum wouldn’t play Cardenas because he was obsessed with playing his buddy Barney everyday even though Cardenas was a better hitter and had more potential.

    • Jon

      Cardenas was Logan Watkins, before Logan Watkins.

      • ssckelley

        Watkins to start 2nd base next season, book it!

  • cubmig

    “…and as much as we try to reduce them to numbers on a screen, we cannot. They’re actual, real human beings with lives to live.”

    A truism lost in sabermetricis “love”.

    • Cyranojoe

      Not lost to me, and I love sabermetrics. Nice strawman there.

      • YourResidentJag

        So you’re saying Cardenas is a strawman? Interesting. :)

        • Hansman

          He left baseball to go to Oz to get his brain.

  • On The Farm

    That was a good piece he wrote there. If anyone is interested in reading about a minor leaguer’s experience I would highly suggest ‘Odd Man Out’ By Matt McCarthy. He was a guy who was drafted out of Yale pretty much because he could throw lefty and he played a season (with a lot of big name players Callapso, Aybar, Saunders) and he talks about his experiences on the mound. I think Craig Breslow was his teammate at Yale. Pretty sure he got into Harvard and got his medical degree and is a doctor now.

    • Ivan the Terrible Cub Fan

      I’ve read a lot of stuff that says his book was seriously flawed with regard to accuracy. some of it downright fiction. Sad, it was a good read…

  • Ben

    Thanks for linking this article, Brett. Great read.

  • pfk

    Great article by Cardenas. He did make the right choice and in so doing he learned a lot about himself. Good read and a good lesson for all of us no matter what we do.

  • Funn Dave

    “I came to realize that professional baseball players are masochists”

    I can’t speak for professional baseball players, but Cubs fans sure are.

    Great story. Really brave of Cardenas to write it.

  • terencemann

    Growing up, I met a few people who could have had a cup of coffee but decided to focus on things outside of baseball – family, careers, etc. I am better off in my life because they gave up that dream and I hope Cardenas can be that guy for somebody down the line, as well.

  • swaz46

    Seems to me that Cardenas has a future as a writer.

  • MoistassAlou

    Great read. A man with a bright future and a gift. Well done!!

  • cubzfan23

    I liked the article. I kind of felt where he was coming from. I wish him luck in his future. He’ll always have breakn up the no-hitter. Well done!

  • Melrosepad

    I’ll admit to being one of those people who was always wanting Adrian to get a shot. It is too bad that he left that off-season since Barney was down the first 13 games. After reading that I’m hoping that he gets into writing professionally and maybe get back into the game of Baseball that way.

    There you go Brett, see if Adrian would want to do a guest post :-)

    • ssckelley

      He was last years Logan Watkins. 😀

  • http://BN Sacko

    Can we safely say Barney will be traded this winter?

    • On The Farm

      Not sure about safely. I don’t know how large the market is for a defensive heavy, offensive light 2B.

  • Funn Dave

    Irrelevant fantasy advice request: should I start Mike Wallace or Marvin Jones as my flex tomorrow? Not exactly baseball-related but any advice is welcome, thanks in advance.

    • On The Farm

      That’s a tough one. I like Mike Wallace this week actually. Call me crazy

      • Funn Dave

        I’m leaning the same way–if Jones doesn’t have any touchdown grabs, I don’t see big numbers coming from him. Still going back and forth among Greg Jennings, Wallace and Jones as my WR2 and Flex options. Curse you football, and your unpredictability!

        • On The Farm

          As long as Freeman isn’t starting you have a better shot with Jennings haha

    • BWA

      While were doing this… Which WR should I bench this week? Brandon Marshall, Golden Tate, Kenny Stills, or Jarrett Boykin?

      • On The Farm

        Another good one, Marshall is too good to bench, Boykin is still a solid option. So you have to think will the 3-4 targets Stills get a game be worth more than what Tate can get you? I would say Stills is too big of a boom or bust, playing against a good Jets D.

        To sum up Start Marshall, Boykin, and Tate.

        • Funn Dave

          Yeah boom or bust is a good way to look at him.

      • Funn Dave

        Hmm, another tough call. It looks like James Jones is out again so Boykin should still be productive. I’d probably tentatively bench Kenny Stills–he has the potential for either another great game or a really crappy one.

  • Caleb

    Great write up and cool story. And your point is well taken- overlooking the humanity of our baseball “assets” is easy to do sometimes. Here’s wishing Cardenas the best of luck!

  • Tony_S

    “…real, human beings…”

    Yeeeeaaahhhhh, about that…

    Totally true, and especially for the journeyman-types, but I’d also like to caveat, some of the human beings you refer to are paid multi, multi millions of dollars of fans’ money to entertain, and the fact that at that point, for me, they become something more akin to video game, comic book or cartoon characters, simply to be manipulated for my roto or viewing pleasure, is not something I’m particularly ashamed of.

    I applaud the fact that most donate large sums to charity (tax effects be damned), and I realize there is stress and high expectations involved. Then I remember that if the stars get to feeling a little down, they can go for a dip in their VAULTS OF MONEY, a la Scrooge McDuck.

  • Bill

    I hope Watkins does get a shot next year at least he has upside where with Barney I think we know what he is.

  • #1lahairfan

    Cardenas had a good bat, but his defense was the reason Svevum didn’t play him.

  • #1lahairfan

    Hey guys remember Joe Mather?

    • MichiganGoat


  • Drew7

    “I didn’t even know that the Dodgers had originally played in Brooklyn.”


    • DocPeterWimsey

      They left?!?!?

      Seriously, it’s not that surprising. I’ve read many, many times that most athletes are not fans of the sports that they play. I remember this being brought to light in the mid 1980’s when Don Mattingly admitted that he’d never heard of Lou Gehrig before he started playing for the Yankees. He simply never watched much baseball as a kid and he was never interested in baseball history. One of the things that quickly came out was that a lot of other athletes were like that: they were naturally good at playing and loved to play, but they were not “fans” of their sports.

  • Fastball

    Hated baseball when it was time to quit. Waking up with an arm and shoulder that hurt like hell and living like a vagabond got old. Love baseball but hated the game.

  • arta

    Hmmm. some didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was.