Before 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.