On September 1st 2015 the Atlanta Braves released major league relief pitcher David Aardsma. He was not having a great year, posting a 4.70 ERA in 31 innings with a 4.87 FIP. On the other hand, he'd fanned more than a hitter per inning with 35 strikeouts to his credit and he can still throw 94 MPH. There are worse pitchers in the majors who do have jobs, but he was also one game away from triggering a bonus clause for games finished. The cold logic of cash can be harsh.
You'd figure that a pennant contender would be interested in adding Aardsma at least for some veteran bullpen depth down the stretch, but that hasn't happened either. Aardsma's season is over and he will now set his sights on finding a job for 2016. It is a bit of a comedown for a pitcher who was a first round pick (2003 out of Rice by the Giants), a pitcher who saved 69 games over two seasons with the Mariners. It is not a unique story, of course; similar paragraphs can be written about a dozen pitchers every year.
Do you ever wonder what it is actually like for the players who go through this? Well David Aardsma himself tells us how it feels in this article he wrote last week for Baseball Essential.
"I can’t blame the Braves for being smart with their money," Aardsma writes, "but it sucks being on the other end." He describes the uncertainty and chaos the situation causes for his family life, as well as the difficulty keeping himself in proper pitching condition with private bullpens and workouts while waiting for the phone to ring. Eventually his agent advises him to take it easy and start looking ahead to 2016.
All the hard work and early morning flights. All the dinners by myself and countless hours on the mound doing pitching drills. It is all over until spring.
Well … unless a team calls tomorrow. Then I’m as ready as ever. :-)
As fans it can be easy to lose perspective and forget that the guys out there on the field are humans, too. They aren't stat-generating machines. Let's remember that the next time we want to scream at one for messing up a fantasy team.
It is fantasy and fandom for us, but real life, very real life, for the men on the field and their loved ones in the stands.