It’s been one of the more predictable and boring storylines early in camp, as referenced here and here, and Derrek Lee has already had enough. During an appearance on a Chicago radio show, the Cubs first baseman said the following regarding the Byrd-Bradley comparisons:
“It’s ridiculous,” Lee told Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood on ESPN
1000’s “Talkin’ Baseball” Saturday morning. “If it was a white guy who
came over [to the Cubs] would he be [called] the ‘anti-Milton Bradley’?
It just makes no sense. Marlon’s a completely different guy. He wasn’t
traded for Milton. He signed here as a free agent, so why even bring
Milton Bradley’s name into it? It really makes no sense and it’s just,
again, the media trying to make something out of nothing.”
It would be pretty reckless to couple Byrd with Bradley based solely on race, and I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of that in the press. They’ve been stressing the contrast, if anything. I can’t help but think that these comparisons were inevitable, even if the Cubs signed Rick Ankiel or Scott Podsednik, but the fact that the two were teammates in Texas plays into this, at least a little bit.
While this is ultimately a needless distraction, Lee laments that comments by former Cubs Bradley and Jacque Jones could keep other African-American players away from Chicago:
“It’s definitely not a positive when you’re looking at coming to
Chicago,” Lee said. “But I think overall, the positives do outweigh the
negatives and we’re baseball players, so we’re pretty good at kind of
blocking out all of that outside stuff and focusing on in between the
lines. And in between the lines, Chicago’s a good place to play.”
Kerry Wood recently acknowledged that he personally witnessed African-American players who received hate mail during his time with the Cubs, but it would be very dangerous to single out Chicago when we know that this goes on in other places. We just don’t hear about it.
We wrote a lot about Casey Kelly on this site circa 2010-12.
It was understandable. Kelly was a big-time draftee for the Red Sox and famously split time as a shortstop and a pitcher in the minors, with some people even wondering if he could do it full time. The Sox put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, as he became the top overall prospect in the Boston organization as a pitcher. He then made news when he was sent to San Diego — along with Anthony Rizzo — in the famous Adrian Gonzalez trade in December 2010.
He made his big league debut for the Padres in late August of 2012, holding a pretty darn good Atlanta Braves team scoreless for six innings, striking out four. He would pitch in five more games in the season’s final month to not very good results but missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 thanks to Tommy John surgery.
He wouldn’t make it back to the bigs until 2015 — pitching only three games after being converted to a reliever — before the Padres cut him loose, trading him to the Braves for Christian Bethancourt who, like a younger Kelly, the Padres thought could be a two-way player, catching and relieving. That didn’t work for him either, but I digress.
Kelly made a career-high ten appearances for a bad Braves team in 2016, was let go following the season and was out of the majors again in 2017 after the Cubs released him a couple of months after he failed to make the team out of spring training. He resurfaced with the Giants this past season for seven appearances. The Giants cut him loose last month.
Now Kelly’s journey takes him across the ocean. He announced on Instagram last night that he’s signed with the LG Twins in the Korean Baseball Organization. He seems pretty happy and eager about it in his little video there. I don’t blame him, as he’ll make $1 million for them, as opposed to staying here and almost certainly winding up in a Triple-A rotation making $60K or whatever it is veteran minor leaguers make.
This was probably way too many words to devote to a journeyman heading to play in Korea, but we so often forget top prospects once they fail to meet expectations. We also tend to forget all of the Tommy John casualties, focusing instead on the Tommy John successes. As such, I wanted to think a bit about Casey Kelly. I hope things work out well for him in the KBO and a baseball player who once seemed so promising can, after a delay, find success of his own.