Merkin Valdez has been a prospect for the past 17 years. He was traded for Russ Ortiz back when people could legitimately get upset that Russ Ortiz was traded away. That was at least 15 years ago because Ortiz hasn’t been good in a couple of decades. I’m not entirely sure about all of these dates, but I’m just going by my gut. I don’t need stats messing up my gut feelings, and my gut tells me that Merkin Valdez has been a prospect for the past 17 years.
Now Valdez has been put on waivers to make room for Aubrey Huff. Actually, in 2003, that would have been an interesting trade – top-50 prospect for a slugging corner infielder. Now…not quite as interesting of a swap. So it’s time to say goodbye to our good friend Merkin. Unless he passes through waivers and goes to Fresno, that is. But that would ruin the point of this post, so I’ll just ignore that possibility for now.
What is Merkin’s legacy? What is Merkin to us, the common fan? The options:
- a reminder that pitching prospects are like wee turtle babies, hatching from soft-shelled eggs and running toward the water, hoping to beat the odds and survive. Most of the time, a heron eats them before they make it. Sometimes, like Tim Lincecum, the turtle baby uses laserscopic eye rays to shoot the heron out of the sky and dances a victory dance on the heron’s smoldering carcass. That’s the exception, not the rule, though.
- a man who taught us all that wigs for pubic hair exist, they have a word for it and everything, and that the word is funny. Merkin. Merkin. Merkin.
- one more reason to appreciate Mariano Rivera, who also throws one pitch 95% of the time, but does so with a little more success than Merkin Valdez.
- a future Nathan-esque blunder by Sabean, who always seems to give up formerly fragile, 95-mph throwing, once-prospects for leaky bags of mutton, only to have the former prospects turn into fringe Hall-of-Fame candidates. And by "always", I mean "once." So it’s a totally valid analogy.
Man throws hard. Man gets hurt. Man works hard to rebound from his injuries. Man never develops a second pitch or a smidgen of command. Man finds himself on waivers. It’s a classic baseball story. I’m sure there are five movies about it already, with at least one starring Fred MacMurray. Still, it’s tough not to think about Merkin Valdez as not being something more than the typical roster filler. He was a great of hope of the organization; he was written off; he was reforged; he was written off again; he was pretty hittable last year. He was Merkin Valdez.
Godspeed, lanky fellow. Godspeed.