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No steroids, no $8 beers, no superstars. Lots of Rickey
2005-05-10 14:22
by Mike Carminati

"I'm a Buzz"
—Ted "Jump The Shark" McGinley in "Major League 3: Back to the Minors"

Rickey's back. At age 46, future first-ballot Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is back in San Diego. But Rickey's not a Padre. He's not even a Surf Dog; he's a Surf Dawg in the start-up, self-reportedly Class A, independent league, Golden Baseball League.

This is a league that promotes what it calls "Familyball" sans steroids, eight-dollar beers, and superstars, as their tagline professes. Except for Rickey Henderson.

Henderson will be paid $3,000 a month to play in the Safeway funded league. Henderson used to play in the outfield opposite fellow future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn in San Diego. Now he will play in the stadium named for Gwynn in San Diego. Henderson is in his 30th year of professional baseball. He'll play in a league with a team, the "Bad News" Samurai Bears (or Berras) staffed with Japanese-born players and managed by former major-league and japanese-leaguer Warren Cromartie.

He hasn't been in the majors since 2003, when the Dodgers gave him a 30-game trial in left. The bulk of the past two seasons he spent with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League. The Bears were a launching pad to the majors for Henderson and Jose Lima in the past couple of years. The Golden Baseball League does not hold such promise for Henderson.

There have been some that consider Rickey a hot dog. A guy who was in it for the stats and the money. He once had a contract that guaranteed he was the highest paid ballplayer in the majors. He was criticized for playing cards in the Mets clubhouse during the playoffs.

And Henderson may be as big a hot dog as they say, but he also a guy who is playing in one of the lowest berths in the pro game for very little compensation. ESPN reports that it will delay his eligibility to the Hall for another year. However, the official rules just count major-league service. His clock started in 2003.

Looking at Rickey's stats from last season—37 steals which ranked third in the Atlantic league, .898 OPS, 96 walks and just 42 Ks—he could play until he's 50, if he cares to. I would love to see Rickey in uniform, say, with the Chillicothe Paints, when he goes into the Hall. It would sum up his career perfectly.

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