Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Greg Miller: Baseball is a Cruel Game

Back in 2004, I had the pleasure of going to Dodgers spring training in Vero Beach, Florida. The Dodgers training complex was notoriously open, which gave fans easy access to players for autographs, pictures, and whatnot. At Dodgers spring training, I was essentially a kid in a candy store as players were readily accessible and baseball seemed to be at your fingertips.

Even with all the opportunity to meet players and get autographs, I was not one to be fixated on the Dodgers big stars. Sure it was a thrill to see Eric Gagne and Shawn Green, but what really excited me was seeing big name prospects. Using Baseball America as my guide, I fully hyped up the Dodgers best prospects in my head and I was sure that after reading a measly paragraph in the Baseball Handbook that the best Dodgers pitching prospects were going to be studs. It's amazing what the 14 year old mind can believe simply by reading a book.

But anyway, my mind was made up, Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller were going to be the next big things in the National League, especially Miller. I hoped that I would be able to meet Greg Miller and perhaps get an autograph and a picture taken with him...I vividly remember thinking how easy it would be to meet Miller simply because he was "just a prospect."

What I didn't expect was a freakin' mob scene. Apparently Miller had quite a following of Dodger fans, who like me, thought he was on the fast track to success in the big leagues. I'm happy to note that I did indeed gets Miller's autograph with the help of a little pushing and some luck. No one ever said autograph hunting was easy. I walked away from Dodgertown that day thinking that I had just secured an autograph of one of the best prospects in baseball and a certain future all star.

But unfortunately, my predictions about Greg Miller were completely wrong.

Ever since being hailed as one of the best pitching prospects in the minors, Miller has dealt with serious shoulder issues that have sapped him of his pristine prospect status. Since 2004, Miller has been shuffled between the starting rotation and the bullpen as his struggles advanced and became more severe on the mound. No matter where he has pitched, the results have been the same: terrible.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that the Dodgers released Greg Miller yesterday. After posting an ERA above 7 in AAA, it has become blatantly clear the Miller probably does not have a future in the majors. How sad.

Here's the thing to remember about baseball: one day, you could be on top of the world with the fans clamoring for your attention and organizations salivating at your talents. However, it only takes one injury or one poor performance for the bandwagon to completely fall apart. Baseball is a humbling sport that has phenomenal highs for players, but at the same time, horrific lows of unfulfilled expectation, injuries, and poor performance.

In the case of Miller, it really is quite sad to see how far he has fallen. I will always remember seeing the large crowd push and shove in the hopes of having Miller sign their ball., You would have though this guy was Sandy Koufax or something! And just 5 years later, Miller is no longer a Dodger and likely will not have a major league career. How sad.

So often we focus on those select few who have made it big in the major leagues, and rightfully so, they deserve it. But just remember players like Greg Miller, who had so much promise and potential only to have their careers curtailed by injuries and whatnot.

I'm pushing hard for Miller to eventually succeed in the major leagues. Even though the odds are completely stacked against him, there is no such thing as impossible odds in baseball. Let's hope Miller can regain some of his old form so I can do some more reminiscing about gettin' Greg Miller's autograph. I'm sure the topic will be a fierce party starter and will make my Greg Miller autograph quite the momento.

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