Fallen Stars – Grieve, Green and Cedeno

It's time to end the Roger Cedeno experiment and admit what it is – a failure.

News item: On Tuesday, the Cubs optioned outfielder Ben Grieve to Triple-A Iowa.

To many, it was just another transaction affecting the last man on the bench of a losing, underperforming club. But, to me, it was another signal of failure - a fallen star whose downfall continues, serving as a reminder of a similar situation within our midst.

Grieve had just 12 at-bats in 17 plate appearances over 15 Cubbies games this season, the epitome of a bench-warmer. Still, because he drew five walks, Grieve's on-base percentage was an admirable .471. However, he got to start exactly one game for Dusty Baker before being cut.

Ben Grieve had it all. He was a bonus baby - the second overall pick in the 1994 draft by the Oakland A's. The 6' 4", 216 pounder is the son of a former major league player and later, a general manager. By 1997, at the age of 21, Grieve made a late-season appearance and the next year was an All-Star and the American League Rookie of the Year. After hitting 27 home runs and driving in 104 runs for the 2000 A's, Grieve signed a $12 million, three-year contract after being traded to Tampa Bay.

His production eroded each year and injuries piled up, to the point that by 2003, Grieve played in just 55 games. His bat had slowed, his defense was lackadaisical and his arm below average. The Rays cut their ties with him, declining arbitration after that season.

As a result, Grieve became a part-timer with the Brewers in 2004 and moved to the Cubs late in the season. He signed a minor league deal with the woeful Pirates in the off-season but couldn't make the team this spring training.

It was so bad that Jose Canseco ripped Grieve in his book, saying that Grieve needed to take steroids, among other insults.

So, why would Cardinals fans care about Grieve? It is hard to not think about his parallels with Redbirds outfielder Roger Cedeno. I don't want to wish anyone ill will, but Cedeno should be on the same plane as Grieve back to Triple-A.

On the night Grieve was cut, Cedeno broke an 0-for-16 run with a pinch-hit single. It was his first hit since May 4. While a switch-hitter, Cedeno has seen most of his at-bats from the right side, where he is a putrid 3-for-37 (.081) on the season. As a pinch-hitter, his primary role, Cedeno is almost twice as good, but still just 3-for-19 (.158).

Last season, his first as a Cardinal, Cedeno hit .244 as a pinch-hitter and .265 overall. He had been run out of New York, as Mets fans booed Roger the moment he got out of his car in the Shea Stadium parking lot. With good reason, as Cedeno looked disinterested in the field and was a huge disappointment at the plate, before finally getting benched.

Mets fans remembered the guy who swiped 66 bases in his first tour of duty with the team in 1999. Cedeno also stole 55 with Detroit in 2001. As a result, former General Manager Steve Phillips and Mets ownership lavished $18 million on a four-year deal to bring Cedeno back before the 2002 season. He lasted just two seasons before the Mets ate most of the final two years of the deal and basically gave him to the Cardinals at the start of the 2004 season.

Like Grieve, Cedeno tasted success early-on. He attended his first major league camp at 19 years old, with the Dodgers. They had signed him out of Venezuela at age 16 back in 1991. He saw his first regular-season action in 1995, at just 20 years of age. Cedeno was only 24 when he stole those 66 bases for the Mets.

But, somewhere along the way, Cedeno seemed to have lost his edge, his fire, his will to succeed. An unnamed Cardinals official as much as told me this is the opinion of the front office. There are probably $18 million reasons why.

Cedeno has long been out of minor league options. So, if he were to turn down an assignment, he could opt to become a free agent, just like Grieve did this spring. I'd not let that chance deter me. It's time to end the Cedeno experiment and admit what it is – a failure.

Who is next to join the fallen stars? My nomination is Arizona first baseman-outfielder Shawn Green. On Tuesday night, Green left eight men on base in his five at-bats. Green has just four home runs and his on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) is below .700. Green hasn't had a multi-RBI game since the first week of the season, on April 9.

Green was a first-rounder back in 1991. He's been a Gold Glover, won a Silver Slugger and was a two-time All-Star. However, Green has been in an offensive slide for four seasons now, yet still landed a three-year, $32 million deal as part of an inducement for him to accept a trade from the Dodgers to Arizona.

My advice, no, my plea to Walt Jocketty is that if Joe Garagiola, Jr., the GM of the Diamondbacks comes calling, don't listen to any deals involving Green - unless he'll take Cedeno off your hands, that is.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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