It had to happen sooner or later.
But when I heard the news on Tuesday night that the St. Louis Cardinals had signed Sidney Ponson to a one-year, incentive-laden contract I still found myself somewhat surprised.
Of course, I expected that Ponson
would get an opportunity to pitch in the majors in 2006. My best guess was that he would wind up
This changes everything.
You see, as someone who has
followed Ponson closely during his entire career in
So I found it impossible to believe that Ponson's recent DUI arrest – and his subsequent release by the Orioles – would have been enough to convince him to clean up his act.
That's why I was convinced Ponson
would have trouble finding a job with a contending team. After all, who would take a chance on a
guy with his track record?
We're talking about someone who
took a limo from
We're talking about a guy who got
drunk on a beach in his native
We're talking about a guy who
followed up that prison stay with a DUI arrest in
And we're talking about a guy who
just spent five days in a
After each of those incidents, we
heard the same message from
Only he never did.
But surely the St. Louis Cardinals – a first-class organization with a commitment to winning – would steer clear of a character like Sidney Ponson, right?
Unless this time he's serious.
Ponson told a Baltimore Sun reporter earlier this week that he did, in fact, spend 30 days in an alcohol treatment facility. He also confirmed that he speaks to a therapist weekly and that the toughest thing he had to do was tell his mother he had a problem.
That story is very different than
the old story we'd hear from
I had a feeling that the Sidney Ponson story would have an ending similar to Dennis Martinez' story. Only I just didn't expect the plot twist to happen so quickly.
Until a drinking problem got the
better of him. After
Ponson came up with the Orioles in
1998 as a 21-year-old right-hander with all the talent in the world. He, too, was revered in his native land
Until a drinking problem got the better of him.
Sure, there have been signs along
the way. The infamous Metallica
road trip in 2000 was a red flag.
So much talent, in fact, that the Orioles gave him a three-year, $22.5 million contract before the 2004 season.
But then Ponson showed up for spring training in such miserable shape he was unable to complete the team's running drills. Later that season, as Ponson was on his way to a 5.30 earned run average, the Orioles explored ways of voiding that contract due to Ponson's poor physical condition.
The Orioles decided against voiding Ponson's contract at that time, but that decision proved to be only temporary. Three alcohol-related arrests in a span of nine months led the club to release Ponson last August, and we now know that Ponson began the process of turning his life around soon after his release.
The similarities between Ponson and Dennis Martinez have been obvious to Orioles fans over these past twelve months.
And while many fans may never forgive Ponson for taking the club's money and putting forth only minimal effort in return, the overwhelming majority sincerely hope that Ponson does get his life turned around at some point.
Martinez was 31 years old when he packed his bags for Montreal – and a second chance at big league success – and we all know how that turned out.
Ponson, on the other hand, just
turned 29 – and he has plenty of life left in his right arm. Seeing a photo of a slimmed-down Ponson
And when I saw that Ponson had cleaned up his act to the point where the St. Louis Cardinals were interested, well, I became more convinced than ever that Ponson is on the fast track to a Dennis Martinez-style turnaround.
I would not be shocked to see
Ponson do very well in
Ponson's time here in
I suspect all that began to change
last September when Ponson took the much-needed step of seeking help for his
alcohol problem. So that's why –
Dean Wormer of Animal House fame most likely said it best: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."
Wormer wasn't speaking about Sidney Ponson when he uttered those words. But maybe, at age 29, Ponson has finally gotten the message.
Madron is a freelance writer based in
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