Every time a baseball player struggles under the weight of a big contract, there's a temptation to say something like, "Meh, the money will make them happy." Money might not cure everything, but that's probably because you're rubbing it in the wrong places, right?
Well, no, that's probably not right. It sure helps to be unhappy and incompetent making $9 million a year compared to $8.50 an hour, but that doesn't mean it will ever feel good to be unhappy and incompetent. Which brings us to Heath Bell. You might remember Heath Bell from happier times.
Awwww, everyone loved him then. Everyone loves a goofy closer, especially if he's on the … jolly side.
Ha, ha, you go, Heath! You're out of control!
Aaaaaaand everyone's over him. It's a fine line between colorful and distracting; I'd guess somewhere between 3.80 and 4.40. Just having a season like this, free from other distractions, would make me feel bad for the guy. But there are distractions. Oh, man, how there are distractions. To recap, Heath Bell said this;
"It’s hard to respect a guy that doesn’t tell you the truth or doesn’t tell you face to face. We need a guy that leads us and that everybody respects and looks up to."
And that led to this:
As Bell sat in front of his locker before Tuesday’s game in Atlanta, unidentified teammates cranked the volume on Guillen’s weekly radio call-in show on 790 The Ticket to force him to listen to their manager answer questions about the controversy.
That might be the most uncomfortable thing I've ever read about a major-league clubhouse. Maybe I'm just unenlightened, and I don't know if Mickey Mantle and Moose Skowron glued Joe Pepitone to his locker after he hit into a double play in '62. But that seems as uncomfortable as it can possibly get.
Think about it. A bunch of co-workers turning up the radio because your boss is tearing you down. It might be the most aggressive passive-aggressive move in baseball history. And Bell was there, hanging out, sitting by his locker.
The most depressing season in any given year will be injury-related. My pick for the most depressing season of 2012, for example, goes to Mat Gamel, who hung out patiently in Triple-A all season when he was 23, 24, and 25 before finally getting a big-league roster spot at 26, and then blew out his knee after 21 games. That's just unfair.
But when it comes to a depressing season that doesn't have to do with injury, that doesn't have to do with the cruel and fragile human body, Heath Bell might have the winner. Which is to say, the loser. His season might be the most depressing non-injury-related story in the majors this year. A reminder: He really, really wanted to stay with San Diego.
"If I don’t have a multi-year deal and they offer me arbitration, I will accept arbitration," Bell said. "Nicole and I talked about all the scenarios last night. There were more pros than cons.
"There is no downside to me accepting arbitration and the family staying in San Diego for at least another year. My kids love it here. My family is happy here. And I’m in a position where I can make some decisions right now."
Now picture that guy in a teal locker room, on the other side of the country, alone, at the end of a dreadful season that was captured by a documentary crew, with his teammates cranking up an interview of his manager talking about how awful he is, specifically so he can hear it and feel uncomfortable and disliked.
He has the money, sure. That's probably better than not having the money, and it's not like Bell would give it all back to travel through time and sign a minor-league deal with the Padres. But if there were a single player who could stand in as a metaphor for the 2012 Marlins, Heath Bell will do nicely. A lot of money. A lot of expectations. Profound discontent and disappointment.
And unless the Marlins eat a chunk of the $19 million coming to him over the next two seasons, he'll be stuck right where he is.
I'm not saying Bell didn't have a part in this. That's not my point. My point is this: Jeez. Or, to elaborate: aw, man, Heath Bell, jeez. What a miserable season.