I have to admit, Cedeno was a player I always kind of wanted for the Cardinals, back in the days when he was a genuine, bona fide, Highly Touted prospect. And then a Highly Touted Young Player, too. Now, though? He's just another ex-Cub, and that only spells trouble in my book.
Dan Moore over at Viva El Birdos wrote a great piece yesterday about Cedeno, and his journey through prospectdom to busted status, and all the reasons why we maybe shouldn't have been as excited about him as lots of us were. It's a good read, and makes some very good points about how easy it is to lose perspective on a player.
For my part, though, I admit I barely paid any attention to Cedeno when he was coming up through the Cubs' farm system; at the time I was strictly interested in my own team's prospects (of which there were sadly very few). But when the guy got to the big leagues, I was at least mildly smitten. Every once in awhile, between all those long stretches of mediocre hitting and more-error-prone-than-someone-with-his-reputation-should-be fielding, you would see Ronny Cedeno do something amazing. Just flat-out amazing. The athleticism was almost painfully obvious with Cedeno, and makes it easy -- at least for me -- to understand how people bought in to him as a future star.
I also tend to wonder if Cedeno isn't more a cautionary tale of all that can go wrong for a player, rather than the people watching him. Mr. Moore quite eloquently points out all the times the Cubs promoted him at just the right time to make him look better; personally, I wonder if they didn't disrupt the learning curve one too many times. It's easy to see a player make an amazing play and fall in love; it's much harder to remember that the one great play came in the middle of a brutal two-week stretch in which he hit .154 and made six errors. The glint of gold can make anyone greedy, and I wonder if Cedeno had been held back, kept in any one place for a full season, if he couldn't have found his way to letting that talent come through more consistently. Instead, he was always forced into survival mode, always adjusting on the fly, struggling to turn those tools into skills even while the organization -- not to mention Baseball America -- trumpets the kid as the Next Big Thing because those flashes have been so very bright.
Or, maybe not. Maybe Moore is right, and Ronny Cedeno was pure hype from the very beginning. Maybe we saw what we wanted to see, and he was never as good as we thought.
None of it much matters now, of course; these days Ronny Cedeno is just a mildly intriguing utility infielder the Cardinals just signed for a pittance. (Relatively speaking.) But as a Redbird fan who watched Rick Ankiel from beginning to end, and gets excited just thinking about all the potential this current crop of farmhands has, I can't help but wonder what ever happened to Ronny Cedeno.
It's not just idle worry, either; you look at Shelby Miller, and it's obvious he has the talent to make an impact at the major league level. But is he ready? How would we know if he is or isn't?
And, most importantly, if Shelby Miller doesn't make it -- or Trevor Rosenthal, or Oscar Taveras, or whoever else you want to throw in there -- will we all be reading and/or writing pieces ten years from now trying to understand why we never should have bought into him the way we did Ronny Cedeno?
I don't have any answers, really. I don't even know what, if anything, Ronny Cedeno has left in the tank. Nowadays he's just a fill in, a stopgap until the real thing comes along, and those days when he was the Next Big Thing are far and wee, far and wee.
Still, I remember those days. And I still wonder if things had been different, would things have been different? Know what I mean?