There are three types of people who show up for online chats with baseball writers. The first kind are genuinely interested in having specific questions answered, usually about players who fly below the radar of the mainstream media. The second kind are guys - and they're always guys - who are there to have a pundit reaffirm their opinion about their team or one of their team's players, and God help the chat host who fails to agree that every local AAAA hero isn't the next coming of Jim Thome.
And then there's the wiseasses, the people who aren't so much interested in getting answers to questions as they are in asking clever questions and having that cleverness be acknowledged. For my part, I mainly stopped going to chats years ago largely because I recognized my own tendency to be a wiseass, and frankly, I'd rather not be that guy. But in one of the last chats I did pop in on (as opposed to reading the log later, as I harbor irrational fondness for most AAAA guys and genuinely want to see them succeed), I asked "Is there such thing as a Phillies hitting prospect with a pulse?"
This, mind you, was in the days when the Phils' system was awash in Anthony Hewitts and Jiwan Jameses and Greg Golsons, so it wasn't an entirely unreasonable question. It was, however, phrased in a wiseass way, and as such, I got an answer that was both informative and suitably wiseass right back.
"What's the matter, Cardenas not good enough for you?"
Fast forward to this week. Adrian Cardenas, who retired after the 2012 season, wrote a piece for the New Yorker on why he left baseball. To many of us, no doubt, the decision seems inconceivable. Yes, he'd had an up and down rookie season, but that happens. To casual observers, even with the Cubs outrighting him after the year, it looked like he had the prospect of a decent career ahead of him; a few more years in the bigs, maybe some up and down, but definitely a career as a major league baseball player, and everything - including the salary - that went with it.
Instead, he - and this is his word - quit. Turned his back on the dream to go to school, to study writing, to try to do something different with his life. And it's easy to question his decision. School was always going to be there. His skill with words - evident in the New Yorker piece - was always going to be there. He could have played a few more years, made a bigger pile, then gone back to school. It would have been the easier way, might even have been the smarter way.
But he made his call, and in the piece he makes an eloquent case for why he made that call. And if our first reaction to his decision is shock our outrage, we have to remember: that's coming from someone walking away from our dream, not necessarily his.