April 16, 2010

Sports Criminals: Cesar Cedeno

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / April 16, 2010

Very few things have annoyed me as much over the past five years as steroid speculation. It was virtually unbearable in 2005, a year which otherwise was the Golden Age of my life. Steroid stuff is still pretty goddamn annoying.

Also, I was actually alive in 1998 and everybody knew then that guys were on steroids. Christ, they were common and accepted in high school football at the time.

Well anyway, back in the golden age when players Played The Game The Way It's Meant To Be Played, people got away with fucking homicide.

Cesar Cedeno hit an unreal .373/.402/.691 in AAA ball at the age of 19. You want to talk about a prospect? Wow.

Brought up by the very new and very awful Astros, Cedeno hit .320/.385/.537 at age 21. He scored 102 runs and drove in 82 from the #2 spot in the order. This happened in a pitcher's era in the greatest pitcher's park in modern history, the pre-fence moving in Astrodome. Add in 55 steals and a Gold Glove. No offense but Andrew McCutchen didn't do that.

After a quite similar season at age 22, Cedeno went back to his native Dominican Republic in the off-season. December 11, 1973, the married center fielder was hanging out with his auxiliary girlfriend at a seedy motel. I love the word "auxiliary." In another solid decision they got out Cedeno's loaded gun. While she was looking at it he attempted to wrest it away from her and shot her. She died in the ensuing hours.

Now I only got a B+ in Criminal Law but this sounds like a textbook case of negligent homicide already. And it isn't even a figure of speech. I actually read the textbook.

OK, so let's assume you're a typical good guy, and it just so happens that you shot your girlfriend through no fault of your own. I would think you call an ambulance. Cedeno waited eight hours before alerting authorities to the situation.

How much is a life worth? Dominican authorities fined Cedeno 100 pesos and he spent 20 days in jail. Compensation for a non-famous 19 year old life lost. The Astros didn't suspend him at all or even mention the "incident", in fact he reported to spring training as if nothing happened.

Cesar batted third and played center field in the Astros '74 opener. Cedeno was a positive contributor on the field and an above average center fielder for most of his career - but he was never again the same player he had been at ages 21 and 22. It was a DiMaggio to DeJesus transition.

Also employing Cedeno later in his career, in addition to the Astros, were the Cardinals, Dodgers and Reds. More reason to dislike a couple of the Pirates' division rivals.

So 37 years after Cedeno's bad winter, I see a reason to look at it. Look at his career stats. It's a great career, not Hall of Fame, short of Reggie Smith among non-Hall of Fame center fielders, but better than most. But the trajectory. It was interrupted at age 23 by horrible guilt, horrible shame, I hope a little self-loathing.

This is what Ben Roethlisberger has in store. A whitewashed case, a starting job kept. And a lost career. We saw it in the 8-8 season. I actually thought the first accusation was false but in the wake of the second one, no way. He didn't go 8-8 for no reason. Games Ben fucking wins at the end just weren't won because he's not Ben anymore.

It'll be worse now. Yeah, he'll have a decent QB rating and some 300 yard games. His days as an elite QB are over. The human psyche can only deal with so much. It's not justice but it's not nothing.

4 comments:

  1. You are correct. I remember Cedeno. I am his age. . What a waste. With his numbers at 22 and 23, we would be talking A-Rod type contract. But thats life. People screw up. That what makes a guy like Jeter so rare. Cedeno wasn;'t the first or last to throw fame away. Joe from New York

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  3. Did you take any kind of law class? A second accusation doesn't make the first one any more true!

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