Sunday, December 30, 2012

Comeback Player of the Year? Not Ugueth Urbina!

Ugueth Urbina once had a blazing fastball and deceptive slider that made him one of the most feared closers in baseball.  The two-time All-Star is one of a handful of pitchers to record a 40-save season in both leagues, registering a league-leading 41 saves for the Expos in 1999 and 40 saves for the Red Sox in 2002.  But a once-promising career took an unexpected turn in 2005, when Urbina took the law into his own hands and got caught.

Seven years ago, Urbina was arrested and eventually convicted of attempted murder after attacking five workers on his ranch with a machete and then dousing them with gasoline.  Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the heinous act, but was recently released for good behavior.

Now Urbina, who will turn 39 in February and hasn't thrown a pitch in the major leagues since he pitched in a career-high 81 games for the Tigers and Phillies in 2005, is looking to return to the major leagues.  If there is any sense still left in a league that doles out nine-figure contracts to anyone with a pulse and an All-Star appearance that comes after a deserving All-Star bows out due to injury, then no general manager should even give Urbina the time of day, let alone an invite to spring training.

Look at the backlash when Michael Vick came back to the NFL after serving nearly two years in prison.  Now look at how poorly he's performed since he returned to the league.  Any team that would consider signing Urbina would be subject to intense scrutiny and negative press.  And that's not just because he tried to violently end the lives of multiple victims.  It's also because he hasn't pitched in the major leagues since Braden Looper was a Met.

The Mets hammered Urbina over his 11-year major league career.  Who can forget the game-tying grand slam by Carl Everett off Urbina to cap a six-run ninth inning on September 13, 1997?  Or what about Ramon Castro's go-ahead three-run homer off "Oogie" on August 30, 2005 that pushed the Mets closer to the wild card lead?  In all, the Mets hit eight homers off Urbina and pinned four losses on him in only 45⅔ innings of work.  No team in the majors hit more homers or defeated him more times than the Mets did.

As much as it would be great to see the Mets continue to send him to the showers, Urbina's major league career should be as flat as his sliders were against Everett and Castro.  As an interesting aside, his son, Juan Urbina, is a pitcher in the Mets' organization, pitching for Kingsport and Brooklyn last year.  He should be the only Urbina with a chance to pitch in the big leagues.

Urbina signed his own pinkslip when he tried to kill those five men in 2005.  He was slammed by Carl Everett in 1997 and had a jail cell door slam behind him eight years later.  Just because those doors opened for Urbina before his 14-year sentence was complete doesn't mean he should have other doors opening for him on a major league roster.

Urbina committed the crime.  He did some of the time.  But play again the majors?  Not on our dime.

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