At the risk of spoiling the New Year’s celebration for many of you, l’m going to cut to the chase and tell you that Chris Reitsma will not be returning to the Braves.
OK, stop the derisive applause.
This according to the beleaguered reliever’s agent, who told me Sunday that Atlanta wasn’t among the dozen teams that expressed interest in Reitsma after the Braves non-tendered him last month.
Agent Mike Paolercio said six teams have made “legitimate offers” for Reitsma, who posted an 8.68 ERA and .362 opponents’ average in 27 appearances before the All-Star break, then went on the DL and had season-ending elbow surgery.
He’s been throwing off a mound since September and plans to be at full strength for spring training. But the Braves, in probably the best move for all parties given Reitsma’s performance and fall from favor here, apparently decided to cut the cord.
GM John Schuerholz said three weeks ago, when arbitration-eligible Reitsma and Marcus Giles weren’t offered contracts, that the Braves might try to re-sign Reitsma to a lesser contract (he could’ve expected $2 million-plus through arbitration). Not happening.
“I have not heard from the Atlanta Braves whatsoever,” Paolerico said. “I’m assuming at this point they did not want to follow up on that.”
He said he’s well into negotiations with “several teams” including Cincinnati, where Reitsma was a setup man, closer and fan favorite before being traded to Atlanta before the 2004 season.
(Yes, he was a seriously popular pitcher in Cincy, much as Dan Kolb was in Milwaukee and Bob Wickman in Cleveland. Hey, at least one of them didn’t see his career fall to pieces in Atlanta.)
Reitsma had stints as closer with the Braves but eventually blew ‘em all. He converted just 25 of 45 save opportunities in three seasons for the Braves.
There were some rough times in his tenure with the team, none worse than the day Reitsma was walking with his young daughter in their Newnan neighborhood when a guy in a pickup truck rolled down his window and shouted “You suck!” to Reitsma.
On the field, his performance since the summer of 2005 did, for the most part. He never made excuses, but after the elbow surgery he confided that the condition caused periodic numbness in his pitching hand since the World Baseball Classic last fall (that damn Classic _ did anything good come of it?)
Anyway, to his credit, Reitsma didn’t use the elbow as an excuse for the 2005 season, when he was NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Month in July, then the source of much antacid consumption by fans and team officials the rest of the season.
Talk about your precipitous declines, consider this epic fall: After converting 9 of 9 saves while posting a 1.04 ERA and .153 opponents’ average in 17 appearances July 1-Aug. 6, 2005, Reitsma had a 7.68 ERA and .358 OA in his final 51 appearances for the Braves.
He went 1-6 and blew 9 of 17 saves in that awful stretch.
He was often booed at home, but struggled even more on the road, posting a hard-to-fathom 11.39 ERA and .430 opponents’ average in his final 21 road games for the Braves, with 46 hits and five homers surrendered in those 21-1/3 innings away from Turner Field.
So again, it’s probably good it’s over here. You turn the page and hope the story gets better.
While most of you never met him, let me go on record as saying Reitsma was about as decent and good a dude as I’ve ever met in 12 years covering baseball. I know that probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, because, as I said, he did stink for most of his final 12 months here.
But next time he visits Turner Field, it really wouldn’t hurt to give him a little polite applause. Or at least quiet indifference. At least don’t roll down your window and yell obscenities at him. If you guys ever got to meet him and talk to him, you’d know what I mean. Good dude.