Nobody quits baseball.
Of course that's not literally true. Sometimes a player will quit when he figures he's just never going to make it. Sometimes a manager will quit when he's tired of the grind. But nobody quits when he's 24, especially if he's been to the majors and is just a step away from getting back.
Well, nobody except the Cubs' Adrian Cardenas.
Until basically today, Cardenas was going to be famous -- on the North Side, anyway -- for just one thing: this base hit last year, one of only 11 in his career, which quite possibly prevented the Cubs from being no-hit for the first time since 1965. Now, though, Cardenas is going to be remembered for quitting the game that might have made him millions of dollars over the next five or 10 years. What's more, he wrote about his decision for The New Yorker's website:
I quit after trying to balance my life as a professional baseball player with my life as a student during the last three years of my career. In the spring and summer, I played ball. In the fall, I studied creative writing and philosophy at New York University. But with every semester that passed, I loved school more than I loved baseball, and eventually I knew I had to choose one over the other. As I submerged myself into an academic environment, I thought often of my parents, who knew nothing about baseball but raised me with a passion for music and language so great that sports seemed irrelevant by comparison.
I quit because baseball was sacred to me until I started getting paid for it. The more that “baseball” became synonymous with “business,” the less it meant to me, and I saw less of myself in the game every time I got a check from the Philadelphia Phillies Organization, the Oakland Athletic Company, or the Chicago Cubs, L.L.C. To put it simply, other players were much better than I was at separating the game of baseball from the job of baseball. They could enjoy the thrill of a win—as it should be enjoyed—without thinking of what it meant to the owners’ bottom lines. These players, at once the objects of my envy and my admiration, are the resilient ones, still in the game. I am no longer one of them.
This year, Cardenas played in just 64 games, and all of those with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. But when he played, he played well enough to figure he had a future. The Cubs, who plucked Cardenas off waivers a couple of winters ago, don't seem to have been particularly optimistic. Still, considering his age (24) and his Triple-A stats (good), we may assume Cardenas would have found a job somewhere next spring. If he wanted one. Which he doesn't.
Writing's a tough way to make a living. A good living anyway. But Cardenas seems to have all the tools. And it's good to see him getting an early start.