I wanted to prove a point about Dave Duncan, so I typed '1999 St. Louis Cardinals' into the very excellent site Baseball-Reference.com.
Remember the 1999 Cardinals? Yeah, I don't either. Looks like they went 75-86 and finished 4th in the division. Looking back, this was probably one of the worst seasons the Cardinals had in the Tony LaRussa era.
1999 was totally unforgettable. That is, unless you're Kent Bottenfield. Because this is the year you went 18-7 and became an All-Star.
Mr. Bottenfield was promptly traded to the, ahem, Los Angeles Angels of Anehiem for some guy named Jim Edmonds and won a total of 18 games the rest of his professional career. 1999 will always be special to at least him.
If there weren't 30 years worth of Kent Bottenfield's out there in the universe then the sudden leave of absence that Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan announced tonight by the team wouldn't be that big of a deal. Trouble is that there are a ton of them. Guys who had no business being All-Stars, let alone good at professional baseball were so because of Mr. Duncan's tutelage.
Late in the 2011 season, Mr. Duncan took a leave of absence from the Cardinals to be with his wife who had surgery to remove a brain tumor. It's well founded speculation that things haven't been going as well in her recovery as everyone had hoped if, as it stands now, Duncan will be reassigned to another position with the Cardinals if or when he returns.
His family is in all of our thoughts. Cancer is a real dick. We hope she beats its ass.
But unlike LaRussa's exit, that was glorious, but not unwelcome to some, the loss of his top lieutenant has drawn a consensus... it sucks for the Cardinals.
They don't make guys like Dave Duncan anymore. A tough son of bitch who says he doesn't care about attention or money and really doesn't. He grinds out every pitch, never throws a player under the bus and always has a revival act that makes us fans expect the extraordinary. 6 months ago, Octavio Dotel was traded as a salary dump. Last month the Tigers gave him a contract they'll regret by the end of 2012. Was that luck?
It was Duncan.
And if this is it. If this is the way that Duncan goes out, then its going to be a rough next couple decades. Because most of the time, Kent Bottenfield is Kent Bottenfield.
With Dave Duncan in the dugout, he was an All-Star.