Manny Parra is no longer a Brewer. Who, then, can we blame in 2013? (Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE)

Manny Parra: A Lesson in Baseball Mortality

Today, Manny Parra was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers and became a free agent.

Not overly shocking, considering his recent performance. It’s also not terribly uncommon in the baseball world, as his story becomes a further footnote in the book of people who cannot reach the upper echelon of baseball greatness.

It’s a tough sport, and an even tougher business that can’t afford to wait for players to get healthy and put everything together. Owners and General Managers cannot always err on the side of potential, especially when waiting for that potential to materialize as something helpful to the team.

The non-tendering of Parra’s contract is a stark reminder of this – to some fans, it’s good riddance to a man who was central in a bullpen meltdown that all but resigned the Milwaukee Brewers to the middle ranks of the NL Central.

To me, it’s a bitter-sweet moment. On the one hand, it clears up the spot for a reliever or starter who can perform well regularly and help the team get back to the top of the division. On the other, it’s letting go of a long-held desire to see Parra succeed as a Brewer.

Outside of Corey Hart, no one on the current roster has been a Brewer longer than Manny Parra. That should be a testament to the type of player Parra is – or at the very least, the type of player that the Brewers thought he could be.

Both Hart and Parra were highly touted in the Minors – Parra even threw a perfect before his arrival in the Majors. That, unfortunately, is where their paths diverged.

Because for some reason, despite injuries and lackluster seasons, Corey Hart managed to endear himself to the team and town in a way that Manny Parra never could.

Call it the curse of the pitcher.

Parra suffered injuries essentially everywhere from the neck down, and his performance suffered because of it. All the while, however, he put on a brave face for the media and fans. He withstood barrages of boos and criticisms. He went out and worked, even if the best he could muster was nothing more than not getting handed the loss.

That’s really the lesson in Manny Parra’s career. He’s not superhuman – he’s unbelievably human. He’s not the guy we look at as children and say, “When I grow up I’m going to play like him.” He’s the guy we secretly know we would be if we were lucky enough to land on a big league roster.

You may have talent, yes. You may be a nice guy, yes. But it’s not enough to be a southpaw with decent stuff and a knack for staying behind the scenes on a 40-man roster. All the heart in the world can’t change the numbers you put up on the box score.

That’s the real difficult aspect of Parra’s non-tendering. He’s such a nice guy, it’s hard to imagine you’d see him on the street and say something mean to him. It’s easy to sit in the bleachers and boo when he gives up a run, but you know deep down that you’re watching your greatest inner fear on that mound. Maybe you just couldn’t hack it either, even with all the heart in the world.

I, for one, will miss you Manny Parra. You remind me of the mortality of baseball. The chasm between ability and potential. The endless gap between what we can and what we feel we should achieve.

Manny Parra will catch on to a new team, and he may even go back to starting. He’s not going anywhere. We just won’t have him to kick around anymore.

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  • Ryan Bennett

    Awesome article. When I imagine myself as a major league player, it is decidedly with less talent than Parra.

    • Colin Bennett

      Last time I went to a game, we sat in front of the bullpen during BP. I literally gave up on every athletic dream I’ve ever had

  • Barb Caffrey

    In some ways I was very surprised that Manny Parra lasted until the end of the season. I thought he’d be DFA’d midway through July after those horrid back-to-back outings. But that said, I did root for him to get better through his back injuries and arm injuries and other problems, because he seems like a nice person who tries really hard and I knew he had the talent to succeed.

    The main problem Parra ran into now is that he’s been with the Brewers for such a long time but has never made the All-Star team (Hart has made it twice). He’s been good in long relief, so-so as a left-handed specialist, OK as a spot starter, and when he first came up I thought he had a really good chance. In ’08, I still thought he had a good chance.

    Then came the injuries.

    I’m sympathetic over them, don’t get me wrong, and I really do hope that Parra will find his groove. I think he’s better suited as a starter. I also think he’s a guy who needs a different sort of mentoring than he’s had since Mike Maddux left the team as a pitching coach and went to the Rangers. (Whatever Maddux did was working; whatever the others have done just hasn’t done much of anything.)

    We’re not known for doing well with home-grown pitching talent, save for Ben Sheets and Ted Higuera and maybe one or two others. Jorge de la Rosa had to go elsewhere to get a decent shot, and it’s de la Rosa’s career that Parra should be looking at if he wants to find a model for his own future success. (Granted, de la Rosa had a terrible 2012 and lost most of the season due to injury. But it’s finally getting traded a team that knew what to do with him that finally led him to some success.)

    • Colin Bennett

      I think you hit on something there – a full season with a new bullpen coach may just turn things around for everyone who’s left.

      Thanks for the insight and for the comment!

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