Baseball keeps trying to spit Ryan Madson out, but the reliever is not letting debilitating injury or several years of absence - during which we can only assume he was on a meandering pilgrimage, screaming questions about his career at the thundering skies - get in the way of a comeback.
Mad Dog is plotting his revenge against the sport that has denied him since 2012. The Phillies considered him an appropriately-selected 254th draft pick in 1998, and his success in their farm system was not due to their confidence. After making it onto the big club, he was tinkered with as a starter (Do you remember this? I know it happened and I'm sure I was watching but I cannot remember a Ryan Madson start) and was considered a bust after some troubles.
The Phillies shipped him to the pitcher orphanage behind the outfield wall. There, Madson found success as the Phillies' set-up man in 2008 with an updated heater and change-up in his arsenal and eventually inherited the closer's role by 2011, saving 23 games in 25 chances, after too many parts fell off of Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras. He was everything the Phillies could want: an affordable, 97 m.p.h.-hurling reliever whose wife totally didn't hate the fans.
Thrilled by the success of their homegrown closer, the Phillies rewarded Madson by signing Jonathan Papelbon for $50 million in 2012 after the end of some extremely abrupt negotiations with Madson. Probably shaking his head in confounded insolence, Madson signed with the Reds, with whom he did not throw an inning after a torn ligament was discovered in his throwing elbow, leading to Tommy John surgery and the subsequent summer on the couch.
In 2013, 33-year-old Madson's first comeback was with the Angels, and also, on the disabled list, still in the wake of his surgery. He was promoted from the 15-day to the 60-day DL, then cut in August, with the Phillies still the only team for whom he'd ever thrown a pitch.
As Madson plots a 2015 campaign, three years removed from having his body parts rearranged to strengthen his arm, the Royals have welcomed him into the fold on a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Given Madson's journey through the game, people have different views on this. Reds fans urge caution. Angels fans are likely unaware. But we Phillies fans see an old friend, trying desperately to re-enter the game with a second chance he deserves. We remember dominant, oppressive performances; we remember life-giving relief appearances in the playoffs that fuel our revisionist fan fiction that ends with the Phillies beating the Giants in 2010 and also Brian Wilson getting trapped on a hot air balloon drifting into the stratosphere.
Ha ha ha, take that Giants.
May Madson's success in 2015 exist more than on Microsoft Word documents in a folder marked "IMPORTANT STUFF" on my desktop.