March 7, 2002

Made for the Movies

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Consider the bad actor and movie list recently upped by one, thanks to none other than John Rocker. He is starring in a new movie called The Greenskeeper as, surprise, a homicidal maniac.

If you aren’t surprised about this recent development, take a second to familiarize yourself with his history.

Notorious for his comments in a late 1999 Sports Illustrated article in which he offended minorities, gays, and immigrants, Rocker quickly learned how difficult it is to perform in front of a hostile audience.

He started out in fine fashion and through the first two weeks of the 2000 season. Rocker had pitched 9-1/3 innings, and recorded seven saves with a 0.96 ERA. These numbers were decent, but he had also walked 11 batters over this stretch, while only striking out 14. That was very un-Rocker like.

In the 1999 season, the pitcher had walked only 37 while striking out 104 in 72-1/3 innings. That was about one walk every two innings, but after his remarks, he averaged more than one walk per inning. This unfavorable increase foreshadowed his road ahead.

After those first two weeks, the heckling and boos that bombarded him at every stadium had chipped away so much of his tough exterior that he began to crack. For the month of May, Rocker recorded three saves in nine innings of work. His ERA shot up to 7.00, and he struck out only 13 while issuing 14 free passes.

Atlanta quickly demoted Rocker to the minors in the beginning of June where he was shielded from the press, giving him time to mentally recuperate. Rocker wasn’t just sent down because of his stats, however. A few days before he was demoted, John met the Sports Illustrated writer who composed the infamous article in a tunnel in the Atlanta stadium.

According to the reporter, Jeff Pearlman, Rocker told him, “This isn’t over between us,” and, “Do you know what I can do to you?” The reporter also said that Rocker turned the bill of his cap around so he could get face-to-face with him.

Braves manager Bobby Cox, never one to readily disclose his opinions, said of the demotion “this is something that’s been brewing for a while. We’ve been bailing him out. It couldn’t go on like that forever.”

Rocker’s big mouth got him in trouble again, and that was only the beginning.

Eventually, after his stint in AAA ball, Rocker was sent back to the majors where he was, despite a few forgettable outings, essentially back to his usual dominant self, on the field that is.

Off the field, Rocker was a “cancer” according to former outfielder Brian Jordan. But Jordan was the only one to speak out against the pitcher. The team often downplayed Rocker’s actions and how it felt about him by using vague and general statements to respond to questions.

In an organization that prided itself on its mature and stoic nature, Rocker ultimately compromised the integrity and respect the Braves’ clubhouse had gained during its decade of excellence.

The Braves had to entertain Rocker for another year until they had the opportunity to unload him in a trade with Cleveland, which, surprisingly, had a good reason for getting him. Reliever Bob Wickman was having trouble as a closer and the Indians wanted Rocker to fill that role.

One Braves player was reported as saying, “There’s not a man in here who isn’t happy he’s gone.”

Pitching so poorly as a closer that they gave the job back to Wickman, Rocker continued to drag as a set-up man. In addition to his paltry hurling, Rocker clashed with his new teammates, threw water on a fan in Game One of the division series against Seattle, and butted heads with Wickman about comments he had made.

True to form, Cleveland initiated some wheelin’ and dealin’ of its own during this past off-season. An overhaul of its front office sent general manager John Hart, the man who brought Rocker to Ohio in the first place, packing, and he landed with the Texas Rangers. Soon after, Rocker would be joining him in the Lone Star State.

“I’m an optimist,” Hart said. “I’m willing to give him a second chance. If we can’t make it work, no-harm and no-foul, and we move on.”

So this is where Rocker stands today, but that ground is still shaky. In two innings of spring training work, the pitcher has a 4.50 ERA with one walk and no strikeouts for the Rangers.

Perhaps, while biding his time during the winter and contemplating his past two years, Rocker decided to try his luck as an actor since the pitching thing doesn’t seem to be working out so well.

“The Greenskeeper” is dumber than it sounds. According to its website,, the story is about a group of promiscuous teens (one of which is a former Playboy bunny) who decide to sneak into their country club one night to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

“Little do they know,” the website states, “their party will serve as a feeding frenzy for a crazed madman,” one assumes that’s Rocker as the homicidal maniac.

“Having access to golf course tools,” it continues, “The Greenskeeper both frightfully and creatively disposes of our partygoers.”

Besides the fact that this plot has been used in the over 100 Friday the Thirteenth and Nightmare on Elm Street-type movies, what is most significant about its lack of quality is the fact that this flick is currently headed straight to the video store shelf. It is, at this very moment, looking for a distributor so it can play at a theater near you.

John Rocker’s past is a tumultuous one and it remains to be seen if his career can overcome that trauma. He will be booed in every stadium he plays in, he will be asked about that article by every reporter he talks to, and his past will forever tag along with him. I doubt he can handle this.

But Rocker is not as stupid as everyone thinks. After all, he did get a higher score on the SATs than our current president. He probably realizes his baseball days are numbered and has decided to make a little niche for himself in a place where your history can be forgotten faster than Darryl Strawberry can be given another chance.

Hollywood’s great, isn’t it, John?

Archived article by Katherine Granish