Mon Mar 29 02:39pm EDT
On Monday morning, Scott Strickland lost his competition for the last pitching spot on the Florida Marlins roster.
And because of that decision by the Marlins, someone might now lose their car quicker than they might have.
Not following me here? Well, maybe it would help to explain that Strickland — a 33-year-old journeyman who had a promising career derailed by elbow problems — has said that he probably won't take another assignment to the Marlins' minor league system.
It would also definitely help to explain that Strickland started a second job as a repo man this past winter to help pay the bills for his family of four.
"It's not as greasy as people think. You think of a bad guy stealing your car in the middle of the night," Strickland said. "That's not the way it works."
Coming down to the last week of camp, Strickland's chances looked good for a major league recovery. Instead, the Marlins braintrust of Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill have repo'd the job and given it to either Seth McClung(notes), Tim Wood(notes) or Hayden Penn(notes).
Strickland broke in with the Montreal Expos in 1999, having several effective seasons with them and the New York Mets as a set-up man and part-time closer. But early in '03, his elbow blew out and the injury required Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.
Aside from four innings with the Houston Astros in 2005, he's been stuck at Class AAA ever since, including this 2009 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Each of the past five spring trainings, this one included, Strickland has been invited to "major league photo day," when they take your picture in a baseball card posture.
Other than the stints with the Mets, Les Expos and Houston (not pictured), that's as close to a major league paycheck as Strickland has gotten. Minor leaguers with Strickland's experience make about $70,000 a year; Strickland made as much as $950,000 the season he got hurt.
To help make the ends meet more comfortably for Strickland, along with his wife and their three-year-old twins, the right-hander took a job driving a tow truck for Mike's Wrecker Service in Spring, Texas.
Strickland, whose wife's uncle owns the business, swears he's not a homewrecker. He's just a guy doing a job that has to be done. And with plenty of people behind in their payments these days, the repo business is good.
"You get a contract from a bank and it says these people know they're not paying their bills," Strickland told the Palm Beach Post. "It's not their first time. And you just walk up with the contract: 'Hey, we've got an order for repossession of your car. If you give me the keys, we'll let you get your stuff out. If not, we'll just take your car.' "
Reminds me of a song.
He said "John it's just my job and I hope you understand."
Hey, callin' it your job, ol' hoss, that sure don't make it right
But if you want me to, I'll say a prayer for your soul tonight
Rationalizations and Mellencamp sermons aside, you gotta make a living somehow, right? Plus, Strickland has a point. He's not a vulture driving a tow truck. The true thiefs are the ones who legally steal your car when it's — so they claim — illegally parked.
(I'm shaking my fist at you, Lincoln Towing!)
If the majors could just cut Strickland a break, he could quit his second job — which he doesn't view as a long-term career option.
But since Beinfest has appeared to ruled that out, Strickland might just have to make do while he figures out what to do with his post-baseball life.
Still, all scofflaws should be advised to keep current on their car payments.
Or at least hope for some instability in that Marlins' bullpen.