JEFF PEARLMAN

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Drinking with John

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So Deadspin reported a few hours ago that John Rocker has an autograph table in Cooperstown, N.Y. for Hall of Fame weekend.

Eh … awesome.

I’ve used this space in the past to take shots at my ol’ chum, and I won’t do so again. Instead, let’s talk briefly about self awareness, and the lack thereof.

Ever since I met John in 1999, I’ve felt his biggest weakness (along with a racist perspective and a pretty straight fastball) was a lack of self awareness. He has just never seemed to understand who he is, or what his status in the world means. Absolute best-case scenario, John is a pretty good former closer who had a few solid seasons before flaming out. Baseball Reference likens his career to those of Mike Schooler and Ray Searage, and that sounds about right. He was a nice arm that didn’t last particularly long.

Yet, thanks in large part to the Sports Illustrated article of 1999, Rocker seems to see himself as some sort of icon; as a guy who represents a white, Southern, blue-collar outlook on sports and Americana. He pitches SPEAK ENGLISH T-shirts. He slams Obama. He wrote for a crazy right-wing website. Which, I guess, is all fine and dandy, save for the fact it’s turned him into a cave man, frozen forever in a block of ice and unable (unwilling?) to move forward. At some point, 90 percent of former athletes do what’s necessary to shed their old skins. They stop being Bears and Padres and Islanders and Knicks and start being accountants and bartenders and car salesmen. They leave behind the past in order to secure the future.

But not John Rocker. He’s there at Cooperstown, likely sitting alongside a pile of glossy photographs and a Sharpie, reminding folks of who he was, and who he’ll forever be.