The diminishing skills of age and poor health are bringing David Bell one step closer to the dreaded four-letter word: Done.
One wonders if David Bell’s back has finally cracked under all the weight put on his shoulders.
On Wednesday, the 33-year-old embattled veteran reinjured his back and could miss the start of the regular season. This isn't the first time. He missed the first month of spring training last year, and since signing with the Phillies, he’s missed considerable time with this injury.
If the rest of what I’m about to write sounds like an obituary, don’t worry. It should.
Ed Wade believed he had the right ingredients with Bell when he signed him late in 2002. He was advertised as a man we would surely want in a fight.
The love affair might have happened if the two sides were properly introduced. Just when the team had us buttered up with drippy professionalism, his back gave out just days into the season. He limped through half the season and hit .196. Pleasantries over.
Through no fault of his own, Bell brought all the effervescence of cement. He was set up for failure. He was an older veteran free agent when he signed before 2003, coming off what would turn out to be his best years. He was replacing a star in Scott Rolen. He’s not flashy. He’s on a team that never wins. He doesn’t really have power at a position where you can get it. All the areas he seems to excel are invisible to the average fan: arm strength, accuracy, range, maybe leadership. In the field and at the plate, his shoulders devour his neck. His batting stance can best be described as a cringe. He’s pale. He’s slow. He's 5-10, 175-pound David Bell.
The 2004 season will likely become his best with the Phils, elevated by two solid months at the end of the season, mostly garbage time games. As for 2005, he produced as expected for a pull hitter with a bad back and diminishing bat speed.
If his back hadn’t already been broken, the Phillies strapped him to a rack and pulled tight. They signed not one, but two, free agent third baseman with clean bills of health.
It’s Bell's job to lose, they say.
How could he not?