In the collective trash heap that thus far is the 2010 Cincinnati Reds bullpen, one man stands tall and proud.
Seeing big number 53 jog in from the bullpen, the rare bird in Major League Baseball who was born in the 1960s and is still playing, is a comforting sign for Reds fans.
Some men bust out of that bullpen gate and get to the pitchers mound like their pants are on fire. Rhodes has a slow, methodical gait, and with his age, one might think he is blazing the trail of a tired man, perhaps too worn out to do the job.
However, make no mistake about it. This man knows EXACTLY what he's doing. He's all business. He'll leave the theatrics and fist pumping to the younger generation. He's oblivious to the hype, to the pressure and to the outside temperature—he wears long sleeves every game, no matter how hot it is outside.
As he warms up, there are usually a bevy of things going on at a Major League Baseball stadium at any given time. I'll let the other fans try to get on "kiss cam," or catch the t-shirts they like to launch into the stands. Me? When I'm at Great American Ballpark, I'm staring at one of the LED boards that flashes Rhodes' microscopic ERA, which currently stands at 0.32 in 28 innings pitched.
It really is quite amazing to see the numbers he posts, and to see them drop, drop, drop.....at the passing of each outing.
One man has touched him up this year. Jeff Baker of the Chicago Cubs handed Rhodes a loss on April 10th when he homered off the southpaw. That's it, nothing else.
Is there an element of luck involved in it? Sure there is—he has escaped bases loaded situations, and he has had to rely on his defense to make great plays to save disaster.
I'd like to think that the great ones create their own luck, however.
With all this said, I think there is a fair chance that all of this ends poorly for Rhodes. He can't continue to hold the opposition scoreless forever. Maybe his age catches up eventually, his little bit of great luck runs dry, his current minor injuries worsen, or his high usage patterns leave him fatigued for the stretch run.
As baseball fans, we can often times be "prisoners of the moment," and when someone falters, forget all the wonderful things they have done. Rhodes doesn't deserve that fate, on the day where his probable struggles occur.
Until the unfairness begins, he's a freak of nature old guy who will simply just go out there and methodically kick your butt.
And even when he allows a run and/or falls into a slump? I'll always remember him for pitching his absolute heart our for us, and remain confidence that his guts and guile will get him back on the right path again.