Although reading the news reports of late have me wondering what’s running through the mind of Esteban Loaiza – remember him?
HE’S THE BASEBALL pitcher who had a peak during his 2003-04 stint with the White Sox, when he and Mark Buehrle were the ball club’s most reliable starting pitchers.
He was the starting pitcher for the American League all star team in 2003, when the game was played at the then-named U.S. Cellular Field – the last time the All Star Game was played in Chicago.
Loiaza also wound up finishing that season with a record of 21 wins and 9 losses. The win tally matched the number of victories that Fernando Valenzuela had for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1986, and gives the two of them the most victories ever in a single season for a Mexican-born ballplayer.
The Tijuana native was on top of the world back in those days when he was with the Sout’ Side ball club – just as Sammy Sosa was once a beloved celeb back in the late 1990s when he was hitting all those home runs for the Chicago Cubs.
YET JUST AS Sosa is now a comical figure whose latest antics include that photograph of himself and wife Sonia in their cowboy-like outfits, Loaiza has taken a plunge for the worse.
In fact, Loaiza is now far lower than anything Sosa is ever alleged to have done.
For Loiaza is the former ballplayer who got himself arrested last week and now faces criminal charges related to narcotics. Police in Imperial Beach, Calif., (near San Diego) found large-enough quantities of controlled substances in his rented home that he’s being regarded as some sort of low-level drug dealer.
That’s a label he may never be able to shake – even if he eventually is acquitted of the criminal charges or has them dismissed.
LOAIZA SUPPOSEDLY HAD drugs valued at $500,000 in his possession – although one needs to keep in mind that those dollar figures police toss out with regards to drug busts usually have their own sense of exaggeration.
They’re nowhere near as precise as the baseball stats we have that tell us of Loiaza’s 2.90 earned run average or his American League-leading 207 strikeouts back in that season of 2003 – which is tainted largely because the White Sox wound up collapsing that year in September and finished as a mere second place ball club.
Which means that Loaiza, who currently is being detained in lieu of $200,000 bond, is one whom I’m sure would rather be at a ballpark, rather than in a courtroom and jail cell combo.
It will be interesting to see how White Sox fans will acknowledge Loaiza’s existence as a ballplayer, and if it will turn out to be similar to that of LaMarr Hoyt – the 1983 Cy Young Award winner (best pitcher) whose own life became mucked up with several drug-related arrests. Hoyt is almost an un-person to the fans old enough to remember him.
WILL LOAIZA BECOME something similar?
Although I have to admit that learning of Loaiza’s situation reminded me of another former White Sox pitcher. As in Francisco Barrios, who pitched for some crummy Sox teams of the late 1970s and was released at the end of 1981. Within a year, the one-time Mexican League ballplayer and native of Hermosillo was dead from cocaine use.
I still remember being at Comiskey Park for a ballgame when a “moment of silence” was held for Barrios. A sad end to another former ballplayer.
And will mean that at least a little attention will be paid to a Southern California courtroom where Loiaza has an appearance scheduled for Wednesday, while his former fans will be trying to see what’s happening at the Camelback Ranch training camp the White Sox have in suburban Phoenix to determine if there’s any hope for 2018 and the near future.