When you think back of dreadful things that happened to major league ballplayers in the offseason, you usually come up with Roy Campanella's career-ending car accident the winter of 1957-58; Monty Stratton's career-ending hunting accident the winter of 1938-39 (the motion picture "The Stratton Story" gives the impression he made it back to the big leagues - he did not); and Jim Lonborg's career-altering skiing accident the winter of 1967-68.
But a player being kidnapped? Not something we've really had any experience dealing with.
The kidnapping of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos from his home in Venezuela is not to be taken lightly. Kidnappings in that part of the world are a fairly regular occurrence - one network expert called them "a growing industry" - and major league players' families have been the target of such crimes before. There does seem to be a trend that once a ransom is paid, the abductee is released unharmed, but on the other hand, there have been some tragic outcomes as well.
New Nats hire Ron Rizzi - one of general manager Mike Rizzo's closest aides - was already in Venezuela (he spends considerable time scouting there every offseason), and it's fair to speculate that he's the club's eyes and ears on the Ramos situation as it currently stands. Rizzi is well-known in Venezuelan baseball circles, and one would hope that the degree of respect he's accorded down there will count for something.Some prior abductions lasted only a day or two, and if it's only about money, there's a good chance of a satisfactory conclusion.
The safe return of Ramos to his family is priority No. 1. Regardless, one has to wonder if the future of major league players returning to their native country at season's end might not be in some jeopardy, and with it, the future viability of the Venezuelan winter league.