Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Strasburg'd Out

  • You watch with breathless anticipation, I'll watch with cold detachment:

I've had enough of the Stephen Strasburg hype already and it hasn't really hit full-steam yet.

With Strasburg's debut scheduled for Friday (it'd be funny if it rains), the machine in which he's trapped is building to a monumental conclusion. So many questions...

Is he going to be delivered in "The Joba"? The airtight sarcophagus specifically designed to maintain the freshness of its inhabitant?

Will he be available to speak to the media upon every trip to the urinal?

What does he eat if he eats at all?

Has agent Scott Boras had his "confrontation" with Felipe Lopez over his pre-season firing and will he be in attendance to watch his prized pupil, Strasburg----a big enough star that Boras will pay attention to him, at least until he's no longer a cash machine?

Will former number one draft picks be there? Maybe they can create categories for them to serve as the highs and lows of being so relentlessly overhyped that no one could live up to the expectations unless he develops into Randy Johnson.

Category 1 could be "A Cautionary Tale" with David Clyde, the high school sensation from Texas who was the first overall pick of the Rangers in 1973, went straight to the big leagues at 18, was abused by manager Billy Martin and pitching coach Art Fowler and flamed out by the time he was 24.

Category 2 could be "Great Expectations, Mediocre Results" with Shawon Dunston. Dunston batted over .700 at his Brooklyn high school; had an arm strong enough to have been a fireballing pitcher; could run; and was a nice, well-mannered kid. He had an 18 year career as an okay player----no more, no less.

Category 3 could be "He Was Drafted First?!?" with Tim Foli; Bill Almon; and Phil Nevin. Foli and Almon were utility infielders who lasted a long time in the big leagues but never achieved anything of note. Nevin was a first round flameout for three teams before learning to catch and then achieving some big numbers with the Padres that are, um, dubious in timing if you trace the timeline of his rise and fall and the circumstances around the game.

Category 4 could be "They Made It, But..." with Darryl Strawberry; and Bob Horner. Strawberry had a great career, but there's always going to be a "what might have been" aspect to what he failed to achieve. It should've been Strawberry who broke Hank Aaron's home run record----and he would've done it clean (from PEDs anyway). With Horner, he went straight to the big leagues out of Arizona State, was a pretty good power hitter for a few years, played in Japan and his career ended at 30.

Category 5 could be "Watch Out!" with Brien Taylor; Matt Bush; and Josh Hamilton. Taylor was the Yankees' number 1 pick in 1991, had near-100 mph fastball and limitless potential until he got into a fight and tore his shoulder. Bush was a local kid drafted by the Padres as a shortstop, had trouble with the law and was dumped; he's showing promise as a pitcher in the minor leagues for the Rays. Hamilton's substance abuse issues are widely known and treated grandly as a story of "recovery"; his story reached a similar level as Strasburg's ability has and Hamilton is still a question mark after a public bout of drinking caught on camera.

And finally, Category 6 could be "They Made It" with Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer and Chipper Jones. Griffey, ARod, Gonzalez, Mauer and Jones are or were all superstars. Griffey, despite his diva-like behaviors at times, has had a career mostly beyond reproach because he played clean----he's the best baseball player I've ever seen. ARod has PED issues and controversies surrounding him; Gonzalez was traded twice before getting to the Padres; Mauer is a machine; and Jones was only drafted as a consolation prize because then-Braves GM Bobby Cox was convinced by the rhetoric of consensus number one pick Todd Van Poppel that he was going to college, period. (Of course Van Poppel signed with the Athletics for a big league contract when they took a flier draft pick on him at #14; he never panned out.)

I've had enough of Stephen Strasburg.

No one knows what he's going to be. He's been a professional player for two months. He could be the greatest pitcher ever; he could be a solid and useful performer; he could flame out; he could get hurt; he could do absolutely nothing.

This is a byproduct of the age in which we live of rampant information inundating us at every turn; the 100+ mph fastball; and the hunger for a story, positive or negative, from the leeches in the media.

I'm entirely ambivalent to Strasburg.

He'll serve my purposes no matter what he does and I'm open about this fact.

Does Strasburg----from his cocoon of pitch counts; innings limits; accolades and money----realize what he is? That he's a vessel for the whims of others who are piggybacking themselves onto his talents for their own ends?

We've reached the point, before he's thrown a big league pitch, where his performance is irrelevant. He's an entity unto himself and the Nationals; his agent; the media; and the public are all going to carve him up to get a piece whether he becomes a Tom Seaver; a Ben McDonald; or a faceless middle-reliever who has to scrape together a career after a big explosion and rapid extinguishing of the resulting fire.

It's prophecy.

It's prologue.

It's epilogue.

Let me know when he's pitching. I'll watch with a cold detachment because history has shown he can't possibly be as great as the prepackaging indicates.

No one could. And no one will. Not even Stephen Strasburg.

  • Viewer Mail 6.1.2010:

Kyle Johnson writes RE 2010's Good, Bad and Absurd:

No mention of Vlad Guerrero's MVP caliber season in Texas for your "Good Section"?

Vladimir Guerrero has been rejuvenated with the Rangers due in large part to that hitters' heaven that is Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. His numbers on the road are awful----Splits. That said, his value isn't just his on-field play, but his influence on the clubhouse, especially with the Latin players.

As I mentioned in my podcast appearance last week (link below), Guerrero lives with his mother and functions as a caretaker to the young players giving them a place to feel comfortable and have someone watching over them in every aspect. For a team with the young talents like Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus, this is something very, very important.

By season's end, Guerrero will likely be overshadowed in the MVP voting by Robinson Cano, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, but his "value" is more than what he's done in his comeback. The fact that the ballpark has a great deal to do with it is irrelevant in that scope.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE 2010's Good, Bad and Absurd:

Then there's the pending rise of Steven Strasburg and the ultimate fall of Dontrelle Willis.

The loss of Lima Time.

The Rangers bankruptcy with $24 million still owed to ARod and the Divorce McCourts in LA.

**Just can't wait to see Kenny Williams lay waste to that clubhouse!

It's a fascinating case study with Willis how someone who is so gregarious and emotional----and becomes a folk hero because of it----can have those same attributes contribute to a downfall when things go poorly. Willis is salvageable.

Jose Lima was a character that contributed to baseball with his personality even as he struggled after being an excellent pitcher for a couple of years with the Astros.

The Rangers are in a position where money might be a factor as they try to improve on the fly and make the playoffs. Can they take on Roy Oswalt's salary or not?

The Dodgers are in strangely good shape even with that circus-like atmosphere.

With Kenny Williams, the media always seems to try and steer him into firing his manager; making a trade; or doing whatever----and he always resists, instead choosing to do things on his own schedule when he sees fit. He might drop a stick of dynamite, or he might not. That's what makes him one of baseball's intriguing characters.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday. Listen here. My voice is more intoxicating than a bottle of Jack Daniel's; more enlivening than 10 cups of coffee----and that's before getting to the stuff I say!!!

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Do I really look like a guy with a plan?


Jeff said...

I've been drinkin' J.D. for many years now... next time I listen to a podcast appearance of yours I'll make sure to do so sober and see where it takes me.

As for Strasburg... of course, he's overhyped. Still, I think it's good for the game to have stuff like this happen every now and then. It's definitely working out well for the Nats. In fact, Allen and I will be there for his start against the White Sox... how could we pass it up?!? And as much as I wanna stay away from the Strasburg hype, an even bigger part of me (the kid part) wants to be in the middle of it all.

She-Fan said...

I'm with Jeff. Sure, Strasburg is hyped, but it's fun for baseball to have a young superstar. Whether he pans out in the long run is part of the narrative. I'll be watching with interest.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

If Strasburg helps the Nats, it makes the division better. I like it when a division is strong. Back in the 7 team AL East days...The Yanks, Orioles, Red Sox and Tigers were all power houses and every game was riveting. Makes watching games a lot more fun.