The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

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Jerry Crasnick would like to ramble for a while

Care to indulge him?

Here’s the deal. It’s an article nominally about Stephen Strasburg — you remember him — but it ends up just kind of being a random mini-profile of a whole bunch of different top draft picks. And, I guess, some guys who weren’t top picks. Really, it’s just about a bunch of different guys who were all drafted. So, like I said, he’s just rambling. But at least he takes some time out to make no sense now and then.

Stephen Strasburg has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues, and he’s already standing on the steps of Cooperstown, thanking his parents, his Little League coach and the clubhouse attendants for their support.

That’s a good opening. Get the biggest, silliest hyperbole out of the way right up front.

There’s a statue outside Nationals Park in his honor, and his new cologne, energy drink and sports apparel line are flying off the shelves.

Or you could go a different route, and just stretch the damn joke until it snaps. Really, Jerry, just make the joke one time. That’s enough.

This is how it works in the modern era: Strike out 195 batters in 109 innings in your final college season, flash 102 mph on the radar gun, hire Scott Boras as your "adviser" and sign for a record bonus, and 10-15 years of greatness are laid out neatly before you, like a freshly pressed suit.

This… this is still the same joke. This isn’t even the same paragraph, but Jerry’s still just repeating this one joke. We get it, man. Though I do like how you imply that signing for a "record bonus" is, like, the norm these days. Like every new player gets a record bonus.

All that’s left now is for Strasburg to actually perform.

Right. Which is why the first bit of your article was dumb. Remember Mark Prior, Jerry? You just described him to a T. How’s his Hall of Fame bid looking these days?

The Nationals assigned him to Double-A Harrisburg on March 20, but it will come as no surprise to anyone if he’s in Washington soon to make a run at the rookie of the year award.

This will come as a mild surprise to me. What do the Nationals have to gain by rushing Strasburg to the majors? They aren’t winning anything with him this year, either. Maybe they should wait, make sure he’s ready, and pay him a bit less money while they build up some more good players.

The kid is a heck of a gifted ballplayer — when he’s not rescuing kittens from trees, helping out at the soup kitchen and doing his part to save the world from nuclear proliferation.

Okay, see, that’s the same damn joke yet again. Dammit, Jerry, we get it already. Do you really have nothing else to say?

"His makeup is outstanding," said Washington manager Jim Riggleman.

"And his hair? Fabulous!"

His biggest challenge now is ending up on the right side of history.

Well, also there’s the pitching. That is a challenge too.

No player chosen first in the draft is a Hall of Famer yet, but Ken Griffey Jr. is a lock, Chipper Jones is close, Joe Mauer is well on his way, and Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Upton certainly have the potential.

Griffey’s overrated. I mean, he’s definitely going to the Hall, but he’s not as good as people think he is because he’s always hurt. He’s been active for 21 years and has only played anything resembling a full season ten times.

Chipper Jones, now; there’s a goddamn lock for you. He’s been ridiculously, stunningly good, and hasn’t spent 2/5 of his career on the DL. As long as he doesn’t have an anxiety attack and quit in the middle of this season, he should be a shoo-in.

Mauer is well on his way? Joe Mauer? Joseph Wentworth Mauer III, O.B.E.? He’s only played six seasons, has only really been outstanding for three, and is hurt all the goddamn time. How about we wait a bit before we induct this guy?

And, yeah, Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Upton do "have the potential," a thing they have in common with all Major League baseball players except Joey Gathright.

Alex Rodriguez will also make it to Cooperstown provided the voters don’t hold that little steroids transgression against him for eternity.

They will. Or, more to the point, you will, Jerry Crasnick. Aren’t you the same guy who wrote, back in 2007: "I took a pass on Big Mac last year, and I’m planning to give him the thumbs down again. We’re still smack in the middle of this steroid controversy, and if I have reason to be skeptical about the contents of a man’s medicine cabinet, I’m commitment-phobic?" Then later you said that his career OBP of .394 doesn’t count because he walked too much, which makes me want to ram my Filet-O-Fish right up your nose.

In addition, lots of top picks have enjoyed solid, productive careers. Harold Baines made six All-Star teams and amassed 2,866 career hits. B.J. Surhoff and Monday played 19 seasons in the majors, and Shawon Dunston stuck around for 18. Pitchers Floyd Bannister, Mike Moore, Tim Belcher and Andy Benes were durable, reliable and occasionally spectacular while combining for 596 wins and 598 losses. And Jeff Burroughs, Bob Horner, Jeff King, Phil Nevin, Darin Erstad and Pat Burrell all had their moments.

One of these things is not like the others! Darin Erstad was bad. Bad at baseball. A bad first pick who was bad at baseball and played badly. I know you still have a giant boner for him because he’s scrappy and lunch-pail-y and super fucking white and he played football in college, but he wasn’t good at baseball. Also, wait, most of those dudes aren’t dead yet, Jerry. Maybe it’s a bit too early to be judging the whole of, say, Pat Burrell’s career, since he’s only 32.

But the landscape is also strewn with players who, for a variety of reasons, failed to live up to their potential. Brien Taylor hurt his shoulder in a fight and never pitched in the big leagues. Matt Anderson allegedly hurt his arm in an octopus-throwing contest. Al Chambers, Danny Goodwin and Matt Bush were busts. And the Mets used their five No. 1 picks on Darryl Strawberry, Paul Wilson, Tim Foli, Shawn Abner and Steve Chilcott.

Once again, one of these things is not like the others. You’re really going to give the Mets a bunch of shit for drafting Darryl Eugene Strawberry? He was really really good, Jerry. Not quite Hall of Fame-good — he had a huge, ridiculous early peak followed by a lot of seasons of injuries, much like stone cold lead pipe Hall of Fame lock Ken Griffey Jr. — but come on. You’re putting Erstad in your "good" category and Straw in "bad?" You’re a lunatic.

Long before Strasburg arrived on the scene at San Diego State, there were Floyd Bannister, Ben McDonald, Kris Benson, Paul Wilson and Mark Prior (who went second in the draft behind Joe Mauer in 2001). They were all hailed as the Next Big Thing.

Oh, right, this article’s about Stephen Strasburg. I remember that now. Fortunately, Jerry doesn’t feel the need to burden it with too many words about Stephen Strasburg, and no sooner does he remind us than he launches into another list of people. This time they’re not all top picks, even. They’re just… dudes. Who Jerry wants to talk about in his article nominally about Strasburg, I guess.

McIlvaine was in charge in New York when the Mets drafted Wilson out of Florida State in 1994. As McIlvaine recalls, the Seminoles’ coaching staff had Wilson throwing from a slightly lower arm angle so that he could induce more ground balls in the team’s smallish home park. When Wilson made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League at age 21, the Mets wanted him to throw from a higher angle in classic power-pitcher mode.

That’s really interesting, Jerry. No, it is, but I just have one question for you: what the dick does what the Mets’ coaches thought about Paul Wilson’s arm slot back in 1994 have to do with Stephen Strasburg?

Wilson underwent shoulder surgery in 1996, and was never the same. McDonald, Benson and Prior were also sidetracked by arm trouble.

To say that Mark Prior was "sidetracked" by arm trouble is completely insane. Mark Prior was obliterated by arm trouble that was inflicted upon him by this man (pictured kissing his son goodbye before sending him off to be trampled to death by J.T. Snow).

College pitchers making the transition to professional ball have to adjust to wood bats and the challenge of pitching every fifth day, rather than once a week. Factor in the physical duress from throwing “stress” pitches with all that arm speed and torque, and teams have every reason to be careful.

Other things college pitchers have to adjust to when they move to the big leagues: Throwing 757 pitches in one month because your goddamn idiot manager has you make six starts and runs your pitch count to 130 in five of them. What were we talking about again? Oh, right, Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg dominated Mountain West Conference competition at San Diego State, but it’s a quantum leap from facing Air Force and New Mexico to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Hanley Ramirez.

A quantum leap — just so you know, Jerry, since articles sound better if you know how to use words correctly — is defined as a change that is sudden. It doesn’t refer to magnitude, which I think is how you’re trying to use it. And did the Phillies pick up Hanley Ramirez sometime while I wasn’t looking? Because I think you mean Jimmy Rollins, who is pretty goddamn easy to get out.

Tim Lincecum deftly handled the transition from the Pac-10 to the big leagues, but even he made 13 minor league starts before graduating to the Giants’ starting rotation.

Whew, I agree with Jerry: I am all Strasburg-ed out for now. Time to ramble about somebody else for a while.

Lincecum has two Cy Young Awards in his back pocket at age 25. But what happens if his velocity dips 3-4 mph and he starts getting whacked around a little bit? He’ll be entering uncharted territory.

Jerry. What. The fuck. Are you talking about. Tim Lincecum’s velocity has dipped by 3-4 mph. Here you can find an article from one month ago by a gentleman named Tim Brown — who actually appears to know something about baseball — which is entirely devoted to that subject. And here’s Tim Lincecum himself talking about it: "I’m aware my velocity wasn’t where it was. I don’t feel like it’s anything to be scared about. I’ll just learn how to pitch better." Do you follow baseball much, Jerry?

Times have changed since 1990, when Jones signed as the top overall pick with the Braves. Baseball America, the Atlanta papers and Jones’ hometown media in Jacksonville, Fla., were in a frenzy, but it was nothing compared to Strasburg mania.

I dunno. Jones mania appears to be in full swing here in 2010, when articles about Stephen Strasburg are still pretty much about Chipper Jones.

"The microscope is a hundred times bigger now," Jones said.

That is my new favourite athlete quote of all time, displacing everything that ever came out of John Rocker’s mouth.

"I had some print press, but everybody knows this kid’s face. Everybody knows his whole bio. In the information age, with ESPN and the MLB Network, it’s impossible for you to go under the radar anymore. His starts from now until he’s 10 starts into his major league career are all going to be on TV."

Says a dude currently being interviewed about a subject that has nothing to do with him just because he’s famous. Incidentally, is it just me, or does Chipper really take the wind out of the S.S. Strasburg Mania’s sails by ending that paragraph the way he does? Whoa, this dude’s going to be on TV for ten starts? There’s just one word for that: holyshit!

Of course, the information overload isn’t confined to baseball phenoms. Tim Tebow can’t simply leave the University of Florida campus and enter the NFL draft. He has to rework his throwing motion, unveil it for scouts at the Senior Bowl, perform at the NFL combine, have the results of his Wonderlic test leaked to the media, watch his college coach verbally attack a reporter while defending his honor and then debate whether he wants to actually attend the draft in New York.

Wait, when did we switch to football? Tim who? Come on, Jerry. That’s unfair. You know I’m out of my depth now.

With the exception of a Tiger Woods here and a LeBron James and a Brett Favre there, few athletes can generate sustained interest of that magnitude. If this comes as any consolation to Strasburg, the attention will wane a bit unless he’s incredibly good or amazingly bad.

There is no information contained in those words. I checked them over and over again, but what Jerry has written is "athletes don’t get famous except when they do. And Strasburg won’t get famous unless he’s good or not." It is perfect fluff. I wish I got paid by the word.

No player symbolizes the pressure that a No. 1 pick faces more than Georgia high school catcher Mike Ivie, baseball’s top pick in 1970.

Funny, I was just thinking that — wait, what? Who? Not even Erstad? He was a gamer! And he hustled!

Shortly after the Padres drafted him, Ivie visited San Diego for a workout. When he made an errant throw to the pitcher’s mound during batting practice, veteran Chris Cannizzaro responded with a snide comment at his expense. Ivie, mortified, developed a case of the yips similar to what Mackey Sasser, Dale Murphy and several other catchers later experienced. He went on to play 11 seasons in the majors, but gave up catching and was generally regarded as a disappointment.

I don’t know about this mysterious "yips" disease. I looked this shit up — I do research for this crap; you should try that, Jerry, it’s why I knew that Tim Lincecum’s velocity is down — and Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

"The yips also affects other sports, including Australian rules football (Nick Riewoldt, a StKilda AFL player also suffers from the kicking yips.), baseball (Mike Pelfrey) and Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher (Steve Blass) who was sent down to the minors to rid himself of the yips, i., e., "Steve Blass Disease" diagnosis is applied to talented players who inexplicably and permanently seem to lose their ability, basketball (Chuck Hayes’ free throw shot) and tennis (Guillermo Coria and Elena Dementieva are examples)."

I am going to assume this disease is bullshit until I find a description that wasn’t written by a pack of especially illiterate dingo dogs. It does sound like the exact disease that sportswriters would love to pretend exists, though, since it indulges their favourite fantasy: that athletes are fragile little flowers, and any unpleasantness or adversity immediately and irrevocably ruins their ability to perform.

Andy Benes, drafted first overall out of Evansville in 1988, logged 21 starts in the minors before joining the big club in August of ’89. In hindsight, Benes feels fortunate that he pitched on a staff with Bruce Hurst, Ed Whitson, Dennis Rasmussen and Craig Lefferts — veterans who had his best interests at heart, welcomed him to the fold and helped ease his comfort level.

Yeah, I know about that "ease his pain" thing in baseball. I saw Field of Dreams too.

The Nationals have to hope that veterans Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez can provide a similar service to Strasburg in Washington.

Let me say this about that: it is very, very funny to me that the Nationals’ pitching is that bad. Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez?

If Benes has any counsel for Strasburg, it’s this: Don’t allow the money and the fame to change you.

That is the most generic counsel ever. I hope Marquis and Hernandez can do better. I mean, it’s never a good idea to bet on Marquis and Hernandez being better than anybody else at anything, but it’s what I have.

Even if you fail to meet everybody else’s expectations, you can eventually walk away with no regrets.

Except that maybe you’d regret the failing. You know. At baseball.

"My advice to him would be, ‘You can’t be everything to everyone. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect the game, your teammates and the opposition. Do what you can do, work hard to be prepared physically and mentally, and you can put your head on the pillow and sleep at night.’ That’s the way I always looked at it."

You, sir, are every coach in every sports movie ever. For this, I salute you. Now do you have anything to add that isn’t a meaningless cliché? No? Okay. Take us home, then, Jerry:

Combine old-fashioned values and a pitching arm for the ages, and there’s no telling what might happen. Stephen Strasburg’s professional journey begins shortly in Harrisburg, Pa. Where and when it ends — and how he’ll be remembered — is strictly up to him.

The only thing I have to add to this uplifting ending is my own inspirational team quote that I picked up from chat once in a game of Alterac Valley: "We’re gonna go inside, we’re gonna go outside, inside and outside. We’re gonna get ’em on the run boys and once we get ’em on the run we’re gonna keep ’em on the run. And then we’re gonna go go go go go go and we’re not gonna stop til we get across that goalline. This is a team they say is… is good, well I think we’re better than them. They can’t lick us, so what do you say men?"

I think there’s a lesson in there for all of us.


March 31st, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

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