Saturday, May 9, 2009

When a no-no is a no-no.

Well, Stephen Strasburg has gone and done it this time. The response here in DC has ranged from euphoric to orgasmic. Sydney Crosby was the last prospect in any sport that I can remember being gushed over like this. Overnight, he went from being the top prospect to the ONLY prospect. And it is hard to argue the kid's stuff.

But shame on Stephen Strasburg. Shame on him for getting everybody all riled up. First of all, if you think you are the consensus number 1 pick in the draft, is it really fair to be beating on cadets from the Air Force Academy? Most high schools could take 1 out of 3 from the Falcons. I know it is a conference game, but why not save that type of performance for when the cards are really on the table in the NCAA regionals? Who knows what must be going through Scott Boras' head right now.

College pitchers, while almost always more prepared to step into the show within a couple seasons, tend to be a funny breed. Making the jump requires a mental toughness that he may not have. Pitching in the Mountain West Conference against student-athletes, facing maybe two to three bats capable of finding their way to high-A ball (or Air Force, with zero), is light years away from facing guys who are doing it for their livelihood. It is far from a sure thing that he will be able to help the Nats right away. So few top power prospects pan out; I root Justin Verlander every time, hoping he can harness his stuff before his arm falls off. I just can't see how 102 mph is sustainable for a starting pitcher.

It is a tough call, and the scout really have to get into his to see if this is the guy that can push himself and take care of himself. Can he be a team guy, even though he might never have to play for another contract, knowing his ticket to the majors is punched without having to earn it in AA and AAA?

In the end, the price has to be right, too. Even Johan Santana and other proven commodities have a market value; remember how foolish the Yankees looked dragging Roger Clemens out of retirement for his king's ransom. The timing of his gem could not have been more perfect from a financial standpoint. From a player development and draft perspective, maybe not so much. The pressure will be insurmountable to draft and sign Strasburg, and the pressure will be insurmountable to live up to the expectations of being Scott Boras' prized thoroughbred. Mark Teixeira has struggled in New York, and the general history of top drafted pitchers is daunting.

The money and the makeup.

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