Telling die hard fans not to believe the hype—especially when the hype is about their own team—is like telling religious zealots their faith is completely made up. You’re going to get backlash no matter how sound or practical your reasoning is, simply because you are going against what people want to believe, no matter how ridiculous or mathematically improbable.
That’s fine. That’s cool. That’s what fans are supposed to do: hope beyond what the numbers and projections say. It’s the essence of the phrase, “we’ll get em’ next year,” even when, at the very best, next year’s odds are still one in thirty.
But what if those beliefs had the power to damage the team’s chances? Well, in the case of the Jays’ Marcus Stroman, the 22nd pick of this year’s amateur player draft, that might actually be possible.
A few big names and third party scouts touted Stroman as a player capable of making an impact in the big leagues this year. He’s polished, powerful, and a solid first round choice. But, is he really the type of player that can burst onto the big stage in his first season?
Lets debunk the hype. Forget about silly things like the arbitration clock, a full college season, option burning, bargaining power, logistics, super-twos, contract incentives, 40-man space, Alex Anthopoulos, and team needs. Let’s just look at the first round of the draft. All first round talents have stratospheric upsides or tools so polished they induce direct big league comparison. They posses the type of ability that makes scouts feel losing millions to retain their talent is a risk worth taking. However, history has shown there are many players that come into their first season with similar billings to Stroman, equally hyped, gushed over, and talented, and virtually none of them go college to Bigs. In fact, the odds are greatly against this happening.
They’re are, dare I say it, better odds Stroman won’t make it to the Big Leagues at all.
Woa! Put down those pitch forks and torches. I’m not saying he won’t, I’m just saying there is a history to consider before we rush out to by Stroman jerseys. Yes, Stroman is a first rounder in every sense of the word. But, right now, with millions being spent to secure him, the market value of hype, a hot franchise to think of, fans to keep happy and scouts who have to justify their choices at the risk of loosing their jobs, of course Stroman has nothing but upside—and that’s all you’re going to hear about because it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep it that way.
Everyone but Stroman, that is.
Unchecked hype is dangerous for the new player because a new player doesn’t understand what kind of role the industry of the game plays in his life yet. He doesn’t know what kind of expectations are really on his shoulders, or what meeting them or not meeting them means. He can try to figure it out based on what he knows about the pro-system from the outside looking, from analyzing current events and contract dollars, but there is no substitute for experience.
Stroman has just been granted a childhood dream he believes will define his entire life. With it, large amounts of money, media hype, buzz, expectation, and piercing exposure. He hasn’t even thrown a pro pitch yet!
Sure he wants to be in the bigs his first year, what player doesn’t? But is he really ready for the exposure? Will he shoulder it? How can you project his reaction to something a fraction of a fraction of earthlings has ever known? Being a first rounder is a tremendous amount of pressure, most of which has nothing to do with strength of competition actually being presented on field.
Media is more invasive in a player’s life now than ever, and I’m sure Stroman has heard what’s being said about him. But, is the vast majority of that commentary balanced? Furthermore, is it what Stroman needs to hear, or, would it be better for him—and for Jays fans in it for the long haul— to know that there is no timer counting down on this season, there is no reason for him to believe he needs to be in the Bigs this year, and there is no logic in paying attention to the hype out of his control.
What he can control is how hard he works and what pitches he chooses next. Trust me, those jobs are hard enough for a rookie in the pros. Stroman doesn’t need to make it any harder by forgetting his age, experience, and limitations in a futile attempt at trying to live up to the ethereal buzz. And we need exhaust ourselves with concern by willfully forgetting that Stromnan is young, green, and deserving of room to fail.
I’m not anti-prospect, and I do think Stroman’s going to be a big leaguer. I am, however, anti-hype, especially now, when a young man is still learning where the game ends and he begins.