I’m a contrarian, as such, I tend to look at where the popular opinion—any popular opinion— is taking a narrative and say, yeah, but. Thus, despite all the feel-good vibes flowing from the gushing geyser that is the Marcus Stroman’s Return story, I need to do a yeah, but here.
I know it annoys some people, but please understand it’s…
1) Not personal. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I like Marcus Stroman. I think he’s a great human being. What I don’t like is how he’s coming back. What I mean to say is, I don’t like the timing, the team he’s facing and its context, the relentless over hyping, and the potential to misread this situation by both the team and the fan base. Especially the fan base. That’s because all his hype is…
2) Misleading. It paints Stroman to be something more than he is. He’s not a veteran player with post-season experience; he hasn’t played any role in the Blue Jays success this season; and hasn’t seen competition above Triple A this year. Yet, he’s being billed as some post-season security blanket, a missing Ace back in the rotation, ready to start in one of the biggest series of the season, maybe even of the last decade.
He absolutely does have the potential to be a post-season boost and help solidify a rotation that, despite the last month and a half, has been the weakest link in the Jays war effort, but is this really how we want to test that potential? The difference between fair expectation of potential impact and our current over-hyped level of individual significance is an important thing to clarify because…
3) An honestly appraisal allows Stroman the option of failure with grace. As it stands, we’re starting to remember him as some super-pitcher instead of a small sample size with a lot of promise. In fact, we’re hearing so much about him that, should he disappoint us, he’ll be chewed up for over promising and under delivering, even if he only promised to work hard and make it back.
Hey, if it can happen to Matt Harvey, it can happen here. Careful what you offer the fans, it may not be what they think they deserve from you.
Frankly, all this hype is not going to help Stroman or the Jays win. Hell, it may do the opposite. Increasing expectations to unreasonable heights also increases the chance you might let everyone down—that’s a hell of a thought to take to the pitcher’s mound on your first game back.
But, more importantly…
4) It undermines the team. I don’t think anyone on the club dislikes Stroman. I don’t think anyone in baseball does. He’s a positive, supportive, team player, God bless ’em.
But, even the best baseball playing humans, when they become the pivot point for all a team’s success and failure narratives, get annoying. Think about it: all year long this Jays club has been doing its job to get where it is. It’s enjoying the fruits of a community effort. If Stroman shows up and his singular results dominate the talking points—through no fault of his own— how would you feel after a season in the grind, doing the bulk of the work, if all the press is talking about is the guy who just showed up?
5) Speaking of work, everyone has respect for the work Stroman did to come back form his knee injury. Myself included. Injury is a son of a bitch. But, every injured player works hard to come back from injury. Every. Player.
Not every player has ESPN and Sportsnet writing reports about their rehab process, how intensely they’re pushing themselves, all the pain they’re fighting past, their refusal to quit or accept anything less than a return to action this season! No one wants it more than this guy! No one! He’s a true professional!!!!!!
If anything, Stroman is lucky he had:
a. A great support staff, the kind that millionaire athletes who are also part of the major league baseball player union have.
b. New and useful technology that aids in the rehab effort.
c. A young, quickly recovering body, and…
d. No setbacks.
Point d is key because just one setback would have squashed all of this triumphant return talk, and, unless we’re considering his ability to simply not aggravate anything inside the complex, baffling, miracle of life we call the human body, then he didn’t do anything more than many other players have done before him with out the same margin of luck. One cannot simply will themselves back to health, else I’d still be throwing batting practice to some Triple A team . But I digress…
6) Understanding all this is not crapping on Stroman. It’s respecting him, and the industry in which he exists, with many other players. By doing this, you look at him fairly, evenly, and give respect where it is due. Yes, he worked hard to get back to health, but he was also fortunate to not have a set back, a stroke of luck that narrative and circumstance has mutated from convenient, to the mark of a super hero. More over, the team’s standings, the calendar, the easy-to-dream-on rookie campaign, and positive personality have all mixed together to make Stroman look essential to the Jays.
Saying he isn’t is no disrespect…
7) It’s respect. The Jays are good. With Stroman, they’re better. But if he fails or falters, an unvarnished understanding of what he’s really dealing with, and what is reasonable to expect from him, helps keep perspective and avoid crazed fan base mood swings—which can crush some players and create major distractions. *cough *cough* Rickey Romero
Yeah, but, most importantly, it will allow us all to keep in perspective just how good the Jays are and have been as a whole all season long.
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