Here’s Stephen Strasburg striking out Mike Jacobs in the first of his five scoreless innings against the Buffalo Bisons today:
Man, if he could blow those fastballs by a guy good enough to hit cleanup for a Major League team on Opening Day, then — oh yeah. Mike Jacobs.
Seriously, though: Thanks to his outrageous arsenal and at least in part to the glut of information available on the Internet and the media one-upsmanship it fosters, Strasburg’s about as hyped a pitching prospect as we’ve ever seen. So naturally I’ve spent a whole lot of time thinking about the different ways Strasburg’s career could play out and the ones I would find most entertaining.
I enjoy greatness, and there’s definitely something satisfying about a much-lauded prospect coming up and being exactly the Hall of Famer everyone expected him to become. Ken Griffey Jr., who just retired yesterday, was one of those prospects. Chipper Jones and A-Rod, too.
So though it would be torturous to watch Strasburg dominate the Mets several times a season for the next decade, it would be thrilling. Great is great, and so if he’s great, you know, great.
Some of my friends have suggested it will be funny if he turns out to be a massive disappointment for one reason or another, but massively disappointing pitching prospects are cliched at this point. The road to Cooperstown is littered with Brien Taylors and Mark Priors and Rick Ankiels, and though each of their stories is uniquely tragic, the tragedies are entirely predictable. Pitching is a strenuous activity, mentally and physically, and it’s hardly surprising when young pitchers fail to put together lengthy and successful careers.
After careful consideration, I’ve determined that the most entertaining possible outcome for Strasburg will be if he turns out just pretty good. Not a Hall of Famer or even a true ace, just a good, solid Major League pitcher like Brad Radke or Javy Vazquez or someone.
In this pathetic, snarky fantasy, he’ll be good enough to once or twice put together an excellent stretch of starts that makes everyone freak out and assume he’s finally arrived, and he’ll probably even make an All-Star team or two when everything falls his way for a half season. But then he’ll go back to just being pretty good — as good as anyone could reasonably hope for from any pitching prospect, but nowhere near the ridiculous expectations levied upon him.
Ironically, though, since Strasburg throws a 99-mph heater and that devastating curveball, pretty-goodness is probably among the least likely outcomes for the prospect. And maybe that’s another reason to root for it.