Stephen Strasburg: One Hit Wonder, or Platinum Artist?

Monday May 21st, 2012

Robert Whitmer:  Fate…..  It’s a funny word.  Others call it “destiny.”  It’s a word that some see one way, and others don’t even believe in it.  I believe that things happen for a reason.  I am a very religious person, but this will not turn into a religious piece.  I believe that things happen to us to teach us something so that, in the future, we can see the lesson that was taught and apply it to not make a mistake that would have cost us dearly.  Now, on the other hand of things, we still have the ability to choose if we apply those teachings in our life to avoid those situations.  People might argue that if someone believes in destiny or fate, their path has already been chosen so what is the purpose of the decisions we make.  No matter which side you are on, fate or fake, we all are going somewhere.  We all have an ability inside of us to be great.  It is up to us whether we get there or not.  Such is the same with the topic of my writing this week.  Mr. Stephen Strasburg is at a crossroads with his career.  The path that he chooses is up to him.  Right or wrong, good or bad, he has the ability to be a Justin Verlander, or a Mark Prior.

            There are two types of autograph seekers in the world.  Those that are like kids and seek the autograph cause it’s a person and they are wearing a baseball uniform, and those that seek the autograph because they know the players and want their autograph because it will (or should) be valuable one day.  It’s the latter that you should watch for if you don’t know who a player is yet.  These are the “professionals.”  They are in it for the future gain of a little bit of pen on a baseball or piece of cardboard with the players picture on it.  Mark Prior had the latter of the two autograph seekers follow him.  As I mentioned in my previous article, I spent a lot of time at the Cubs spring training facility when I lived in Arizona.  I met Prior and got his autograph.  He WAS a stud.  He HAD all the tools needed to be the next Clemens or Pedro.  He COULD have been there.  Have you noticed yet that I’m talking in past tense?  Yeah, the injury bug got him too.  This was no flea though.  This was a New York sized roach.  We have hamstrings, shoulders, elbows, and a batting practice oblique strain.  Yes, chicks dig the long ball, but don’t hurt yourself trying.  Bodies heal, muscles regenerate, but the window of opportunity for major leaguers is so small, if they forget about you, you’re done.  Mark healed and recovered from every injury, but couldn’t ever get a place to “stick” after missing almost two years.  Got to give the man credit though, he’s still trying.  He is currently under a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox.  He, however, falls into the category of the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” of the major leagues.

            Justin Verlander is like that guy in high school that is the best at whatever sport he decides to play, has the hottest girlfriend in the school, and drives the nicest car.  You know who I’m talking about.  There is one in every high school out there.  He’s the popular kid that can do no wrong cause if he does he flashes that smile and his problems seem to go away.  I was not that kid; far from it actually.  I was the kid that the popular one messed with but not enough to be considered a bully.  I remember being jealous of that kid.  He just happened to be the best player on the basketball team.  He stepped out there and you just knew he was the best.  He had that swagger. The look of I know what I am and I’ll be dead if I let you show me any different.  Such it is with Verlander.  He knows he’s the man, and every time that he steps out there on the mound he makes sure that he shows everybody why.  He doesn’t have a bad outing; at least I can’t remember the last time he did.  Yeah he loses, but that is rarely because of anything he does.  What doesn’t this guy do well?  Wins, no-hitters, Cy Young awards, AL MVP awards, pitching triple crown (leading the league in k’s, ERA, and wins).  Yeah he’s got them all.  Oh by the way…  the guy hits 100+ on his fastball into the eighth inning, and then you’ll see a 76 mph curveball.  Oh guys, he’s only 29. I know, I know….  It’s not fair! 

            So where does that leave Strasburg.  What kind of pitcher is he going to be?  He has the stuff of legend, but then there’s that release that he has.  It’s unorthodox to say the least.  He has been warned that his release has the risk of causing further damage to his elbow that he already had Tommy John surgery on.  He runs the risk of turning into the Mark Prior type of pitcher that can’t stay off the 15 and 60 day DL.  His numbers are good.  His pitches are nasty.  There is a reason why there was more hype surrounding this kid than any other player that I can remember.  In my opinion, barring any unforeseen major injuries in the future, Strasburg will become a top 25 pitcher in the history of the game.  Now you might say that 25 is a lot of people, but think of the company you are putting him in.  Ryan, Verlander, Maddux, Clemons, Randy Johnson, Cy Young himself, Carlton, Eckersley, Koufax, that’s pretty good company.  He has a long career left.  We will have to wait to see what happens.

            So it comes back to choices and destiny.  We make choices every day.  We wake up, get out of bed, go to work, etc.  Strasburg has choices to make in his career.  Those choices will affect how the history books see him.  Will they see him as a Mark Prior who got run down by injuries, or as a Verlander who is dominate and has that aura of superiority around him?  The choice that he has to make is how he decides to play the game.  There is a difference in playing hard and playing smart.  Generally the pitchers who play hard get hurt and don’t last, where the pitchers that out think you generally stick.  In the end, it’s the choices that determine destiny, not destiny that determine choices in this game, because it is only that.  It’s only a game.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Robert Whitmer, MLB reports Baseball Writer Candidate.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Robert on Twitter (@rwhitmer)***

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Posted on May 21, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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