Today’s article: “Rearing Its Ugly Head,” Jonathan Bernhardt, Sports on Earth
In an internet often defined by the scorching temperature of its takes, today’s was fairly level-headed. I think that’s a product of yesterday’s major stories being the tragic passing of Tony Gwynn, and the shocking victory by the USMNT. From everything I’ve read, it seems rather impossible to say a bad word about the Padre great. And if you’re going to be one of those dissenting curmudgeons who reminds America that we didn’t actually play all that well against Ghana, I think I speak for the entire country when I say look at my middle finger.
Anyways, today’s article is about Matt Wieters needing Tommy John surgery. It’s a bit less argumentative than I hope most our chosen pieces will be, but I’m guessing sometimes we’ll find ourselves confined to a more light-hearted exchange.
Mike, I have three questions for you after reading Bernhardt’s blog post:
1. Aside from Strasburg and Harper, has there been a more hyped prospect than Wieters during our time?
In terms of hard facts, he was the consensus number-one prospect in the Majors prior to his rookie season. Beyond that, and though I really only started having a firm knowledge of the MLB around 2004, I can’t remember any minor leaguer being endowed with the superlatives that the Orioles catcher often was. He was supposed to be Pudge 2.0.
2. Aren’t you glad the M’s didn’t sign Ubaldo Jimenez? Or do you think he turns it around?
He was one of the “Domestic Big Three” during the offseason, a time in which the Mariners were thought to be seeking pitching help. I remember that, out of that group, Jimenez was the one I most hoped to see in the blue and teal come spring. And not only has he been far worse than either Garza or Santana, his peripherals are almost as bad as Chris Young’s!
3. So, yeah, Wieters is yet the latest player to get bad news from Dr. James Andrews. Conjecture time, but what gives with all the injuries?
Well, we really did play like shit against Ghana, badly enough that it makes me pessimistic that we’ll be capable of even drawing Portugal or Germany…
But I’d rather not go down that road. Looks like we’re going to talk about baseball today, which is fine and good with me. To your questions:
Yeah, you might be right. He was thought to have the entire package: great defensive instincts, all those “intangibles” (leading a pitching staff, etc.) that those tobacco-chewing scouts love, and the physical frame and offensive statistics that foretold a successful hitting career.
The only other prospect I can think of off the top of my head is maybe Trout. Granted, he was kind of lost in the shadow of Harper and not too hyped coming out of high school (mostly because of his New Jersey upbringing), but he actually surpassed Harper at one point on prospect lists.
And let us never forget the hype of Delmon Young.
I was so pissed when we didn’t sign Ubaldo. After spending all of that money on Cano, I felt like we were pot-committed, and to not throw that last chunk of change to at least throw us into an outside shot at contention was infuriating. Looks like we lucked out, though. Jimenez is up to his old wild ways, walking 5.33 hitters (!!!) per 9 innings. Not only is that a bad pitcher, that is an aesthetically disgusting one to watch.
Still, I think my preseason anger was justified. Despite the results, which would indicate Z made the right decision, the process was a flawed one. The Mariners projected to be around a .500 team at the start of the season and had a dearth of pitching depth. Jimenez carried a surprisingly consistent level of success. This time, it worked out for Z, but it’s not a pattern of decision-making I’d like to see continue.
Dammit, I hate conjecture time. Honestly, I’m going to be really boring and say this is just a one-year fluke. This is a subjective assessment, but it seems like the rate of Tommy John surgeries has slowed down since the April Apocalypse. This year will end up breaking records for TJ, but it’s not going to be to the degree people expected early in the season.
If you want me to take a wild guess, I’d say it has to do with the prevalence of the travel team baseball culture. Pitchers are putting on more innings than ever before at a younger age, and are surely throwing breaking balls at a younger age as well. That’s not good for your arm, and will come back to bite you later in your career.
Also, I can’t believe you didn’t pick up on that Chris Tillman mention. The Trade That Must Not Be Named haunts us to this day. I feel like I can’t read an Orioles article without being reminded of Bill Bavasi’s shocking stupidity. Tangent: one time I met Bill Bavasi at a Rainiers game and told him my dream was to become a MLB GM. Dude completely blew me off. Fuck Bill Bavasi.
Look at this post by John Sickels from 2011. Sickels, I’m reading now, was once a research assistant under Bill James, and writes an annual manual called the Baseball Prospect Book. In that post, he admits to once referring to Wieters as “Joe Mauer with 30-homer power” and “Mike Piazza with a much better glove.” That’s one potential HOFer, and one shoo-in, and a dude who ostensibly knows his shit predicted Wieters would be better than either.
Speaking of chewing tobacco, remember the time you touched lips with some Grizz Wintergreen? I’m still not sure what came back out along with the chaw.
The thing about Z is that his dumb decisions usually end up being his best moves (or lack thereof), while his smart decisions often make the team worse. Draft Dustin Ackley? Trade a half-year of Cliff Lee for Mark Teixeira’s heir apparent? Move Pineda, aka TJ-In-Waiting, for a catcher with higher pedigree? All great moves! And ones that brought in players who, to this day, may very well have made a net negative contribution to the team.
Now, his dumb moves. Sign a 31-year-old Cano for 10 years when you have Nick Franklin in the system? Absolutely atrocious reasoning must have led to that decision, yet, can you fucking imagine watching the 2014 M’s sans Cano? Felix would probably be asking for a trade by now.
At this point, Z has probably realized logic is not his friend.
Yep, beyond the probable and boring explanation of “it’s just random,” I like the travel team explanation. Grantland did a piece on this topic early in the year, and I’ll let any further interested readers look at some smarter minds discuss the matter.
You’re being too kind to Bavasi, Mike. I specifically remember you telling me that story, and he didn’t completely blow you off, he said the best path to becoming a GM was “getting an education.” Which is bullshit, because he clearly never got one. Bavasi could’ve just ignored you, but instead he knowingly gave you incorrect advice. Fuck Bill Bavasi.
Maybe chewing tobacco is an acquired taste or something, but I’ve never tasted something that disgusting. Never again. Not to mention it gives you cancer. What a terrible product.
Back to Wieters though. Bernhardt mentions in his piece that Wieters was in the midst of his breakout season, and that’s why this TJ diagnosis is such a bummer. He was in the process of realizing all of that lavish praise Sickels and other heaped upon him. He’s 28 now; he might miss almost two full seasons of his prime. Tommy John is the worst.
Not much to add on that point, you pretty much hit the nail on the head.
I tried to imagine the 2014 M’s without Cano, and the image resembled the scariest of my nightmares. I never want to go back to that mental space again.
I also know that Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports is writing some kind of comprehensive book on, like, every Tommy John ever, so hopefully answers will come before the issue gets too grizzly.
And I feel like it’s only appropriate that this exchange ends on this note: Fuck Bill Bavasi. Forever and ever.