Stephen Strasburg AP

Do they “build you up just so they can bring you down?”

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This is less news than random deep thought territory, but whatever: Stephen Strasburg gave a quote over the weekend and Andy Martino tackles it. A well-known cliche about hype, made in reference to Zack Wheeler: “They build you up just so they can bring you down.” That idea, at least in baseball, has always bugged me, in much the same way it seems to bug Martino.

Why? Because it suggests an actual desire on the part of whoever “they” are — be it fans, media, talk radio, whoever — to actually tear down ballplayers. I don’t think that desire exists. And even if the tear-down does eventually happen, I do not think it means that the build up was cynical or calculated.

To be fair, there are some who do this. Professional trolls like T.J. Simers and a lot of the sports yakkers on the more obnoxious end of the spectrum seem to enjoy ripping players for the hell of it. But I don’t think they’re anywhere close to the majority or that whatever they do plays a major role in the hype machine to which Strasburg is referring.

I think the hype of guys like Strasburg and Wheeler is borne of perpetual, unstoppable yet irrational optimism. A genuine excitement whenever a young prospect shows unusual promise. Especially pitchers. Fans act like they’re the second coming. A large part of the media abdicates its critical thinking and plays the “on pace” game or compares extremely early results to that of Hall of Famers. The line between fan and analysis is almost erased and those who try to be cautious are scolded as kill-joys.

Against that backdrop there is almost always going to be disappointment, at least comparatively speaking. Strasburg is still great but, amazingly, is not yet Tom Seaver at his height. Wheeler has great stuff but, amazingly, is not a great pitcher with 16 whole innings under his belt. There are lots of guys like each of them every year yet, because of that early hype, they seem like disappointments and, inevitably, the cold water splashing everyone feels like a tear-down when it’s really just reality.

Anyway, no real point to this other than to observe that just as most players are not as good as their early hype, most criticism of those players is less hate and agenda-driven than it is natural disappointment after irrational expectations.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.