So, what are we to make of this Strasburg kid?

23 Comments

Strasburg debut windup.jpgDrew had the live blog and the recap last night, perfectly capturing the “I can’t believe what I’m seeing” aspect of all of this. And it was spectacular. I’m still not sure I believed what I just saw. The Superman exists, and he’s a National.

Due to the injustice that is Major League Baseball’s blackout system — which seems to think that Columbus, Ohio is in the Pirates’ home territory despite the fact that the Pirates have never, ever broadcast a game here — I was stuck watching the game a couple of hours after it ended on MLB.tv’s archive. I was still impressed — hell, dumbfounded — despite knowing exactly what was coming. Plus I could fast forward when the Nats were batting, which was nice.

I had it in my head today to compare Strasburg’s debut to those of other power pitching studs like Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden and the like, but really there’s no point. Strasburg outshined them all. This morning we’re reaching for freaks of history like Karl Spooner and his 15 strikeout debut. Such a thing perfectly explains the singularity of Strasburg’s performance yet simultaneously fails to do it justice.

Indeed, most of the focus last night was on the fourteen strikeouts.  And they were amazing, in no small part because 12 of his victims went down swinging. But it was less his stat line than his stuff that had me groping for words.

The velocity was obviously incredible. The MASN gun had him topping 100 several times, and even if you assume that the TV gun reads a little hot, he was definitely bringing it.  He wasn’t losing it, either, what with his final strike of the game to Andy LaRoche registering at 98.  And the fact that his changeup — consistently in the low 90s — is faster than most guys’ fastballs is probably a crime against humanity.

But the movement was even more incredible. It’s no trick to throw hard if all you want to do is throw hard. We’ve seen Kyle Farnsworth light up a gun before, after all.  Strasburg’s stuff is not the same thing. It’s not even the same ballpark. Nick Steiner at The Hardball Times threw it up on a chart last night and the results are pretty astounding. The tail on his fastball(s) is otherworldly. The drop on his changeup — like, five inches — is the stuff of legend.

I probably need to stop now lest I use up my monthly supply of superlatives. The highlights are all over the place. Here are all 14 of his strikeouts.  Strap yourselves in people, because we’re taking off on one hell of a ride.

Brewers won’t punish Josh Hader for offensive tweets

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
15 Comments

Some old tweets of Josh Hader‘s surfaced during the All-Star Game on Tuesday, containing offensive and hateful language. Major League Baseball responded by ordering Hader to attend sensitivity training and attend diversity initiatives.

The Brewers won’t punish Hader themselves, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. GM David Stearns says the club is taking its lead from MLB, which has already handed down its punishment to Hader. Additionally, the Brewers’ lack of punishment has to do with the tweets occurring when Hader was younger — 17 years old — and not involved with professional baseball.

Stearns also said of Hader’s tweets, “I don’t think they’re representative of who he is. I think they’re offensive. I think they’re ill-informed and ignorant but I don’t think they represent who he is as a person right now.” Stearns added, “I don’t know how he’s going to work through it. The truth is he has put himself in this situation. And he’s going to have to work very hard to get through it.”

Hader apologized on Wednesday, saying, “I was 17 years old, and as a child I was immature, and obviously I said some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today.” Hader said, “I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve said. I’m ready for any consequences that happen for what happened seven years ago.”

Lorenzo Cain, a black outfielder and teammate of Hader’s, said, “I know Hader; he’s a great guy. I know he’s a great teammate. I’m fine. Everybody will be O.K. We’ll move on.” Cain further defended Hader, saying, “We’ve all said crazy stuff growing up, even when we were 17, 18 years old. If we could follow each other around with a recorder every day, I’m sure we all said some dumb stuff. We’re going to move on from this.”

First baseman Jesús Aguilar also came to Hader’s defense:

However, Aguilar also retweeted a tweet from Scott Wheeler of The Athletic which had screencaps of Royals 2B/OF Whit Merrifield and Angels outfielder Mike Trout using the word “gay” pejoratively in tweets. Merrifield also used the word “retard” pejoratively.

The “he was 17” defense rings hollow. At 17 years old, one is able to join the military, get a full driver’s license (in many states), apply for student loans, and get married (in some states). Additionally, one is not far off from being able to legally buy cigarettes and guns. Given all of these other responsibilities we give to teenagers, asking them not to use racial and homophobic slurs is not unreasonable. Punishing them when they do so is also not unreasonable.

A study from several years ago found that black boys are viewed as older and less innocent than white boys. A similar study from last year found that black girls are viewed as less innocent than white girls. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Cameron Tillman, among many others, never got the benefit of the doubt that Hader and countless other white kids have gotten and continue to get in our society. When we start giving the same benefit of the doubt to members of marginalized groups, then we can break out the “but he was only 17” defense for Hader.

We also need to ask ourselves what our inaction regarding Hader’s words will say to members of those marginalized communities. Will it tell them that we value the comfort of those in power above everyone else? Will it tell members of marginalized groups that they are not welcome? In this case, it absolutely will. It communicates the message that, as long as you are white and can perform athletic feats, there’s no level of bigotry the league won’t tolerate. Furthermore, as the league and its 30 individual teams make more efforts towards inclusiveness with events like “Pride Night,” the inaction comes off as two-faced and hypocritical. This is why Major League Baseball — and the Brewers — should have done more to respond to Hader’s tweets.