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.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.