Prospects

Books, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Hyperbolic? Check.

Ignorant of a full historical perspective? Check.

Accumulating the necessary ingredients in this recipe for disaster? Check.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs came up with this little nugget about 18-year-old Nationals phenom Bryce HarperBryce Harper-Best Prospect Ever?

Once you get past the sheer lunacy of the title itself, the content is worse.

Not because it’s wrong—who knows?—but because it’s ignoring reality, history and the human nature of a game that can humble even the most talented player within a millisecond.

Cameron references some of the best prospects in baseball history in comparing Harper’s professional start. Such luminaries who, in retrospect, fulfilled their promise. Alex Rodriguez; Chipper Jones; Ken Griffey, Jr.; and Josh Hamilton are all mentioned.

Fair enough, but where are the rest of their stories?

The diversity of success, injuries, off-field issues and PED use should be accounted for when discussing Harper and making over-the-top equivalencies.

But Cameron fails to do so; instead he focuses on these players who, at the same ages as Harper, put up lesser stats.

Stats.

That’s the basis of the analysis.

But, as usual, they ignore other necessary aspects in the creation of a player.

Harper is a human being. He’s 18. And he’s already got a reputation as an immature and obnoxious jerk.

Had I been managing Harper when he first broke into pro ball, before anything else, I’d have told him to lose the warpaint on his face that’s little more than a means to draw attention to himself; whether he listened or gave me a problem would’ve indicated where the relationship was going to go; in addition to that, the support of the organization in reining in such a player could make or break his development.

Did Cameron’s salivating consider the injuries that hindered Jones’s early career? A-Rod’s PED use? Hamilton’s drug problems?

Cameron picks and chooses to bolster his point without factoring in such important pieces of information like the level of competition each player faced; instead he chooses to focus on pure numbers and level of play without the insight provided by including full disclosure of how those numbers were achieved.

And what about top prospects who were supposed to rock the baseball world, but didn’t such as Shawon Dunston?

Or others who did make it and never fulfilled their promise because of similar allegations of poor behavior (which were conveniently ignored for expediency) like Darryl Strawberry?

Or players who are doing well now as big leaguers like Justin Upton?

Where’s Joe Mauer? Mauer, whose drafting by the Twins was seen at the time—in part—as a bow to the hometown hero when the “better” choice was supposedly Mark Prior?

How’d that work out?

Personality has to be examined.

There’s having an attitude of confidence and maturity as Jones did. It wore on the veterans when he got to the big leagues and definitely irritated opponents, but he backed it all up and is now respected throughout baseball.

There are players who have cultivated a somewhat likable bluster based on prior insults as is the case of Dustin Pedroia; Pedroia has a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Everest, but that’s more in part to his size and naysayers than it is a byproduct of him being a jerk. Had there been people telling him how wonderful he is and catering to his every whim because he was a “prodigy”, would Pedroia have become what he is? Maybe not.

Harper is being enabled by everyone.

It’s going to be a problem.

This type of column by Cameron certainly won’t help.

Plus it’s ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous…

Why are people discussing a long-term contract extension for Eric Hosmer and worrying about Scott Boras’s posturing about his player’s potential free agency?

You can read about this strangeness here on MLBTradeRumors.

Hosmer just got to the big leagues. How about having a look at him to see how he handles the circumstances before signing him long-term and locking him through arbitration/free agency? Maybe give him a chance to succeed or fail on his own?

There are so many inconsistencies and easily batted down arguments to the concept of signing him long-term immediately.

Boras is anything but stupid. Do you really believe that he’s going to allow another team to sign a contract like that which was signed by Evan Longoria right after he got to the big leagues? Longoria’s contract has been called the most value-laden in history in terms of money saved and performance; but it was still a risk for both sides. It turns out the Rays made out like bandits in the deal and Longoria—while securing long-term security for himself—cost himself a ton of cash.

Them’s the breaks.

Simply because Longoria chose the extension rather than playing it out; that the Rays made such a gutsy and retrospectively brilliant move (and it could’ve failed had Longoria faltered), doesn’t provide a template for the future of every player. Boras won’t advise his players to do such a deal. If they hire Boras to begin with, that means they want to get paid, period.

As teams have signed their young stars to long-term deals, some have chosen to tear up said deals repeatedly—as the Rockies did with Troy Tulowitzki—and extend the extensions on top of the extensions. If Hosmer signed a deal now, what difference would that make? A contract is relatively meaningless if a motivated player decides he wants to be traded as Zack Greinke did this past winter to Hosmer’s team, the Royals.

Why should the Royals and their fans even be concerned about this now and why would there be the suggestion that they won’t have the money to sign Hosmer when the time comes?

Hosmer’s years away from free agency and the Royals have been mentioned as a possible destination for Albert Pujols if he leaves the Cardinals. They’ll have the money to pay Pujols but not to keep a homegrown star?

There’s mathematical formulas and objective analysis; then there’s realistic logic and common sense.

Guess where I stand in that battle for baseball’s soul.

****

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