Cincinnati has not been the prettiest of places to live lately. There has been scintillating heat and humidity, or pouring rain. There has been no middle ground. Either way, the Reds have come out hot on their opening homestand following the All Star Break winning 4 of their first 5. The hometown Reds currently sit a half game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. Tonight though, the city is in for a special treat. Tonight is the night that…
Stephen Strasburg comes to town! The 22-year-old phenom out of San Diego State that has taken the baseball world by storm makes his first stop in Cincinnati tonight. Amidst another horrible season in Washington, the product at least features probably the most wanted pitcher in the game. People want to see Strasburg. He has become a media frenzy both on and off the field. And rightfully so. Since being called up to the big team on June 8th, the “kid” has started 8 games for the Nationals. And though his record is only 4 and 2, which is still solid, he has an amazing ERA of 2.03 and has thrown an astounding 68 strikeouts in just 48.2 innings of work. The kid is living up to all the hype and more.
This whole story is sounding eerily similar to another story that started a few years ago right here in Cincinnati. In 2004, the Reds selected the High School National Player of the Year with the 7th overall pick. The Reds were utterly shocked that a guy of this stature had fallen into their laps at number 7. This big shot was a man by the name of Homer Bailey. The only player of note selected before Bailey in this draft was a pitcher out of Old Dominion University described as “lean and wiry strong.” A guy by the name of Justin Verlander. Maybe you have heard of him? Other players of note taken in the first round of the 2004 draft were Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew, and Phil Hughes. Well the Red’s organization was an excited group on June 7th of 2004. They felt like they had just drafted their future franchise pitcher. And they made sure all of their fans from the bottom of the farm system up to the big team in Cincinnati were aware of it.
Bailey received various accolades and awards throughout his time in the Reds Minor League system. In my opinion, he received many of these awards based on hype and potential, rather than actual merit. But either way, he made his way up to the big team for his debut in June of 2007. This began an up and down tussle between Triple A ball and the Big Leagues for the next few months and really what has become years. The Red’s organization wanted fans to remain patient with their ace in the making. So he started the year in Louisville to begin the 2008 season and eventually was called up. After an atrocious few outings, fans were outraged and he was sent back down.
2009 was once again and up and down tussle for Bailey. And this year sadly has been spent predominantly on the DL. Homer’s career in the “Show” features an ERA of 5.46 and a 13 and 15 overall record. Most fans have lost hope on Bailey ever being the organization’s Messiah. And have moved on to put faith in Volquez, Cueto, Wood, and Leake. The new faces of the Red’s very talented pitching staff.
The whole moral of the Homer Bailey saga is to not be blinded by the hype. Because Cincinnati and Homer were. And look where it got them. Maybe when Bailey returns off the DL he will have discovered movement on the fastball. But do not be expecting this kid to carry the franchise because he never will. Hopefully he can provide some depth to the bullpen for the stretch run if we cannot ink Jason Isringhausen or another experienced bullpen artist.
On the other hand, Strasburg has not been blinded by the hype. And he has dealt with the insane expectations on a national level. He seems to be very hard-working and determined to live up to the billing. Expect this kid to continue to get better.
I am extremely excited to get to see Strasburg along with the rest of Cincinnati for the first time in person this evening. He seems to be pretty special.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.