(up)Comings and Goings

I really wanted to do a big long thing on the Sports Illustrated cover story that Jason@IIATMS pointed out today about 16 year old phenom Bryce Harper, but I don’t have nearly the time I would need to devote to it.

Definitely go read the article, though. With the weirdly reverent, awestruck and just off-the-wall weird way Verducci writes the piece, it’s almost eerily reminiscent of the famous 1985 SI piece on “Sidd Finch”, only it turns out that Harper is real.

The Verducci piece and everything else I read about him lauds his personality, too — he volunteers for charity, has a good GPA, all that stuff. Only if you read the quotes from him in the piece, he actually comes off as astonishingly overconfident (if understandably so) and kind of petty (in other words, like a 16 year old). Of course, as has been pointed out numerous times, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry got the he’s-such-an-upstanding-and-together-young-man from the media as unknown phenoms, too. You suppose they’ll ever learn their lesson about that?

Anyway, I really hope Harper stays healthy and comes along as expected between now and 2011. With the circus that has been Stephen Strasburg this spring, the internets might just explode with a catcher who can hit 500-foot home runs and steal bases out there for the taking (by, I’d have to assume, the Nationals again).

Also, check out Larry Stone’s take on the Harper piece…and the uninspiring tale of the only other high school ballplayer to make the SI cover.


In completely unrelated and astonishing news, the Braves released Tom Glavine today, on the eve of his return from a pretty rough rehab assignment, and he’s predictably less than thrilled about it (though, in example #593 of how Tom Glavine is smarter than other baseball players, he expressed it entirely through his agent).

On one hand, I have to say that, as a baseball move, it’s hard to argue with this. The Braves have three starting pitchers who would be #1s for most other teams (Vazquez, Lowe and Jurrjens) and another who’s been better than he looks (Kawakami), plus two #5 starters and one of the top prospects in baseball in Tommy Hanson knocking on the door. Activating Glavine would mean a $1 million bonus in addition to the $2.5 million he’s already owed; not much money to a baseball team, but $1 million that, in a bad economy, they had no reason to part with. Baseball-wise.

On the other hand, you can sort of understand why Glavine is upset. He’s won 305 games, 244 of ’em as a Brave (and 12 more in the postseason). He’s 43 years old and a guaranteed Hall of Famer, and he’s put himself through a two-month minor-league rehab gig to get back to play for this club (and he did pretty well; didn’t walk a lot of guys or give up homers, though he didn’t strike anybody out either).

On yet a third hand (growing out of the middle of your back, but don’t look now), this can’t be a good PR move for the Braves, whose fans have mostly very good memories of Glavine. Is it bad enough that they’ll lose $1 million in revenue from it? I kind of doubt it. But it doesn’t look great.

So did they make the right move? Shyster sure doesn’t think so — calls it “shameful,” actually — but he’s probably as impartial about this as I am to the question of whether Kirby really deserved all those Gold Gloves. Anyway, I’m undecided, but leaning toward saying yes, it was a good move for the Braves. Maybe Glavine doesn’t show up to any Old Timers’ Games for a few years or something, but you’ve got to get Hanson in the big leagues and you’ve got to be sure you’re using guys who can still pitch. And a million dollars isn’t nothing these days.

Glavine says (in the ESPN article linked above) that he still intends to play, but will he have the option? He’s 43, coming off an injury, and before that coming off a 5.54 2008 ERA. He was about an average pitcher, ERA-wise, in 2007…but with a 4.86 FIP. And two years is a long time ago to a 43 year old baseball player. I assume he can be had for virtually nothing, but so (presumably) can Jim Edmonds, and Frank Thomas, and Ray Durham, and Mark Grudzielanek. If these guys can’t get jobs, should we really expect Glavine to find one at this point?

Which, with sincerest apologies to Tom, would be the bright spot in this for me. I think it would be pretty flipping sweet to see Glavine and Greg Maddux head into the Hall of Fame together. Now if only that other rehab project could go off the rails (in a career-ending but otherwise non-debilitating way) before it hits Boston…

2 Responses to “(up)Comings and Goings”

  1. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    The funny thing is that the same thing might happen to Smoltz. Why not give Buchholz and Penny a shot when Smoltz is coming off of major surgery?

    I don't know what to think about this, yet. In my opinion, players are competitive and not willing to accept "You're just not that good anymore". Then again, the Braves could have used some more tact in the situation, but I'm not sure what else they could have done except throw away a couple starts. I'm reserving judgment until more information comes out.

  2. Bill Says:

    I hope you're right about Smoltz, for the silly and selfish reasons I mentioned in the post. But I suspect his case will be different: they're paying him more, and he was much more effective than Glavine the last time he was healthy. Also, things aren't exactly rosy with the Sox pitching staff now. Even if all Smoltz does is let them bump Diasuke or Penny from a start or two against the Yankees or Rays, I suspect they'll think that's worthwhile.

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