Marcus Stroman has had an interesting last couple of starts. First there was the ejection for arguing balls and strikes last Thursday against the A’s, which was followed by Tuesday night’s “incident” with Tim Anderson of the White Sox. Naturally, this stuff is going to attract attention — especially given Stroman’s animated on-field personality, and occasionally prickly dealings with the media — and not in the good way like you want.
Enter Steve Buffery! The Toronto Sun writer went for it in a piece on Wednesday, as did the editor who came up with his headline: Stroman’s behaviour has become unpredictable — and that’s a problem for the Blue Jays.
With a headline like that, you might think that we’d actually learn how this is supposed to be a problem — but nope! Just your standard scolding!
And for what, exactly?
“The Stro Show, frankly, is starting to turn into a circus, and that’s the last thing the Blue Jays need.”
Uh… but really, is it?
In what way does this “circus” — a circus whose tent is now being full-on propped up by the Sun! — actually impact the team?
Buffery seems to editorialize later in the piece that “there’s a worry that Stroman’s continued volatility is going to come back and hurt him and the team” because “umpires have long memories when pitchers complain about calls.” I suggest it’s editorializing, because who’s worry is that? It’s written as though we’re supposed to believe it’s coming from the coaching staff, because he follows this statement immediately with quotes from Pete Walker that seem like they’re going to support the thesis. But they don’t actually touch on it at all.
Buffery sets up these quotes by saying that “Jays pitching coach Pete Walker admitted they have to come up with a happy medium with Stroman. They want him to pitch with emotion but not to the point where it starts becoming a detriment to his performance.” Nowhere in what follows is any indication that Walker believes what’s detrimental will come from the fact that umpires are vindictive cretins who will submarine a pitcher out of spite — which makes sense, because by and large, piss and moan about them as we might, umpires are almost always professionals out there when it comes to ball or strike, safe or out. They may be professionals who are bad at their jobs sometimes, but there’s a long, long list of players who are surely not well liked by umpires, but who succeeded in spite of this, because the men in blue for the most part take their jobs seriously. (One of them plays in right field for the Jays, and used to get pointless pieces like this written about him all the time.)
“We want to make sure that the aggression carries over and doesn’t put him out of whack on the mound as far as not being able to make pitches,” is the nut of what Walker tells Buffery. “It’s something we talk about and he gets it.”
Well… yeah. And so is that the “problem” we’re talking about here? Because Stroman’s 3.19 ERA, 3.88 FIP, and 4.6 WAR per Baseball Reference (fourth in all of baseball, trailing only Scherzer, Gonzalez, and Sale, and just ahead of Greinke and Kershaw), tells me there’s no problem at all.
Ahhh, but wait! Here’s another nebulous no-no!
“The Jays were leading and certainly didn’t need any kind of sideshow at that point in the game.”
Again… didn’t need? The one small kernel that hints in the direction of what Buffery is saying is when Walker explains, “We need him out there pitching, we don’t need him sitting on the bench.” And, sure, it’s not great if a team starts getting players ejected — especially the starting pitcher. But nothing happened despite Stroman’s complaining about timeouts earlier in the game, and the thing with Anderson was a nothing incident (as far as such incidents go). Stroman has averaged a hair below 6.1 innings per start this season. He’s been ejected exactly once. He’s not getting run all the time in the slightest. He’s fine. The incident was fine. The Jays won the game. WHAT-EVER.
Frankly, what I tend to think about these sorts of pieces is that framing it as “this is somehow bad for the team” comes off better, and is easier to argue, than “I just don’t like this.” The hope in them — and we’ve seen plenty about Bautista over the years — always seems to be that we’ll all just solemnly nod our heads skim past the “how.”
Writers: connect these dots better, please, or just come out and say that what’s actually going on is that you just personally don’t care for this behaviour or this player — perhaps because he’s a little combative with the media, too, and so makes it harder for you and your colleagues to do your jobs *COUGH*. Because we can talk about all that, if you want! I understand why you probably don’t, though, because without the righteous “this is bad for the team” posture, it will be a whole lot harder to get anyone on your side — right?
Hey, and remember when we were told about how this all is turning into a circus — y’know, SOMEHOW.
Martinez said that he wasn’t trying to offend Stroman but he certainly wasn’t backing away from what he said, adding that Stroman sent him a message, through an intermediary, that he was not happy.
A pitcher going after a broadcaster. Ring any bells?
Yes, this is exactly the same as David Price bullying and trying to humiliate Dennis Eckersley. In person. In front of the team. Twice. Exactly the same.
Like, if there’s a circus emerging here, I have a pretty good guess at who the ringmaster is.
And, of course, this is a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy now, isn’t it? Stroman has responded. He’ll probably be asked to do so again. People are talking about it. I’m writing about it, as I’m sure others are as well. The click-bait-y horseshit hit piece circus is on! TAKES! GET YOUR HOT TAKES HERE! 100% PURE BEEF TAKES!