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Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

On feeling conflicted about Marcus Stroman

Everybody seems to have a take on Marcus Stroman. They range from “let the Stro Show be the Stro Show” to “his act is wearing thin and the Jays need to trade him”. After his latest transgressions in over the weekend in Boston, those Stroman takes – whether positive or negative – are front and centre once again.

Richard said it best in his piece from yesterday on Stroman, “one constant with the erratic Stroman is that he’ll always let you know how he’s feeling.” As someone who watches the Blue Jays, has a vested interest in the success of this team and also writes about them, I feel conflicted about Stroman … and I think others are, too.

The Stro Show is exactly that; a show. He is an entertainer, a brand, and a business, both on and off the field. He’s one of the most outwardly emotional players on the Blue Jays roster, let alone Major League Baseball. Stroman is revered for that fiery competitiveness, passion and intensity.

As Blue Jays reporters witnessed over the weekend, sometimes that intensity boils over.

By now, you probably know the story; Sportsnet’s Arash Madani asked Stroman a seemingly out-of-place question about his time with the Vancouver Canadians following the Jays’ loss to the Red Sox this past Sunday. Of all questions, that was the one which set him off.

Yes, the timing of the question could’ve been better. As Keegan Matheson of Baseball Toronto and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star noted, Stroman’s media availability is scarce. Even if the question was irrelevant to what had just transpired on the field, Madani was just doing his job. It was hardly the type of question that should elicit that strong of a response from a player, but it did.

And yes, what Stroman uttered was kind of “off the record” and didn’t happen in front of TV cameras, but it was said loud enough that a room full of reporters heard what happened. In my opinion, that makes it fair game to be reported by the press.

Away from cameras, he said “we’re f***ing terrible”; a statement that has a lot of truth to it. Something that many Jays fans have uttered to themselves multiple times this season. He’s not wrong, but that doesn’t make it right to say it in public, even if the cameras were turned off.

It’s one thing to think it, it’s another to say it; and one step further, it’s another to say it within earshot of reporters and potentially even teammates and fans.

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Here’s where I struggle with Stroman; I enjoy these aspects of his on-field persona. Jumping off the mound, the fist pumps … I wish there was more of that outward emotion displayed in baseball. The tide is slowly turning, but for the most part, it’s a “do your job and don’t show up the other team” kind of game. Stroman, along with many other players, are trying to change that image.

However, Stroman’s fiery personality trait also has a downside, as was demonstrated this past weekend. It was also evident when he called out the Blue Jays organization earlier this year after he tweeted about his displeasure with how his arbitration case played out.

For me, the conflict lies with admiring Stroman for his on-field ability, confidence and swagger, but disliking his occasional combativeness with the media and the Blue Jays front office. Competitor or not, it’s not endearing to treat people the way he has in past instances.

But can you pick and choose which aspects of a player’s personality you like and which situations they’re appropriate to use? It seems hypocritical to admire a player for being exuberant on the field, then being critical of them for being exuberant elsewhere.

In an industry where athletes are trained to give canned answers to the media, Stroman’s candidness and exuberance is a breath of fresh air. Heck, it’s giving us something to write about, despite a team that’s 14 games out of a playoff spot and has little to play for in the second half of the season.

To ask Stroman to “tone it down” in essence would be asking Marcus to be someone he’s not. This may be an “all or nothing” approach where you either accept everything Stroman is – warts and all – or you don’t. He’s a polarizing player and there will be devout supporters just as there will be detractors.

I can see why some people might think this isn’t worth the trouble and it’s preferential to trade Stroman at this point. In my experience, I can’t think of a player who’s been this outwardly critical of the Blue Jays front office. At times, it seems like there’s a one-sided fight taking place here, which must be tiresome.

The fact remains, this is one talented pitcher. A guy who kept his composure during Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS, one of the most chaotic baseball games in recent memory. Someone who John Gibbons entrusted with to start the AL Wild Card game in 2016 with the Jays’ season on the line. A pitcher who was unhittable in the World Baseball Classic last year for Team USA.

At times, I wish Stroman would just bite his tongue or wait a few minutes before sending that tweet. A raw, guttural reaction – while great for getting pageviews or selling newspapers – can sometimes have an adverse effect.

Everyone wants to see Stroman succeed. He’s already overcome a great deal of adversity in his life; whether it’s coming up through the minors and being underrated as a 5-foot-8 starting pitcher, to making a triumphant return from a devastating ACL injury.

“The Marcus Stroman” story as constituted is already a great story. The beginning and middle are compelling and fascinating acts, but Stroman should allow others to help tell his tale. Otherwise, the narrative can only go in one direction.

  • Mose

    Respecting that I don’t know the inner culture of the Jays clubhouse, the facts listed above suggest Stroman is a competitor that prioritizes winning. Yes, his greatest strength (passion) can be his greatest weakness. I’m also guessing his marketing and business interests have (perceived or otherwise) also impacted his image.

    Separately, I don’t see the same passion, intensity and/or competitiveness from Sanchez, and I haven’t been able to find data that would support building a rotation around Sanchez for the next championship run. His inability to command his pitches now as a 5 year pro and injuries suggest caution.

    Here’s to the Jays the ability to harness Stroman’s passion and Sanchez’s God-given two seam movement, and/or the wisdom to asset manage either or both in way that benefit the club.