One of the things we all love about baseball's spring is the thought of the next great talent to break onto the scene. It's probably the best part of the whole deal. The unknown is what is so exciting because you never know if the young talent will find the way or if it just won't work out. For every Vida Blue and Doc Gooden, there are Felix Pie and Corbin Maybin. The Fan can still remember when Ken Griffey Jr. was the young talent and that turned out pretty well, eh? But it's hard to be the next Griffey.
It's hard because of the collective bargaining agreement. In the past, those young talents would make the club if they had a good spring. Mike Schmidt was allowed to struggle for a few years for the Phillies before he busted out into a Hall of Famer. Mickey Mantle didn't get much minor league seasoning. They were young, they were loaded with talent and they were thrust out there to see what they could do. Sometimes in worked out, sometimes it didn't (David Clyde comes to mind).
But now, with the arbitration process, teams buy extra time and artificially keep young talent in a delay pattern before they can bust it open. All the teams say the right things like they are protecting the player and making sure they are ready for the big leagues. Yeah, sure. The only thing they are protecting is a year's worth of big salary. And so Wieters didn't start the year with the Orioles last year. And Strasburg, Aroldis Chapman and Justin Heyward will all start the year in the minors "to get some work in."
It was quite a surprise last year when the Rangers broke camp with Elvis Andrus. But he is become more the exception than the rule. The one thing in Strasburg's favor is that he's already signed a major league deal and will be getting paid pretty well whether he's in the minors or the majors. So perhaps he'll make the opening day roster. Chapman also has a $35 million deal. So he too might buck the trend. But the Fan would be darned surprised if at least two of those three guys were on the opening day rosters once the season starts.
What the people that run baseball don't yet realize is that they are shooting themselves in the foot. Look at the excitement generated by Neftali Feliz last year once he was called up. Wieters did start slow once he was called up, but don't you think that Oriole fans were jazzed up when he was? Why delay that?
Young talent spruces up the game and gives people something to talk about. It's the life blood and renewal of the game which is why some of us have been fans our whole lives. Who doesn't want to know who the next Ron Guidry or Roger Clemens is going to be? The reports out of spring games on Chapman and Strasburg are electric. Heyward has done nothing but pound the ball and makes Braves' fans salivate. We can't wait to see them. We ache to see them. Bring them on.