SweetSpot: Ben McDonald

Best pitching prospect(s), ever

June, 8, 2009
Alan Schwarz on great college pitchers and Stephen Strasburg:
    Twenty years ago, Louisiana State's Ben McDonald was roundly hailed as the best college pitching prospect ever; he won 78 major league games before retiring at 30 with a bum shoulder. No one took McDonald's consensus best-ever tag until 2001, when Mark Prior of the University of Southern California was such a steely-eyed, bazooka-armed, strike-throwing machine that he was nicknamed Robopitcher. Prior won 18 games for the Chicago Cubs two years later before an avalanche of injuries left him pitching's Venus de Milo.

    Three high school pitchers during this period also were electric enough to prompt best-ever hyperbole: Todd Van Poppel in 1990, Brien Taylor in 1991 and Matt White in 1996. Van Poppel won just 40 games in a meandering career, and Taylor and White descended into the moat of the minor leagues, never to be heard from again.

    Strasburg, who turns 21 next month, is in fact the sixth once-in-a-lifetime pitcher of his own short lifetime. But this has barely distracted the raving scouts, whose job is to look forward, not back. This time, they mean it. Really.

And the piece goes on from there, in essentially the direction you would expect, but it's still worth reading because Schwarz is good at what he does. If this isn't the last word on why we shouldn't start carving Strasburg's Hall of Fame plaque already, I don't know what will be.

Wednesday Wangdoodles

June, 3, 2009
Today's links are about baseball, mostly.

• Jonah Keri takes issue with my supposition that Jorge Posada's not going to wind up as a deserving Hall of Famer. Jonah might be right. But I can't see Posada actually getting in. Not unless he gets to 2,000 hits (or very close). If history's any guide, it will take Posada another four seasons to reach 2,000 hits. He turns 38 in August. Does anyone see him playing regularly when he's 42? I don't.

• Tyler Kepner on the Yankees' next center fielder.

• My favorite ballpark will always be Tiger Stadium. But as Craig writes, it's past time to finish off the old hulk.

• Should baseball teams be permitted to trade -- or even sell -- draft picks? The libertarian in me thinks so. The rest of me doesn't. MLB Insights' rtcampbell agrees with my inner libertarian.

• Lots of good stuff in Bob Nightengale's piece about Ben McDonald and Stephen Strasburg.

• Speaking of Ben McDonald, I saw his last outing before he got drafted, at the College World Series in 1989. His brilliant coach left him in for far too long, as he was obviously laboring; some say McDonald was never the same afterward. I thought of McDonald when I heard about the University of Texas reliever who threw 169 pitches last Saturday night.

What to think about that? According to Bryan Smith, Wood is the Longhorns' No. 1 professional prospect ... but he probably won't be drafted in the first 10 rounds. What is one incredible night against the slight chance to someday make millions in the majors? I don't know. According to Peter King, though, it's because of stories like this that we love sports.