Living in The Age of Hype

Having attended two Reds games in less than a twenty-four hour period, I'm on a baseball high. I'm a little dismayed that the Reds are playing great baseball yet have fallen to 1.5 games behind the Cardinals in the division. St Louis has yet to lose since the All-Star break, but the two teams they've played have been prone to self-destruction. I'm going to venture to say that they'll come back to earth fairly soon. I like Cincinnati's club. Sure, we have some bullpen holes, but so does the vast majority of MLB teams. If the Reds win Thursday afternoon, that's winning two straight series since the break. And if they continue to do so, we won't have to worry about the Cardinals. Plus, I was loving the atmosphere last night. It's been over a decade since I saw the ballpark (er, Riverfront Stadium) that engaged.

Anyway, what I really want to reflect upon was the spectacle I saw on Wednesday night. Stephen Strasburg has been anointed for awhile now as baseball's next big thing. His start, combined with a competitive Reds team, led to a midweek sellout a Great American Ballpark. While I saw a decent amount of Strasburg shirts and signs, do not misinterpret the crowd: the masses wanted to see him get beat. He lasted 5 2/3 innings and struck out 7, yielding 3 earned runs.

My reaction to his greatness: eh.

Look, I get it. Strasburg can throw stuff that not a lot of guys have. But he does so from a total power perspective. Greg Maddux, he is not. This is not to say the Strasburg isn't impressive, but he's not lights out yet. Heck, what I've seen recently out of Reds pitchers Mike Leake and Travis Wood has been much more impressive.

Why am I being this critical? Because of how people are dealing with him. Since I attended yesterday, I was interested to see how the media would react to his outing. The Washington Post (albeit his team's hometown newspaper) waxed on elegantly about Strasburg's performance. ESPN (gotta love 'em) dropped this gem: "A day after his 22nd birthday, Strasburg pitched beyond his years again, passing one of his toughest tests." I also heard Strasburg performed open heart surgery on a patron between the fifth and sixth innings, but I've been unable to verify this fact.

I tend to rebel against the hype.

I find the times in which we live fascinating. We're so excited about what could be that we're ignoring what's happening now. LeBron James' "Decision," a live broadcast where millions of viewers tuned in to see which NBA team would benefit from his "talents," should be proof enough of this. Both these phenoms can do amazing things, but beyond expanding their bank accounts, what has it brought? The Nationals are still horrible and most Clevelanders still haven't witnessed a championship.

Hype is interesting, but it isn't filling.

I kinda feel bad for Strasburg. The bar is now set unreasonably high. Unless he retires as one of the greatest to play the game, many will view him as a failure. And I'm not convinced that he's wired to deal with that. Barring injury, he'll have an amazing career. But will we appreciate it?

In baseball, as in life, we ought to be careful of putting our hope in a future that's almost impossible to come true.