You’re probably wondering what these guys have in common. I read an interesting article the other day about a 26 year old pitcher who’s been working out in spring training with the Anaheim Angels (oops, sorry, NKA Los Angeles Angels) His name’s Loek van Mil and he was signed by the Minnesota Twins in 2005 to a 7 year contract. There was a minor setback in spring training, as it took the Twins some time to find pants for the taller than tall, 7 ‘1″ ballplayer. Reminds me when my middle son, Dave, had to wear his tennis shoes in U. S. Army Basic Training while he waited for his special-order Size 16 boots to come in. I mean, wouldn’t you think that’s something they would have thought about when they signed him up? Anyhow, Loek pitched for the Dutch National Team in 2007 at the Baseball World Cup. He then became a member of the Dutch Team for the 2008 Olympics, but was injured before the games began and started the 2009 season in rehab. He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Brian Fuentes in 2010 and has struggled with several health issues, mainly shoulder tendinitis. So here’s a pitcher who has potential, but for some reason has never really been able to capitalize on his physical abilities. His incredible height, which should be considered a real advantage for a pitcher (I mean, the ball’s half way to the plate before he ever lets go of it!) has not appeared to to be an advantage at all. Contrast this with Stephen Strasburg, the rookie pitching phenom for the Washington Nationals, who, at age 22, capitalized on his tremendous potential beginning in June, 2010, by being the starting pitcher in 12 games, for 68 innings, 92 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.91. Amazing statistics. But it doesn’t end well. Young Strasburg ended up with an inflamed shoulder in July, and then a torn ligament in August requiring surgery and 12-18 months rehab. Strasburg is rumored to be returning to play in September, 2011. And then there’s Randy Johnson who retired from baseball in 2009 at the age of 46. He was a five-time Cy Young Award winner and a 10-time
All-Star and won a World Series ring. But like van Mil and Strasburg, Johnson’s road to success wasn’t easy. ESPN reported that Johnson ” looked so awkward on the mound, early in his career, that …..he fired a blazing fastball in every direction but the strike zone”. And, like van Mil and Strasburg, he was plagued with injuries throughout his career. That’s what they have in common. When I first read about Loek van Mil and the troubles he’s already having, before even being considered an actual Major Leaguer, and the problems that Stephen Strasburg encountered from the very beginning in his young Major League career, I tried to parallel it with what I knew about Randy Johnson’s career. I really like the idea of a 7′ 1″ pitcher having a successful pitching career. It would be great for baseball! And I really like the idea of young Strasburg coming back and legitimately challenging every batter he encounters to the point of it being ridiculous. It would be great for baseball! (Not to mention how great it would be for the Washington Nationals) ! Okay, I admit it. I guess what I’m really hoping for is another Randy Johnson. Now that would be really great for baseball!