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On Marcus Stroman

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In some ways it seems like we have been talking about Marcus Stroman forever.

The Blue Jays drafted Marcus in the first round of the 2012 draft, the number 22 pick. We had five picks in that first round. We took D.J. Davis with the 17th pick, Matt Smoral 50th in the supplemental round, Mitch Nay 58th supplemental and Tyler Gonzales 60th supplemental. Marcus was the only one to make it to the majors. Anthony Alford was grabbed in the 3rd round.

Marcus was number 5 on our 2013 prospect list. After having a full season in Double A in 2013, he went right to the top of our prospect list in 2014. I wrote:

1.Marcus Stroman: We’ve seen him this spring. He’s a little closer to the majors than Sanchez. He had a terrific 2013, after missing the first 50 days with a suspension for a banned substance, putting up a 3.30 ERA in 20 starts at New Hampshire. 99 hits, 27 walks, 13 home runs, 129 strikeouts in 111.2 innings. Too many home runs, but other than that, pretty great numbers.

The complaint about him is his height, or lack thereof. He generously listed at 5’9” and some don’t think he can hold up to the innings that he’d have to pitch as a starter. I don’ t know, we’ve seen enough tall pitchers get hurt, I don’t know that he’s that much more of a risk.

He throws a mid-90’s fastball, a slider, change, curve and cut fastball. He should start the year in Buffalo but if there are any injuries, he should be among the first called up. In a couple of years he could be one of our top starters.

He did start the 2014 season in the minors. And, in early May, Brandon Morrow went down with an injury and Marcus was called up. He pitched out of the bullpen for the next three weeks. The first three went well, the next two didn’t. 9 earned in 3 total innings. That got him sent back down to the minors.

At the end of May the Jays decided that Liam Hendriks wasn’t doing the job in the rotation (3 starts and a 6.08 ERA will make teams start thinking things like that) and Marcus was back up. He made his first MLB start May 31st against the Royals. The team scored him 7 runs in the first inning and he went 6 innings, allowing 7 hits, 1 earned, 2 walks with 7 strikeouts to pick up the win.

He stayed in the rotation the rest of the season. He’d make 20 starts, have a 10-6 record with a 3.29 ERA in those starts. The future looked bright.

Then, in Spring Training before the 2015 season he torn his ACL, a very unlucky injury that happened during fielding practice. He was expected to miss the entire season. Marcus used the time to go to Duke University to complete his degree in sociology and he worked very very hard on his rehab.

Amazingly, he made it back to the Jays to make 4 September starts, helping the team make the playoffs. He went 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA. He also made 3 playoff starts, pitching 19.1 innings with a 4.19 ERA.

The future was looking bright again.

In 2016 he made it to 200 innings for the first time in his career, going 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA in 32 starts. And he made 2 playoff starts, with a 4.76 ERA,

He had the best season of his career, thus far, in 2017. He had a 3.09 ERA, going 13-9 in 33 starts and 201 innings, good for a 5.3 bWAR. He finished 8th in Cy Young voting and won the Gold Glove for his fielding. Unfortunately the rest of the team wasn’t as good and we finished 76-86, 4th in the AL East.

Unfortunately, last year didn’t go so well. He really should have started the season on the DL, but it was important to him to start the season with the team. He was 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA when the team finally put him on the DL with shoulder fatigue. He’d also miss time at the end of the season with blister troubles.

This year? He’s been great, despite the team not scoring for him.

He’ll always be a favorite of mine.

I get that us old baseball writers aren’t supposed to like his enthusiasm (for lack of a better word), but I love guys who show personality. Guys who show emotion, I’ve always liked them. It is a kids game, players should enjoy playing it. That doesn’t mean they all should be like Stroman, but we shouldn’t punish the ones that are. Baseball is doing the ‘let the kids play ads. The trouble is that the old writers, and the old school baseball people, aren’t getting the message.

This quote isn’t exactly helpful:

Ripping a guy with an anonymous quote is the height of cowardice. If someone in the Jays front office said this he should insist his name be on it. If having a personality is a bad thing for a baseball player, why isn’t cowardice something we shouldn’t have in team ‘officials’?

I get that there is more than a bit of inherent racism involved. You watch Dennis Eckersley talk about him and get on him for acting much the same as Eckersley did in back in the day, and you know it is motivated by race.

Media doesn’t like him because he doesn’t enjoy talking to them. I get that. Marcus would rather speak directly through Twitter to us. And Marcus does seem to hold grudges against media members who speak against him. He’s not the first, nor will he be the last. The good part about doing a blog is that I don’t have to try to build relationships with players, and then watch the relationship die with one sentence in a story.

I’m sorry to see him go, but I do understand it. I get that the team knows what Marcus was expecting in an extension and I can understand that they might not have wanted to pay what Marcus wanted. I can see that the club might have worries about how he would age, smaller pitchers, as a whole, haven’t aged as well as bigger guys. Of course, individual cases vary. I think Marcus will age well because he works so hard.

And I get that clubs prefer guys who can get strikeouts. I might disagree some but teams are leaning towards pitchers who can get strikeouts. I do think that guys that get ground outs can get through an inning on fewer pitchers and pitch deeper into games.

I’m sure too that the team wasn’t always happy with things he said. He was unhappy after his arbitration hearing a couple of years ago. I can understand it. Arbitration hearings are a terrible thing for the player. The team has to say ‘this guy isn’t worth what he wants because...’ and then there is a laundry list of reasons why. It is tough on a player to have to hear. JP Ricciardi worked hard to never go to arbitration, feeling that it was more important to have a happy player than to save a few hundred thousand dollars. I agree.

Marcus negotiated in public. Telling us he hadn’t been offered an extension. I’m sure he was technically right, but I’m also sure that the team knew what he and his agent expected in an extension and felt there was no reason to offer something that a) Marcus wouldn’t accept and b) would take as an insult.

The return....well, I expect we would be looking to get two pitchers back, and I figured it would be one close to major league ready and one with higher upside. I think the complaints about the trade are overblown, but then I think blowing things out of proportion is part of being a fan. Having a balanced view on anything isn’t appreciated. But....this is supposed to be about Marcus.

As a personal thing, I’m not ready to stop being his fan. I’ve been following him for so long, I want to continue following his career. I’m invested in him, through the good starts and bad and through the good seasons and bad. I’m not ready for it to stop.

I had someone tell me ‘I’m glad we got rid of him, he’s a selfish player’. Sorry, but what does that mean? He’s a pitcher, he has a one-on-one competition with the batter. If he does well, it is good for the team. But I also totally disagree, he’s always very happy for his teammates when they do well. He was often the first out of the dugout to congratulate a teammate. You’d see him talking to his teammates and sharing ideas.

The other line I hated was that Marcus spent too much time on his HDMH clothing and not on pitching. I have a time believing anyone who watched him at all thought that he didn’t work hard enough.

Marcus is a pretty extreme extrovert. Being at the opposite end of the spectrum, I can understand he could wear on teammates at times. I’m sure I’d want to sit at the opposite end of the clubhouse from him. But, if you put 25 guys together, you are going to get all types. As a fan, all I care is the performance on the field.

Baseball is entertainment and Marcus was always entertaining. Baseball can use all the entertaining players it can get.

I can only hope the best for him, even with the Mets.

I thought we could share some favorite memories of Marcus. Mine?

  • His first start back after the ACL injury. I was amazed at how quickly he came back from the injury and how well he pitched.
  • Always the little shimmy thing when he got someone out in a tough spot.
  • And just his confidence in himself. As someone who has never had that level of confidence in anything, I find that level of confidence interesting. Maybe it is a cover, but it would be nice to feel.
  • The pause in the middle of his windup. That he can do that and still make a good pitch blows me away. I like that he was willing to try anything to succeed.
  • His home run.
  • Marcus at the press conference for Jose Bautista re-signing with the Jays.

Anyway, share your memories of Marcus.

Marcus’ place on our franchise leader boards:

  • bWAR: 11th (13.3)
  • ERA: 9th (3.76)
  • Wins: 15th (49)
  • Walks per 9: 8th (2.519)
  • Strikeouts per 9: 13th (7.219)
  • Innings Pitched: 14th (789.2)
  • Game Started: 12th (129)
  • Home runs per 9: 5th (0.798)