August 14, 2012
Anthony Gose is Not Ready Right Now
Last month, I wrote an article about 2012 Red Sox draftee Shaq Green-Thompson, who had begun his professional career by going 0-for-16 with 16 strikeouts. I wasn’t sure whether to write it. Baseball players go through slumps, and baseball writers write about them. That’s the way this works. But Thompson was just a couple months out of college, and his struggles were so acute that to draw any extra attention to them seemed cruel. The Red Sox source I quoted was concerned that I was out to “crush the kid.” I wasn’t, but I was worried about what would happen when other sites picked up the story. Ultimately, I decided to write about Thompson, but I tried to do it in a way that dwelt on his strengths, explained his struggles, and focused on what his streak said about baseball. It was still the first and only time I’ve felt bad about writing about a baseball player.
Eleven days later, Deadspin picked up on the story (via some other site, which made me feel a bit better). By then, Thompson’s stat line looked even worse. A flurry of Thompson tweets and articles followed. Not all of them were nice. Thompson went on to finish the short season 0-for-39 with 37 strikeouts. He’ll be better at football, which he’ll play this fall. Maybe he’ll return to baseball next summer. Or maybe he’ll decide not to come back and risk causing any more crises of conscience.
Extreme performances are inherently interesting. The only thing that might be more interesting than watching a player who hits everything is watching one who can’t make contact. Not just because of our natural urge to rubberneck, but because it’s a peek behind the curtain, a reminder of how difficult the feats we take for granted really are. We’re getting another one of those reminders now.
Another player who debuted this summer has looked as much like Shaq Thompson as anyone in the majors over his first few weeks. On the day the Deadspin story about Thompson appeared, the Blue Jays called up Anthony Gose. Gose was replacing Jose Bautista, who’d hit the DL with a wrist strain. No one whom the Blue Jays could have called up to replace Bautista would have, you know, replaced Bautista. But there was some surprise that the Jays had picked Gose, a 21-year-old hitting .292/.375/.432 in his first season at Triple-A Las Vegas, when they could have promoted Travis Snider or Eric Thames. Snider was three years Gose’s senior, had four partial big-league seasons under his belt, and was hitting .322/.415/.548 for Las Vegas. Thames, who was even older than Snider, had been up earlier in the season and was hitting .310/.399/.483 against PCL pitching.
As we know now, Snider and Thames were both roughly two weeks away from being ex-Blue Jays. Maybe the Jays just wanted to see what they had in the player they knew they were going to keep, or maybe they didn’t want to risk jeopardizing the trade value of their expiring assets by exposing them to better pitching. That’s not what they said, though.