STRASBURG AN ALL-STAR? MORE ON HANK’S BABY YANKS

June 29, 2010

Tom Robinson of HamptonRoads.com said that Stephen Strasburg SHOULD be an All-Star and provided reasons for his thinking.

“The discussion has heated up in the media and is bubbling toward a boil: Should Washington Nationals rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg be named to the National League All-Star team?
Allow me to join what I hope is a growing chorus by shouting “Absolutely.” “Positively.” And “NL All-Star manager Charlie Manuel, of the Phillies, should be decommissioned if he ignores the Strasasaurus.”
Come on, people. Sending Strasburg to the big event in Anaheim, Calif., on July 13 for the National League side shouldn’t even be debatable.
I know he’s thrown only 25 1/3 innings to date for a bad team. Like a lot of the things being lobbed up against Strasburg, it doesn’t matter.
Strasburg has created one of his sport’s all-time splashiest entrances that, yes, has lived up to every burst of hype. And that’s why he should be an All-Star despite a big-league tenure that began June 8.
He has struck out 41 hitters, the most for a pitcher in his first four games, and has 1.78 ERA. His first start – a 14-strikeout effort over seven innings against
Pittsburgh – is among history’s three or four greatest pitching debuts.
Strasburg has won two of his four starts, took a no-decision in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox, and last week absorbed his first loss only because his
team’s impotent offense was blanked 1-zip by Kansas City.
And so far, according to a stat I saw in the Washington Post, batters have failed to even touch the ball on more than 41 percent, a league-leading number, of their flailings at Strasburg’s 100-mph fastballs and 90-mph changeups.
This is a game that’s supposed to be about stars? Then Strasburg, 21, has to be there. Remember, the starting lineups, minus the pitcher, are determined by
fans stuffing ballot boxes – i.e. it’s a popularity contest. So who in the last month’s been more popular than Strasburg?
Fans want to see him pitch, and that will translate into big broadcast numbers when Strasburg works his inning – two, probably not – in Anaheim.
They will clamor after him on the autograph lines.
And don’t forget, although I wish we could, baseball a while back ridiculously set this game up to determine which league gets home-field advantage in the
World Series.
In that case, how could Manuel, whose Phillies are trying to return to the Series for a third straight year, not slobber over having two or three innings covered by Strasburg and Colorado’s crazy-dominant Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1, 1.60 ERA)?
The fact is, designating Strasburg as one of the 13 NL All-Star hurlers makes so much sense, on so many levels, that tradition-bound “baseball” almost
certainly will fight the tide rather than roll with it.
Baseball always does this kind of thing, and it is constantly infuriating.
Baseball will say Strasburg, who has been quiet and unassuming and talks in the media only when spoken to – and then only about his most recent start – hasn’t yet paid enough dues to be handed an All-Star berth.
Time hasn’t allowed him to give the game sufficient reverence. He is so good, and he has come crashing onto the scene so brilliantly, that he should somehow have to pay for it. Baseball’s cob-webbed mentality actually promotes this.
It’s silly. Same for the argument that a borderline-deserving veteran, one perhaps who has labored for All-Star consideration, could be bumped from the roster for the sake of a one-month rookie.
You know what? Life’s a…. um, life’s tough.
Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked last week whether Strasburg should be an All-Star despite his minimal service time. “In my opinion, not yet,” he said.
And so comes another example of baseball’s fossilized, unwritten codes of “respect” when, as an industry, it really ought to be passing out hats and horns. To have a talent and an eyeball magnet like Strasburg is something to be celebrated, and not just in Washington either, instead of tempered.
Fortunately, as the Post story notes, there is one potential saving grace for Strasburg-files should Manuel be cowed by his sport’s maddening reluctance to promote individuals as aggressively as other pro sports do.
Five players from each league are nominated for a final vote that allows fans to choose one each for the AL and the NL teams.
Should Manuel go old-school or scaredy cat and force the phenom onto that ballot – he would be put on that ballot, right, baseball? – stuffing the box for him should be encouraged.
In fact, it would be the second-best thing to happen to baseball this season next to, yep, the arrival of Stephen Strasburg.”

Barbara Barker of Newsday gives this update on the “Baby Yanks”.
“The act of fathers playing catch with sons is one of the most hallowed rituals of baseball, one of the most revered building blocks of the game.
But what if a kid doesn’t have a father? Or his father is too busy working to play ball? Or his family is simply too overwhelmed with day-to-day life to pay much attention to a kid’s baseball dreams?
“If you love baseball and you want to work hard and stay away from trouble, it doesn’t matter where you come from,” coach Ray Negron told members of his Long Island summer league team at a recent practice at Bay Shore High School. “That is what this team is all about.”
This team is Hank’s Baby Yanks, an 18-and-under summer league team of 18 kids who play at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank. The Baby Yanks are funded by
Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner with various Yankees players, including A.J. Burnett and Robinson Cano, kicking in some money for travel and extras.
Many of the players are from single-parent homes. Some have been involved with gangs and one is a teenage parent. Most would not be able to afford to play on a team at this level without an assist from the Yankees.
“Baseball is just a steppingstone for these young kids who will hopefully turn into successful men in whatever field they choose,” Hank Steinbrenner said in an e-mail to Newsday. “I’m glad that the Yankees and I are able to play a small role in the development of these young kids. My dad always believed in second chances, and a second chance is what these individuals are getting.”
And it’s quite a second chance. This is no ordinary youth baseball team. In January, Hank’s Baby Yanks traveled to Tampa, Fla., to play at the Yankees’
training facility in front of pro scouts. Last month, they got to attend batting practice before a Yankees game against the Orioles and talk to manager Joe
Girardi and many of the players. There is some talk that later this season, the team might play at Yankee Stadium while the Yankees are on the road.
Negron, a special assistant for the Yankees who organizes many charity and community events, is quick to tell his players that his father wasn’t a part of his life when he was growing up in the South Bronx. “George Steinbrenner, baseball and the Yankees saved my life,” Negron said.
It’s a message that Jonathan Smith, a 17-year-old from Bay Shore, can relate to. Having lost both his parents, Smith lives with his grandmother. He doesn’t
remember his father, who died when he was a baby, but he and his mother were extremely close. He was devastated when she died of a heart attack when he was 14.
“Ray came from nothing to something, and I understand where he’s coming from,” Smith said. “I’ve gone through so much that a lot of people said there was no hope for me. But baseball is my dream; it’s what I live for. When I was little, I used to practice in the backyard all by myself. That’s how much I loved it. I know to make this dream happen, I have to work at it.”
The player who is closest to making his dream happen is Leonel Vinas, 18, the team’s star pitcher. Vinas moved from the Dominican Republic to Freeport as a teenager with his brother Mariano, who is an outfielder on the team. Vinas opened the season by striking out 18 in a 5-0 win over the Long Island Giants, and last weekend he threw privately for the Rangers and the Indians.
Said Vinas: “What I like about this team is everyone comes from different places and backgrounds, but it doesn’t matter because we all have the same dream.
We all love baseball and we all want to make it.”

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