There were a couple of reasons given when newspapers started inviting anonymous comments to be posted on their websites. First, it could increase the hit count on articles, and second, it would lead to stimulating discussions among thoughtful readers.
The first of those must be true. The second does not come to fruition as often as the editors had hoped. There seem to be more personal grudges played out in the commentary than intellectual exchanges.
Occasionally, there are nuggets to be mined in the comments, and this was on display on page 2 of sports in Tuesday’s print edition of the Star Tribune.
The point was made by someone with the handle of paul44. It read:
“Value of Patience! Four of the top 14 picks in 2008 MLB draft (Beckham, Alonso, Smoak, Aaron Hicks) finally enjoying breakout seasons. Nine years later!’’
This appeared on the LaVelle Neal piece leading to the draft. There also were expressions of concern that the Twins would not select Hunter Greene, deemed a “generational’’ prospect since appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated this spring.
The comment from paul44 did overuse exclamation points in my view, but it also carried much wisdom in reaching quick decisions on results of baseball draft. The sporting public is much more tolerant toward the Vikings than the Twins these days.
And while the Purple loyalists are urging that Minnesotans not make any rash decisions on the future of receiver Laquon Treadwell, the Twins audience is ready to declare that their choice, shortstop Royce Lewis, has little chance to have the impact of pitcher/hitter Greene.
Hey, I would have liked Hunter Greene to be the Twins’ choice, on the outside chance of meeting his father, Russell, and asking what it was like to be a private investigator for Johnnie Cochran.
That said, baseball is 100 percent unique. There is no other sport — not even hockey with its 18-year-old draftees — where a high school signee has to improve four of five different times to make it to the big leagues.
And then when he gets there, comes the highest hurdle of all: succeeding in the majors.
Tim Beckham was a high school shortstop from Georgia and the first overall choice by Tampa Bay in June 2008. He had seven at-bats with the Rays in his first seven seasons as a pro. He was in Tampa Bay for half-seasons in 2015 and 2016, batting .222 and .247.
The Rays put Beckham in the lineup for 2017, nine years later, and he has 10 home runs, 31 RBI and is batting .282.
Yonder Alonso was the seventh pick by Cincinnati in 2008 as a lefthanded-hitting first baseman. This is his second season with Oakland (his third team), and he has 16 home runs, 36 RBI and is batting .310 — after achieving mediocrity at best in stays with the Reds, Padres and A’s.
Justin Smoak, a first baseman out of college, was the 11th overall choice for Texas. He was a big piece in the Rangers’ trade with Seattle for pitcher Cliff Lee in 2010, he was waived and then signed as a free agent by Toronto before the 2015 season, and finally it has clicked — 18 home runs, 43 RBI, .299— in his third year with the Blue Jays.
And then there’s Hicks:
A few days ago, I was watching highlights of a Yankees power display, and the switch-hitting Hicks slammed two long home runs batting lefthanded. It was difficult not to remember all those printed and spoken insults that I had aimed at Aaron’s lefthanded swing in his failed trials with the Twins.
The Twins gave up in the offseason of 2015-16 and traded Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy. It made sense, because the Twins needed a catcher. It turned out that Murphy, personable lad that he was, didn’t come close to filling that need.
Hicks batted only .217 last season for the Yankees, making this look like a trade in which both teams were robbed.
Then came 2017, nine years after Hicks was the 14th overall choice for the Twins: Murphy is batting .218 and splitting duty with Mitch Garver at Class AAA Rochester. Hicks entered Tuesday batting .313 with 10 home runs and 36 RBI as a Yankees savior during Jacoby Ellsbury’s long absence.
Folks, listen to paul44 when absorbing a baseball draft. Value patience.