Sunday, June 15, 2014

Springer Spranger Sproinger

Earlier this year, the Houston Astros were pilloried for keeping uber-talented uber-prospect George Springer down in AAA while their outfield was patrolled by a bunch of guys the Toledo Mud Hens had said. "enh, no thanks" to. This was, of course, in order to manipulate Springer's service time past the fuzzy "super two" deadline, making sure that the team got an extra season of control before he could head off into free agency. For all the team's floppy denials, it was pretty obvious that they were willing to let their major league outfield rot in order to ensure that Springer, once up, would be patrolling it for as long as possible, to the point where it looked like they tried to leverage the kid with a "sign this contract that buys out some of your arbitration/free agency years or you're going to stay in the minors with your little dog too" deal

Springer didn't sign, as the contract was a bad deal for him. He stayed in the minors. And the commentators howled.

Then, finally, they called him up, possibly after having had to start a rodeo clown and a fish-throwing ventriloquist in right field during two games of a doubleheader. The masses rejoiced, the heavens sang hallelujah, and Springer promptly stunk up the joint for a couple of weeks. 

Which suddenly had people everywhere saying. "hey, maybe the Astros knew something" and "maybe he shouldn't have been called up" and "maybe they weren't manipulating his service time after all". And there was hand-wringing and pearl-clutching and much geshrying.

Meanwhile. Springer continued to adjust to major league pitching. He now has 12 home runs in under 200 major league ABs and an OPS+ somewhere around 130. And everyone who was saying he wasn't ready has gone back to pillorying the Astros for not calling him up sooner.

In St. Louis, uber-prospect Oscar Tavares is struggling. He was held down in AAA because of service time concerns despite a huge hole in the parent club's outfield, and with pundits everywhere clamoring for his promotion. Now, people are saying he shouldn't have been called up - the same folks who were demanding he be promoted, in some cases.
Now, it's not a given that Tavares will do the same thing Springer did. At the same time, A)there are some parallels and B)the Springer case shows simply that the rush to judgment is universal, and no matter what a team does - moral or not, smart or not - there will be an instinctive rush to slam it from certain panicky and contrarian quarters. 

Tavares got sent back down on Friday. He will, of course, be back at some point - #1 prospects tend to get opportunities - and there's every chance Tavares will adjust and turn into a monster. There's also every chance he'll go all Brad Kommisk on the Cardinals, and it's Randal Grichuk time going forward. But right now nobody knows nuthin', especially the guys who feel compelled to act like they know everything.

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