The next time Travis Snider steps onto the field for big league action, it will mark the 500th game of his career. Of those 500 games, more came wearing the uniform of the Pittsburgh Pirates than the Toronto Blue Jays.
Travis Snider was the first prospect I followed closely. His shooting star was the first weighed down by the hopes and expectations of the blog generation, as the rise of Jays-specific sites coincided with his meteoric ascent through the minor leagues.
And though Snider got his name on more scoresheets in the National League, he actually played more with the Jays (917 PAs with Toronto compared to 642 with the Bucs.) As a top prospect, the Jays gave him every opportunity to fail. He was the high school batter destined to challenge for MVPs and hit in the heart of the order for years to come.
That was then; now he's the marginal 4th outfield/platoon guy who is staring down the barrel of a non-tendering this winter. But for guys like me and Your Boy The Zubes and countless others, Snider was the first. We fell fast and hard and were cut deep, and even when countless swing changes and injuries and minor league options revealed his true talent self, none of us wanted to believe it was true. When the trade came -- in the middle of a game in his motherfucking hometown -- it broke us.
Many swore off prospect porn forever. We vowed not to get burned again, that fawning over minor league box scores is a fool's errand and destined, like everything associated with this god-forsaken team, to end in tears.
But now there is Marcus Stroman. Stroman is different, even if he's essentially the same. Stroman holds the key to the future, and his underdog story (as an undersized ballplayer and college reliever turned big league starter) meshes so well with his telegenic affability and suddenly, it's happening again.
A race through the minor leagues, an untouchable tag, a first blush look at a ceiling as yet untouched. Everyone loves his makeup and his desire and just how freaking filthy he is on the mound. He does not want for swagger and he is as likable a prospect to pull on a Jays shirt since, well since ever? We want Marcus Stroman to be real. We need Marcus Stroman to be real.
And he might well be. Even if his "reality" doesn't fit with our idea of what Stroman might be, it's okay to want it. It's okay to pin these hopes and fears on a kid that the unrelenting pressure Big League Life ensures ends up as "a guy" more than "the guy."
I'm excited to have my hopes up even this far, as his performance the first time through the league merits it. Maybe he isn't Sonny Gray, maybe he's something better. Who cares? For now, he's the best kind of mystery. We're titillated and intrigued and that beats the shit out of bored and disappointed every day.
Saturday night, Stroman takes the hill against one of the best teams in baseball, the Detroit Tigers. He does it with his team somewhat desperate for wins after the a rough week for his team. The Blue Jays playoff hopes need him to be good on Saturday. My metaphysical well being wants him to do more - even if he can't deliver on the impossible, it's nice to aspire to something greater every once in a while.