Last night, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted two left handed pitchers in the first round of the amateur draft. While the team still has excellent depth in the rotation, it wasn’t a surprise to see the front office stockpiling arms. The MLB Draft isn’t the place to address major league needs, or pass on a talented player because he’s blocked. Even in the case of Marco Gonzales, who is seen as one of the most developed players taken on Thursday, it would be folly to ignore a talented pitcher because there might not be a spot for him down the road. It is much wiser to draft the best player available, or in the Cardinals’ case, draft to the strengths of the organization. Neither Gonzales nor Kaminsky are projected as front-line starters, but they both have good command and a well developed secondary pitch. The team has done incredibly well with similar profiles. Lynn and Garcia come to mind immediately , but go back and take a look at some scouting reports on Michael Wacha from last year and you’ll see that he was seen in a similar light on draft day.
That being said, there’s one thing that bothers me about both of these picks. I keep seeing the same word thrown around to describe them: undersized. It’s everywhere, from the scouting reports to the post-draft breakdowns to the forum posts and twitter commentary. And I don’t like how it makes me feel.
Marco Gonzales is 6-foot-1, and Rob Kaminsky is listed as six-foot even, but every other outlet is quick to point out that this is a generous measurement. With a wink, they suggest that he might only be 5’11” as if that’s something to be ashamed of.
As someone who is 5-foot-7, above the national average for males if you include children, suddenly I find it difficult to look in the bathroom mirror. And not for the usual reason, which is that the bathroom mirror is hung a few inches above my eyeline. Now it’s because I feel ashamed. If these two pitchers are undersized, what am I? How am I supposed to get up in the morning, other than very carefully because my legs don’t reach the floor from my bed?
Nothing I can do will make me taller. This isn’t a problem I can solve, so there is no point to the constant shaming. It’s bad enough that the grocery stores put the best liquor just out of reach. I’ve learned to deal with that and developed a taste for Evan Williams. It’s humiliating to be told that, yes, I will be needing the 36 Short jacket. I swallow my pride and use a permanent marker to black out the “S” on the inside label just like any self-respecting adult. But baseball isn’t supposed to be like this. Sports should be an escape from the depressing truths of reality, and when I’m reading about the two new pitching prospects on my favorite team, I don’t need to be reminded of the uncertain looks I get from airline staff when I’m seated in the exit row.
I don’t think that I am alone in this. Do you get carded when trying to board rides at Disneyland? Have you ever watched in horror as a mechanic disconnects your car’s air bag because he thinks it’s safer? In high school, were you voted “most likely to safely carry the One Ring into Mordor without being corrupted by its power”? Then you know why the language of scouting needs to change.
We need to ask more of our sportswriters and scouts. Words like “undersized” shouldn’t be tossed around like they have no meaning, especially when describing the frame of a man who could toss me around like I have no meaning. These writers shouldn’t be as insensitive as my high school guidance counselor, who just wouldn’t stop asking how I felt about riding racehorses.
One day, I hope that I can open up an article about a young pitcher under six-foot-three and not feel inadequate by the time I reach the end. Until then, I will deal with the insecurity these scouting reports instill in me, and anyone else who feels undersized next to the undersized. I won’t let it overcome me. I will keep my head above water, though that usually means I need to move to the kiddie pool.