Alan Schwarz on great college pitchers and Stephen Strasburg:
- Twenty years ago, Louisiana State's Ben McDonald was roundly hailed as the best college pitching prospect ever; he won 78 major league games before retiring at 30 with a bum shoulder. No one took McDonald's consensus best-ever tag until 2001, when Mark Prior of the University of Southern California was such a steely-eyed, bazooka-armed, strike-throwing machine that he was nicknamed Robopitcher. Prior won 18 games for the Chicago Cubs two years later before an avalanche of injuries left him pitching's Venus de Milo.
Three high school pitchers during this period also were electric enough to prompt best-ever hyperbole: Todd Van Poppel in 1990, Brien Taylor in 1991 and Matt White in 1996. Van Poppel won just 40 games in a meandering career, and Taylor and White descended into the moat of the minor leagues, never to be heard from again.
Strasburg, who turns 21 next month, is in fact the sixth once-in-a-lifetime pitcher of his own short lifetime. But this has barely distracted the raving scouts, whose job is to look forward, not back. This time, they mean it. Really.
And the piece goes on from there, in essentially the direction you would expect, but it's still worth reading because Schwarz is good at what he does. If this isn't the last word on why we shouldn't start carving Strasburg's Hall of Fame plaque already, I don't know what will be.