Last Saturday afternoon Padres fans geared up for the debut of Burch Smith, the 23 year old out of the University of Oklahoma. With a plus fastball and plus command, the excitement was warranted. Smith came out and retired the side in the bottom of the first, striking out the first two batters he faced, Matthew Joyce and Kelly Johnson. The reaction via social media was hyperbole in the truest sense of the word as fans fawned over the Texan like he was an abstract amalgamation of Nolan Ryan, Kerry Wood, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. And then the second inning began.
Burch Smith opened the second with a walk to Evan Longoria and then a home run to James Loney. After that, Smith allowed a succession of pure ugliness as the Rays rattled off a BB-1B-1B-1B-2B before Tyson Ross got the call for long-relief. Burch Smith threw 42 pitches and was charged with 6 ERs in 1 inning of work. The final line looked ugly but boy did he look good to the first two batters he faced. Two strikeouts!
So what now? Burch Smith is scheduled to pitch tonight against Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals.
But then what? Will all the reasons that allowed Burch Smith to ascend to The Show without stopping in AAA be null and void if he doesn’t have an outstanding start tonight?
It is my contention that Burch Smith needs to stay with the big club no matter the result tonight. The Padres are not about Jason Marquis, Eric Stults, or even Clayton Richard. These arms do not represent the future of the San Diego Padres. The Padres are about Andrew Cashner, Burch Smith, Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly, Joe Weiland, Robbie Erlin, Donn Roach, Matt Whistler, Keyvious Sampson, and what feels like an unending list of young arms at the lower levels of the minor league system. These guys are the future. And sometimes the future is now.
When I think of young pitchers who took their lumps, learned from their mistakes, and created a career (an outstanding one at that) in the big leagues there is always one pitcher who comes to mind for me. Let’s play, “Guess that young arm!”
In terms of a comp with Burch Smith we could say that the player in question is . . . a pitcher (similarities in style end there). I shall call this comp, Mysterio!
The Mysterio was not a power arm nor did he throw right handed. At the time of his debut he was 21, a bit younger than the 23 year old Burch Smith. And he was a 2nd round pick, unlike Smith who was taken in the 14th round. But their respective debuts possess similarities.
Like Burch Smith, Mysterio gave up 6 ERs, however he did it across 3.2 innings versus Smith’s 1 IP. While Burch Smith struck out 2 Mysterio struck out only 1 batter, a third baseman named Ken Caminiti. Mysterio went on to lose the game and finished his debut season with a record of 2-4. But he never left the rotation. He would continue to be a mainstay in the rotation and over the next three seasons (age 22,23, and, 24) he compiled a record of 31-37 and an ERA of 4.19.
While his team stunk, Mysterio’s peripherals improved each year until he reached his age 25 season when his numbers exploded. And not coincidentally his team started to realize success that would sustain itself into the future.
During his age 25, 26, and 27 seasons he would finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in NL Cy Young voting compiling 20 wins each year and also receiving MVP votes during each of those season.
Mysterio would go on to win 305 games before his 22 year career concluded. Mysterio is none other than. . .
Look, I’m not saying Burch Smith is a potential 300 game winner with a ticket to Cooperstown. But I’m also not saying that he’s not. When Mysterio’s team allowed him to scuffle along for 4 seasons, did they know precisely who he would become? Sometimes you have to just let guys pitch, let ’em figure it out. And the last thing that should be allowed is for a journeyman arm to slow the progress of youth.
As a Padres fan it is my obligation to develop anxiety over things that have yet to happen. I’m already worrying about the next Tommy John Surgery, the 2013 Amateur draft, and whether or not Mission Brewery will be serving beer in Petco Park next season. I’ve accepted my lot in life.
It is May 17th, 2013 and I am looking for youth to be served.
Alright, be honest. At what point did you know who I was writing about?
I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM where I discuss the merits of wearing a scarf, 7 days a week.