The Fascination of the Phenom

I picked on Yasiel Puig and Bryce Harper on my post about the All-Star Game. While the content of this post is meant to talk about sports media and the casual fan, it will entail breaking down Puig, Harper, and other like players in the process. If you read my last entry, I mentioned that guys like Puig and Harper had a lot of buzz because of sources like ESPN shoving their candidacy down everyone’s throats. While Puig did not make the team (despite ESPN’s best efforts), Harper did. Not only did Harper make the team, he was elected to the starting lineup with some pretty darn average statistics batting .267 with 13 home runs and 29 RBIs with a .895 OPS. He got the start over many others who were better qualified just because he is who he is. He was also held out of 37 games due to an injury, which entails about a third of the season.

Baseball is not the only sport that has an obsession with these young superstars. Football has become dominated by the Luck/Kaepernick/Wilson/Griffin sensation and basketball is always looking for the next LeBron/MJ/Kobe. The youngsters that have an impact are the most intriguing aspect of sports it would seem. Especially in the day and age we live in where sports have become less of a pastime to follow and have entered the echelon of tabloid news at times, the main sports outlets are always looking for the “brand new thing” to report about.

America is an interesting place to live and grow up in. It is a unique country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed if they are dedicated enough. This may be the “American Dream” people have been talking about for over a century. When it comes to sports, everyone covets the young gem because it typically dictates a successful future for the franchise. However, fans want to see the youngster succeed so badly that they portray greatness on them before they earn it. Imagine if Bryce Harper turns into a player who ends up a .270 career hitter and doesn’t eclipse the 30 home run mark but a few times in his career. Will he be considered the legend he is projected to be?

The story of Billy Beane as a player is a famous one for those who are deeply involved in sports, particularly baseball nerds like myself. He was a five-tool prospect (hitting for contact, hitting for power, speed, fielding and on-base prowess) that failed to matriculate into the big leagues. He ended up retiring to become a scout and is now known as the man who ushered in the sabrmetrics era in baseball. However, he could have easily ended up just another player who did not amount to anything in the baseball spectrum. The amount of pressure put on these young men can break them and they end up burning out. Ryan Leaf is another one of these players who ended up not living up to the hype surrounding him. Is it fair to put the success of a franchise on these men? Perhaps not, but it is something that comes with the trade. Succeed, and they become heroes to those who follow them. Fail, and they draw the ire of those very same people.

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