Imagine sitting at Frontier Field on May 19, 2010 and someone from the future whispers in your ear, “You’re watching a future World Series MVP on the hill tonight.”
That’s all you’d need to hear to make your night worth while.
Back in 2010, Stephen Strasburg pitched to a sold-out crowd at Frontier Field. Wednesday night, he delivered not only a gem of a World Series performance in a Game 7--the ultimate stage to do so--he also made good to each of those people who paid to see a future star pitch that night.
Even if they had to wait; rain postponed his performance the night before.
A Cy Young would be great.
A pitcher’s Triple Crown would be nice.
A Hall-of-Fame spot would be tremendous.
But, at the end of the day, championships are the things that matter most.
And on Halloween Eve, there was no trick. Strasburg delivered on the promise so many felt he had while watching a former No. 1 overall pick come up through the minors.
Is he Nolan Ryan, or Roger Clemens? No.
But he did deliver a performance similar to what Clemens gave in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
Only, Strasburg won.
At his juxtaposition, Gerrit Cole, whom we may safely say is a former Houston Astro, waited, and waited, and waited, for his analytics-driven manager to put him in the game and shut down the Washington Nationals.
Good fortune had run out, and the overachieving bullpen gave the game away before Cole, another future free agent, watched helplessly from beyond the outfield walls.
Strasburg was called-upon and delivered, as did his counterpart, Zack Greinke, who has battled anxiety throughout his life.
He may get another shot. He may not. Strasburg may, too. Or, he may not.
You don’t often get opportunities, no matter how great you may be, especially in a team sport like baseball. It helps being great, but playing on a great team matters more.
Nolan Ryan went to one World Series. Sure, he got his ring. But, there aren’t any October memories of him.
He has his numbers. He has his no-hitters. He has his place in Cooperstown. He is among the greats.
But he never got to be Sandy Koufax, or Jack Morris, Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, or Madison Bumgarner.
Among others. Not all those are Hall-of-Famers. But, they delivered.
There are more Clayton Kershaws and Ryans out there.
There should be a postseason Hall-of-Fame. A place for the aforementioned players in history who came through in October. Or January. Or February. Or June.
That’s where competition means most. Yes, it’s important to rack-up wins on the road against 3-and-4 starters in July, but come October, or come playoff time, when you need a hit, or a strikeout, or a hold, or a save, or a win, or a stop, or a three, or a buzzer-beater, or a touchdown, that’s when competition matters most.
No matter what.
It’s all about rings, and those precious opportunities to grab them.
Strasburg did it. Howie Kendrick did it. Often. Reggie Jackson was named for it, as was Derek Jeter. So were guys like Scott Brosius, and Edgar Renteria.
So were guys like OJ Anderson. And Jim Plunkett. And Mark Rypien. And backups like Nick Foles and Jeff Hostettler. And role players like Robert Horry.
Gerrit Cole was robbed of his, while that once-21 year-old kid who was the center-of-Rochester that May night in 2010, soaked his up on Wednesday, knowing there’d be no tomorrow, no Game 8. And he lived-up to what some dreamed that night he would become.
That encompasses what sports, and life, really, are all about.
It may come and it may not. It may come to those who seem like they deserve it the least, and may not to those who fought for it the most.
But if you have talent, and give a return to those who invest in you, you’ll have the best people in your corner. And you’ll increase those chances for those life-changing opportunities.
Strasburg had his challenges; injuries, particularly the need for Tommy John surgery, among them.
And he worked and overcame them and got what he deserved:
And he came through.
Often, they only come once.
And they’re always worth seizing.
And when they are, there will be those who will remember you way back when...
And they’ll remember the return you gave them for that investment.