Today we’d like to discuss phenoms. Phenoms capture the imaginations of those within and without the fields they operate. The excitement they generate brings new followers and, can, rejuvenate a field, an organization, a franchise, so great is the magnetic character of their talent. Tiger Woods has carried the sport of golf on his back, earning the label “The Only Golfer That Matters”, should anyone wish to bestow it on him. LeBron James has brought the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball franchise back from a forsaken NBA purgatory. For many sports fans, phenoms, those with unexplainable and unimaginable talent, are the reason they watch sports. Phenoms represent the pinnacle of athletic talent and achievement.
Baseball phenoms are a bit different. Often, in their younger years, they fly under the radar of all but the most hard-core baseball fans or the hometown fans. The casual fan doesn’t know about the young baseball phenom until he seemingly bursts onto the scene out of thin air, in a reverse version of spontaneous combustion. Boston fans certainly knew about Jonathan Papelbon, but the nation didn’t learn his name until he posted some of the most filthy pitching numbers in the history of closing baseball games…as a rookie.
Stephen O’Connor is still under the radar. His statistics tell the story, he is clearly an emerging phenom. O’Connor, a 22 year old pitcher at AAA, is 37-4, with a 2.38 ERA, .228 OAV, .280 OBP, and 394 strike outs in 405 IP, for his minor league career. Last season, at the AA level, he posted his most impressive numbers, going 17-1.
The upside of the phenom designation is only one half of the equation. For many young athletes standing on the edge of superstardom the pressures can be too much, the accolades can come too soon, and the hurdles of life may be too high. Todd Van Poppel and Dwight Gooden are two examples that spring readily to mind.
Whether O’Connor lives up to the promise he has displayed thus far, or succumbs to the accompanying pressure, will be a question on the minds of everyone who follows the Baltimore Sandinistas. Ultimately, only time will tell.