Is it time to worry about Zack Wheeler?
No, it's not.
I know it's not a good way to hold the reader's attention to give the answer at the top. But I've never been into one singular form to translate into function. But all this hullabaloo about Zack Wheeler is useless. Bottom line is that Wheeler's stats in Las Vegas mean nothing, and we knew that going into the season. In fact, anybody that follows baseball somewhat closely knows that the PCL is a hitters league due to weather conditions. So when Wheeler gave an interview to the Daily News' John Harper, he didn't say anything earth shattering:
"I didn't think it was going to be a big deal but it’s always in the back of your mind. You’re going to get hit from time to time, but sometimes you make a pitch and you say, ‘Man, that was a good pitch but it was still off the wall.’ … It’s hard being from the East Coast, and being used to the humidity, the moisture. Every time after I throw a pitch, I've gotta lick my fingers. Sometimes, before I even throw the next pitch, I've gotta step off and lick them again because my fingers are already dry again. And the balls are slick as crap. It takes some adjusting."
Sounds like insight to me. But others took it as whining.
after reading @nydnharper piece, i wonder about zack wheeler. not his 5 era at las vegas, but all those alibis.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) April 30, 2013
This in itself is hysterical, because there was obviously a part of Harper's article that Heyman skimmed through:
"If this is coming off like Wheeler whining, that wasn't his tone at all. He spoke matter of factly, sounding more like someone who is just trying to figure things out in a baseball environment he’s never experienced, knowing that all of New York is waiting for him to join Matt Harvey in the Mets’ starting rotation."
This is where context escapes some people … probably on purpose. Because let's face it, providing context that takes a piece of non-fiction closer to the truth which is somewhere in the middle isn't the best way to get page views or twitter followers. Just like providing the answer to the question in the first few lines of a blog post. See where I'm going?
Take Andy Martino, for example. Remember the Zack Wheeler "ethnic tensions" article? Of course you do. But let me refresh you:
In a minor league intrasquad game last Saturday, Rodriguez, a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic, homered against Wheeler, 22, and "pimped it" around the bases, as one witness described it. Rodriguez apologized to Wheeler, but the phenom still hit Rodriguez’s teammate with a pitch later in the game. That drew a long glare from Rodriguez, who shouted at Wheeler during a slow walk to first base. At one point, the home plate umpire stepped between the two prospects. Later, ethnic tensions arose in the clubhouse, according to two people present at the time. "Some of the American guys and some of the Latin guys were circling and yelling at each other," one source said. The same source added that Wheeler and Rodriguez "are both great kids, competitors, and this stuff just happens sometimes."
My biggest problem with this piece wasn't the content, it was the lack of context. It was touched on too briefly at the end with the last quote from the source. Ironically, Martino went on Daily News Live that day to talk about the incident, and during that appearance he seemed much more even handed about the events, noting that things like this do happen all the time, and downplayed the "ethnic" part of the story to note that this was all about how kids are raised in different cultures. So it went from an incident which was less about "I hate you because you're a different ethnicity", and more about "I hate that you broke baseball etiquette", and "hey I'm just playing the game the way I was brought up to play it." See how different that sounds with context? But the lack of it in the article achieved its intended purpose: It got me to click on the link, and it got me to watch Daily News Live later to hear Martino's take on it in a different setting.
Harper's piece on Wheeler contained the appropriate context, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. Heyman chose to ignore it … why, I don't know. Probably to keep Mets fans in a fear based existence. Who knows. Even the infamous "some Mets people" fell for the lack of context, and continued their hen like pecking:
"You’d never hear (Matt) Harvey say that."
WHY CAN'T YOU BE MORE LIKE YOUR BROTHER!!!
More credit to Harper for putting that quote in proper context as well. But ultimately, what's done on the field is the best context of all. And while Wheeler's numbers haven't been great, again: It's Las Vegas. And numbers mean nothing … even in Buffalo where Harvey was middling right before his call up. Is anybody concerned about Harvey's minor league numbers now? As John Tortorella always says in one way or another: It's about the process.
"Anytime you say something like that, it sounds like it's an excuse. Fix it. That's all. You've got to go pitch, along with the other 125 pitchers in that league." –Terry Collins
Context is important. Some would be served well to remember that.