Why does it seem as though we are all suddenly fans of Jesus Montero, even though he only made his Major League debut 4 days ago? I've noticed that I will stop whatever else I'm doing when he comes up to bat, and from the sudden drop in activity on the game threads, I suspect that I'm not alone in that. The closest I've come to that before was in the build-up to Jeter's 3000th hit, as well as the final at-bats of huge games (a la Red Sox). Ever since his debut, I've anticipated finding out the line-up for that day's game at least as much as I've anticipated the game itself, just because I want to see if Montero is going to be playing again. Personally, I've even started looking ahead to who the projected starters are for Baltimore, just to see how many of those games we can expect to see Montero in. Like above, I don't think I'm alone in that. After months of well-above-average baseball from the Montero-less-Yankees, why does a 21-year-old kid have this kind of effect on us?
I've thought of a few reasons for this, in no particular order:
- The accumulated build-up of 2 years' worth of anticipation. We've been keeping up with Montero's exploits in AAA via a side bar on Pinstripe Alley for 2 years. We've seen him nearly traded twice for starting pitchers. We want to know whether this kid is worth all the hype.
- Six years without a highly-touted prospect (position player) debuting. Unless I'm mistaken, that last position player whose debut received this much hype was Robinson Cano, in 2005. Since then Brett Gardner has become a staple member of the outfield, but I don't think he received nearly as much hype as Robbie in 2005 or Montero now.
- Three years of repeated prospect failure. We've seen three Yankee prospects join the rotation as starting pitchers in as many years, and only this year's (Nova) has lived up to expectations. Joba was somewhat destroyed by the "Joba Rules" in 2009, seemed to be making a resurgence in the bullpen until hitting the DL for most of this year. Hughes was Philthy for the first half last year, even going to the All-Star Game. However, I suspect that receiving a less-than-friendly welcome from the California crowd (since he's from California) gave him the idea to go to cooking school. Since then, he's been about equal parts Philthy and Master-Chef-with-a-filthy-kitchen. Nova, however, has been more than we could ever have imagined: despite a few rough outings, he has improved steadily; despite being demoted in favor of Hughes, he used that opportunity to work on his sinker. Since his return from SWB, he's been making the case in every start that he belongs in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Which model will Montero follow? Promise then failure? Continued improvement? Promise then mismanagement then failure?
- He's homegrown. I think we love our homegrown talent. We are happy every time a homegrown player suddenly makes a place for himself in the big leagues. Why else would we still be interested in the exploits of Ian Kennedy down in Arizona or Austin Jackson over in Detroit (both of which, miraculously, are playoff contenders)? I don't think any of us regret the trade which brought Granderson to New York; at the same time, those guys are our prospects, and they're doing well. Likewise, why do we prefer Gardner playing every day over Marcus Thames, Randy Winn, Andruw Jones, or whatever other fourth outfielder management finds? He's one of our homegrown players. Why are we so willing to let Jeter or Mo slide when they hit a snag? Why do we give Jorge so many more chances? They are homegrown players who've been with this team for their entire career. Their history is our history. Why were we so frustrated when they brought in Russell Martin over the off season so he could start at catcher instead of calling up Montero? Martin is an interloper, not a homegrown player like Cervelli or Montero.
- We like the idea of homegrown players replacing homegrown players. I suspect that this holds true for all of the Core Four. Why were we so disappointed when Hughes went onto the DL at the beginning of this season? Apart from the obvious, we were hoping he would take over Andy Pettitte's place at the top of the rotation. When Phil did not live up to those expectations, however, Ivan Nova did. In a similar fashion, who do you want to take over the closer role when Mo finally hangs up his cleats? I assume that everyone would have said "Joba Chamberlain" a couple years ago, but today you would say "David Robertson." We don't really want someone like Rafael Soriano taking over a role which in our mind has belonged to Mariano Rivera for the better part of 2 decades: Soriano is someone from outside; he can't be Mo's successor. Why else would we take sick pleasure from seeing Soriano go on the DL and have his setup man position taken over by Robertson, Mo's rightful heir? I think the same sentiment holds true for Jeter, as well. Personally, I want to see a prospect given a chance over a free agent any day of the week, but this is even more true at shortstop. Do we really want to bring in a free agent, or trade for someone like Jose Reyes to take over for the Captain as leader of the infield? I don't; I'd rather see a prospect like Cito Culver given a shot, since he and Jeter have so much in common: both Yankee fans growing up, both drafted in the first round by the Yankees, both above-average offensively but below-average defensively. If Jeter hung them up after this year (unlikely), I would rather see Eduardo Nunez given a shot at the full-time shortstop position than anyone from outside. Given all of this, who better to take up Jorge Posada's mantle than a homegrown prospect like Jesus Montero?
Those are all the reasons I could think of. Are you a fan of Jesus Montero? Why or why not?