When you’re surrounded by old people, it makes sense to panic. What if they die? What if they all die at once? These are both rational, logical queries that may enter your head, and are completely valid concerns for the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies baseball season.
But what’s this? A contingency of youth was granted access to the Bright House complex? Well, excuse me while I soak my jean shorts. Naturally, a player under 30 performing noticeably well in this camp is going to catch a number of eyes. One guy being followed by drooling journalists is a 24-year-old gentleman/RHP named Michael Stutes.
So is the the kid from Lake Oswego on Oswego Lake for real? Or is he just the victim of youth’s sensationalism in this decrepit graveyard of unproductive ghosts?
Like most American towns, Lake Oswego was once populated by a noble Native American tribe, the Clackamas, until European settlers came trotting down the path and immediately diseased and/or slaughtered them.
Somewhere between one of the Saddest Chapters of American History and Michael Stutes’ arrival in Clearwater this spring, the righty developed into a dominant force on the mound who clusterbombed his way up to Double-A Reading just a year after being drafted. He showed up in camp after being recalibrated from a starter into a reliever, has pitched nine innings within which were three hits and nine strike outs, and is still standing after the first round of cuts in which 16 Major League dreams were momentarily shattered.
The Phillies press needed somebody under 30 to latch onto for the month of March. Domonic Brown was penciled into the role weeks earlier, as not only was he the best prospect in camp, but he was actively competing for a job on the team. Sadly, his hand exploded (Quick sidebar: Ben Francisco was asked to tone down his awesomeitude a smidge this afternoon and he responded with a polite “Fuck no” by going 3-for-3 with a home run), and they were left to track down some other young phenom to stalk all spring.
Well, here he is.
“…he has been the star of the spring thus far…”
–David Murphy, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Stutes said he hasn’t given much thought to the idea of making the team, but he’s clearly still in the running.”
–Bob Brookover, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Not bad, for a first try.”
–Josh Jackson, MLB.com
“…he survived the first cut in his first big league camp and may be knocking on the major league door.”
“Again, not to make too much out of spring training, but his last two times out he’s retired an impressive cast of big leaguers: Justin Morneau and Jim Thome on Sunday, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson last Thursday.”
–Patrick Berkery, Phils-ville
So even as the old bones and tired muscles of the tenured Phillies crumble and turn to dust–oh, there goes Polly–maybe we’ll be able to strain one small strand of joy out of this 2011 season: The glory of Michael Stutes, fueled by the corpses of hundreds of dead Native Americans, just trying to punch through the wall of the Phillies bullpen.
Other than that, we have no options outside of complete and utter surrender.