The Hobgoblin

Here at Eutaw Street Hooligans we not only give you analysis on games and offseason moves but since we can’t get any media credentials of our own we also give you the breakdown on other people’s interviews.  We would all have liked to ask Joe Jordan how he feels about 2009′s fifth overall pick, Matt Hobgood but since no one in the warehouse knows who we are it is hard to get close enough to ask any questions.  Luckily for everyone Joe sat down with Steve Melewski over at masnsports.com for an interview last week.

Turns out the interview was very candid and left  Tom Ludlow a lot of analysts saying “I told you so” to Jordan and the rest of the Orioles scouting department.  A somewhat discouraged sounding scouting director seemed to indicate that the organization has all but given up on the kid.  Matt has not lived up to the hype that comes with being the Gatorade player of the year in 2009 and a 96 mph heater as a high school senior and already is experiencing shoulder issues after just his second professional season.  In fact, in 29 professional starts Hobgood has a record of 4-9 with a 4.48 ERA in 29 starts.  Those are not good numbers no matter how you try to spin them.  Before the injury this was going to be a huge year in the development, or demise of Matt Hobgood the baseball player.  Now because of the injury it is even bigger.

The development of a professional athlete requires either a lot of hard work paired with a little luck or a lot of freakish talent and athletic ability.  I don’t claim to know what Hobgood’s mental makeup is or what has ever gone through his mind especially since the best years of my life on a diamond take place in slow pitch softball (I carried an average of .800 plus last season, just sayin’) and not a professional baseball field but maybe there was a false sense of immense talent coming out of high school throwing that type of gas on your way to a 21-1 record where he also hit 40 bombs according to wikipedia.  Pair that with a huge paycheck at the age of 18 and maybe you get a little bit of an entitlement issue.  Whether it was that or the injury that caused him to lose 10 mph on his fastball over the last 2 seasons doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that this interview being so public and honest should be a wake up call for the 20 year old.

“You guys haven’t seen anything close to what I told you, you were going to see. I recognize that. As far as the shoulder issue right now, you know, there’s no surgery required and hopefully he can rehab it,” Jordan said.

“I understand I am due at least some scrutiny on that one, but you know, we saw what we saw. We saw above average stuff with a breaking ball and change-up. For whatever reason, it hasn’t shown up.

“I don’t believe we can make a determination right now. But to be objective, I’ve got to say there were some other options and I knew that at the time. Right now, it doesn’t look real good, but hopefully he can get strong and get in shape and when he gets out there, we’ll start seeing what we thought we were buying. I’ve thought so much about this. You try to self-evaluate and you look at the process that got you to the decision you made.

Jordan called him out on being out of shape and not living up to his end of the deal.  The Orioles definitely had other options and Joe admits as much in the interview.

“At this point in time, I’ve got questions to answer because of what (Mike) Leake has done and (Mike) Minor,” Jordan said.

I had no one telling me to do this because of the money,” Jordan said. “This was my decision and my decision only. I had the reports on file to justify taking the guy. That’s the kind of evaluation we had on him.

He actually names names but insists this was not a pick based on signability but rather on the promise that the big right hander showed with above average stuff in his California high school career.  Stuff like that doesn’t just disappear, but it seems to have been misplaced so far in the Orioles organization.   But to give up on a 20 year old who so recently dominated hitters (yes, even against 12th graders it counts if you are only 18) is flat-out crazy.  The O’s don’t need him to be ready for the 2011 rotation or even the 2012 rotation.  If the front office can hammer out a few extensions (Hardy, cough cough) and plug the hole at first base in the next few years then a having a bounced back Hobgood down the road waiting in Norfolk or Bowie would be a great commodity to back up the calvary.   However, what undoubtedly needs to happen is Matt needs to find what he hasn’t been able to show as a professional so far.  There is a lot of growing up to do between the ages of 18 and 21 and now we need to see some maturity out of this guy.  From all accounts he is working hard on rehabbing his shoulder and showed some promise while working out this offseason with fellow Orioles property Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman at API.  A good start to growing up and learning how to be a pro is paying close attention to how Brian Matusz prepares.   Matusz made quick work of the minor leagues, dominating at every stop, and is establishing himself as a pitcher to be reckoned with for years to come in the AL East.   That is the difference in drafting a high school senior and an established college pitcher.  Matusz had time to refine his pitches further in college but also to grow up without the eyes of an entire major league organization and fan base focused on him.  Not that we were all responsible adults in our college-aged lives but it is probably a no doubter we were light years ahead in our development as people 3-4 years into that time than we were in high school.  And none of us were getting the kind of press he was at the age of 17.  This is where a quiet guy like Matusz becomes a leader, take a guy under your wing and show him how it is supposed to work.

The colors prove it is a great nickname

Now is the time for Hobgood to show us all, and the organization that writes his checks that he is who we thought he was. Can he still be that guy?  Time will tell, but I like the idea of having a horse in the rotation that can throw it up there at 97 with a changeup and hard sinker to match.  Let’s get this shoulder fixed and take care of business.  Everybody has their “enough is enough” moment and being admonished in the press by the very guy who’s decision it was to take you at number five overall 2 short years ago might be his.  I hope so be cause I’d love to see the Hobgoblin hurling pumpkin bombs at opposing batters at Oriole Park sometime in the future.  So think back to when you were in your early twenties and give the kid a chance, I trust that he will give us ours.

Jjaks Clayton

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