Ginny Baker was not a phenom who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a sixteen-year-old. She was not advertised as “Baseball’s Chosen One,” nor was she drafted first overall in the MLB Draft.
Washington Nationals fans, who comprise the greatest amount of my readers, have been fortunate to see many of the team’s first round draft picks breeze through the minor leagues and have seen them have an almost immediate impact in “The Show.”
Prodigies like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, who were drafted first overall in their respective MLB Drafts in 2009 and 2010, are not typical. Most players don’t even make the majors.
The chance of making the Major Leagues after being drafted after the 21st round of the 40 round draft is only about 7 percent, according to an article on Bleacher Report. The chances of making the Major Leagues for a player getting drafted out of high school, like Baker, is even slimmer.
Baker, the audience learns during a tense moment with catcher Mike Lawson, took much longer to develop before her Major League debut. She pitched in the minor leagues for five years and even played two years of winter ball.
In addition to not having “Strasburg-like” talent to breeze through the minors, Baker also had to cope with the expectations of having to perform well to meet the expectations of women and girls who followed her career.
Katie Nolan, the host of FS1’s Garbage Time, weighed in on Baker’s anticipated debut in a cameo. Nolan takes a defensive position as she weighs in on Baker’s talent and the iconic nature of her debut.
Nolan can be heard saying, “If you want to say she’s only getting her shot because she is a woman go ahead…bitch and moan all you want gentleman, but tonight a girl is going to be the lead sports story in the world and if that upsets you, maybe you’re just getting your period, go get him Ginny.”
Other national sport media personalities including Colin Cowherd, Matt Vasgersian and Joe Buck also all weighed in on Baker’s debut. It was also clear from their comments that they too were more focused on the social implications of her start than her talent.
Instead of living up to the anticipation the way Strasburg did when he struck out 14 batters without allowing a walk, Baker crumbled.
It was painful to watch her struggle to throw a single strike and then “surrender” when she begs to be taken out of the game by her manager.
As I watched, Baker struggle I began thinking about the major league debut of another pitcher. Julio Urias who made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season when he was just 19-years-old.
Urias’ start was anticipated by the national sport media. Most pundits were able to speak knowledgeably about his discovery by the Dodgers as a 16-year-old in Mexico. Expectations were high for Urias. The LA Times panned him as a “phenom” who was making a start for the team who despite having the highest payroll in the division was floundering.
Urias struggled mightily in the national spotlight. I cringed as the New York Mets had their way with him. He threw 36 pitches in the first inning and gave up three runs and four hits.
Urias exited the game after throwing just 81 pitches in 2 ⅔ innings in a Dodgers walk-off loss to the New York Mets.
He looked a lot like Baker on the mound. Urias was under a tremendous amount of pressure in a very similar way that Baker was under pressure.
Baker’s anti-climactic debut was a dramatic viewing experience that was well captured by the show’s writers. An immediate “Bakermas” performance tantamount to “Strasmas” would be too unrealistic.
It will be exciting to see how quickly the writer’s have Baker’s performance improve and whether she will in fact be demoted the same way Urias was after his spot start.