Why PJ Conlon’s Stats Aren’t A Big Deal, But His Presence Already Is
A few days ago, it was brought to P.J. Conlon’s attention that his hat from his Major League debut now sits in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Conlon was noticeably excited, expressing his emotions as, “freaking out a little bit” on Twitter, and for good reason – he is now cemented as part of history in hallowed ground when it comes to the sport of baseball.
If you’re not a Mets fan, or an avid baseball fan for that matter, you might be wondering why this guys hat is in the Hall of Fame. Usually, players have done something incredible, or were part of an insane game, or series, or something that dominates national headlines. If you wondered if any of that was the case, and you were talking baseball performance, I’d say not necessarily… but if you were talking about doing something that is a big deal in the sport of baseball, or in all honesty, American sports, I’d say absolutely.
Conlon, born November 11, 1993 in Belfast, Ireland, has the distinction of being just the second Irish-born Major League ballplayer since Joe Cleary in 1945, and while Cleary walked three, allowed five hits, and let seven runners cross the plate in his one-third of an inning for the Washington Senators, Conlon now enjoys having the best start by an Irish-born player in a century.
While his major league stats are not yet something to write home about (he’s pitched 7.2 innings, and has allowed seven earned runs while his WHIP is above two and his K/9 is a modest 5.87 after hovering around at least seven his entire minor league career), he still made enough noise for the Hall to notice him, as we continue to embrace the world around us, and continue to hope and make strides in having the world embrace baseball as well.
Conlon’s debut, and subsequent hat donation signify more than just out pitching a fellow countryman. It signifies baseball’s willingness to globalize, the importance of finding players from other countries, who have so much to offer to our game. Some of our best players ever hail from other countries, such as Alex Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, Ichiro, and many others like them, and surely many others to follow. Teams are also understanding this importance and noticing the talent that the international market is producing – from the Japanese posting systems that have brought over Yu Darvish, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and even Shohei Ohtani this year, to teams like the Yankees trading major league players to acquire international bonus pool money so that they can sign young international prospects like Osiel Rodriguez, a 16 year old Cuban fireballer acquired at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline.
The World Baseball Classic is another reason why baseball is so excited about this young lefty on the Mets’ farm system. With the hopes of gaining the world’s attention and excitement on baseball, watching young international players come together and perform in the bigs is awe-inspiring.
Conlon’s big deal, big league debut is surely to be one in a long line of hopefully new players to follow, especially with a Yankees vs Red Sox series scheduled for 2019 in London. While Conlon himself doesn’t have the electric arsenal that you see out of a lot of younger pitchers today who throw 98 and up, he can cement himself as a crafty lefty who keeps hitters off balance with a solid curveball, a change-up that sinks, and a running fastball that occasionally touches 92 miles per hours.
At any rate, regardless of whether his career ends similar to Cleary’s, or he goes on to have a long and fruitful career, he’s made a big mark on baseball, and has opened the door for baseball to not have to wait another three quarters of a century for the next Irish product, or any international product for that matter, in what is an increasingly global game.
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