I’ve never appreciated the guy —on radio or in print —who warns fans not to get overexcited. Irrational exuberance is a fan’s right. It’s no one’s job to talk you out of believing that Sam Bradford has the stuff of Super Bowl quarterbacks or that Cesar Hernandez is a future all-star.
So excuse me while I walk in an uncomfortable pair of shoes.
Just like you, I’ll be riveted to Aaron Nola’s debut Tuesday night. The 21-year-old seventh-overall pick of the 2014 draft has cruised through the minors and earned his shot. I watched Nola pitch twice this season. He’s smart, works fast, locates his pitches and owns the mound when he’s out there.
He’ll be a Major League starter for years.
But here’s what Nola is not: An ace. He’s not going to step into Cole Hamels’ role if the tortured lefty mercifully gets traded next week. He’s not going to be the next Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.
More likely, Nola is Jamie Moyer — minus 30 years and plus 8-10 mph on the fastball. Scouting reports generally agree Nola will peak as a third starter in a good rotation. The upside is that he’s got the brains and stuff to forge a lengthy Major League career. The downside is he doesn’t possess the killer strikeout pitch that will lead to him having his named etched onto the Cy Young Award.
The Phils wisely grabbed Nola last year knowing that the LSU star was closer to Major League-ready than anyone else in the draft. For a fan base that has suffered through Severino Gonzalez and Kevin Correia this season, that makes a lot of sense.
And we’ve grown more and more excited with each successful stat line from Reading or Lehigh Valley. Why isn’t he up here, we’ve shouted each time another fraud of a Phillies starter got knocked out in the third inning.
The build-up has been such that I’m doing exactly what I hate in my business — issuing that “calm down” warning. My biggest fear with Nola is that he can’t possibly live up to the buildup that a desperate fan base has placed on his right arm.
He’s not going to be Jose Fernandez, folks. Or Matt Harvey. Or Sonny Gray. He’s not going to come in and dominate. More likely, he’ll scuffle a bit before settling in as a solid part of the Phillies eventual rebuild. Just don’t get apoplectic if it takes him a while to find his footing.
Oh, and by the way, after he debuts tomorrow with a three-hit shutout . . . please don’t mind me if I join you on the Hall of Fame bandwagon.