In one of the stranger baseball stories we've heard this season, several Houston Astros players have anonymously expressed displeasure to the media over the fact that Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday despite posting a 9.74 ERA and 1.92 WHIP in 44 1/3 innings at High-A Lancaster.
Apparently, there's also some discontent over Appel being in the clubhouse on Sunday morning after he was invited to Minute Maid Park to throw a bullpen session in front of Astros coaches and front office personnel.
Jose de Jesus Ortiz of Ultimate Astros provided more details on Twitter.
Mark Appel was brought into the clubhouse early, leaving long before most of the players arrived. A few saw him, though.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
"It's (expletive) unbelievable," an Astros player just said out of the blue about Mark Appel being allowed throw a bullpen.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
Let's just put it this way, folks, the fact that Appel was brought here has upset more than a few players.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
In a sport that prides itself on having guys pay dues, the Astros didn't help perception in clubhouse that Appel is being babied.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
Another player just approached me to complain about Appel's promotion and bullpen session. Multiple expletives were dropped. Not good.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
The first thought is: What's the big deal?
The second thought is: No, really, what's the big deal?
Though it may seem like the Astros are in some ways giving Appel preferential treatment, it has to be understood that the circumstances surrounding Appel are unusual because it's rare that a top pick struggles this much, this soon. The Astros obviously want to do what's best for Appel's development. By letting him throw in front of their coaches and front office personnel, perhaps they can gain a better perspective of his struggles and help him turn it around quicker.
That's actually pretty smart if that's the plan. And the fact that he may have changed or even walked through the clubhouse before and after means little. Give the kid a break.
As for the promotion, it's pretty common for top prospects to be moved aggressively. Sometimes it's not just about performance and mechanics when developing and promoting players, it's also about maintaining confidence and giving them new challenges, even if the old ones didn't go well. That might be the only way they'll learn what he's made of as a pitcher and a person.
Mark Appel is different, because he is a former No. 1 pick. There's more pressure on him to reach his potential, and there's more pressure on the Astros to develop that potential. That means he gets more attention on just about every level. That's just the way it is. It isn't necessarily fair to other players, but baseball isn't about being fair, it's about winning, even if a few feelings get hurt along the way.
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