Thursday, November 14, 2019

So begins the Jasson Dominguez hype

Long long ago, in a Yankiverse not very far away, the Bombers signed a 16-year-old Latino named Jackson Melian to an ungodly amount of money, opening the floodgates to a modern hype machine. He was a publicist's dream: Named "Jackson" by a Yankee-fan dad who who loved Reggie, and called "Millions" by announcer Bobby Murcer, referring to the money shelled out to sign him. Then, for about five miserable years, I followed him in every single box score, awaiting his arrival. Spoiler alert: It never came.

I should note a tragic story about Jackson Melian. Because he was so young, his parents moved to America with him and traveled to every minor league game, driving ahead of the team bus. One night, they were killed in a terrible car accident. The story goes that coaches and teammates saw the wreckage and recognized his parents' car. As whispers passed down the bus, the whole team knew, but Melian was sleeping. I've often imagined being on that bus, knowing the incredible pain that someone - maybe your competitor for playing time - was about to feel, and being helpless to do anything.

I remember that story whenever I think of Melian. It reminds me that 1) Every player has a heartbreak, 2) At the end of the day, potential doesn't buy you dogfood, and 3) Young prospects, however they turn out, don't deserve to be mocked. It's that brutal, evil hype machine that deserves our venom.  

Since Melian, that machine has raised and shredded several future superstars, each of which had an angle for easy derision. Jose Tabata's wife was old enough to be his mom. Ruben Rivera supposedly stole Jeter's glove. Jesus Montero ate too many ice cream sandwiches. Alphonso Soriano - who actually had a nice career - turned out to be a few years older than advertised. Even Aaron Judge sometimes suffers from comparisons to that player we imagined, the one who lives in our fantasies and nowhere else.

The latest kid is Estevan Florial, who hit spring training last March like a jailbreak, running wild on the bases. Unfortunately, he can't seem to put his bat on the ball - hitting .236 in his second season at Tampa. A. Florial is still considered a hot prospect - he'll turn 22 two Mondays from now - but, as Yogi would say - it's getting late early.

Which brings us to the next marquee Yankee prospect: Jasson Dominguez, a 5'11", switch-hitting CF with sprinter's speed and tape-measure power. Baseball America has given him "insane" ratings. (I hate such descriptions; do people have to do that?) He's been christened a teenage Mike Trout, compared to Bryce Harper at 16 and - in the most dangerous lines of all - evoked memories of another switch-hitting CF, the one who ruled my childhood. Dominguez received the highest signing bonus in Yankee history. As a result, the Death Star will surely get its money's worth in hype.

And don't get me wrong: When it comes to hope, I'm all in. It's been a while since the Yankees had a Top 5 MLB prospect, and this might be one. I will follow this guy beginning with the rookie leagues, celebrating every hit, because they all look the same in the box scores. And if the recent World Series showed anything, it's that kids aged 20-21 - Juan Soto! - come of age earlier than ever before. 

But when the hype machine revs on this guy - as it's about to do - here's a thought: On this website, even if it's the only website in the world to do it, let's accept Jasson Dominguez for what he is: A 16-year-old kid who has a long, long way to go in a Yankiverse not very far from here. 


JM said...

Well, maybe I'll see him in pinstripes before I shuffle off this mortal coil. That will be something to look forward to, unlike the middling pitchers Cashman will try to sign this offseason.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Amen, Duque!

I was just writing some (other) friends about this. I was telling them how, in the league my high school played in, in northern Massachusetts, there was a three-sport star named Jerry Mondalto.

This guy was a terrific running back, a good basketball guard, and the best baseball player anyone had ever seen. Everyone was sure he was can't-miss, and they were right because of course you're heard of Jerry Mondalto.

Point being, we can't possibly tell if a 16-year-old is going to make it. This is the full crazy of giving penniless, teenaged, DR stars a fortune and hyping them through the roof. It's bushwah.

Maybe this guy IS the next Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle—and maybe we don't remember how close Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle came to spending life, respectively, as a fisherman and a zinc miner.

Coops' farm system is actually crumbling and almost barren already. There are a bunch of pitchers left who are at least 2-3 years from the majors, if they don't have to undergo major operations before they get there.

Poor kids like Dominguez are a smokescreen for the usual, crappy job Cashman is really doing in identifying and nurturing prospects. It's the latest face-saving device, now that no one is falling for the, 'We're saving all our money for Bryce/Trout/Mookie' line anymore.

'Don't worry in just another 4-5 years he'll be joining that terrific trio of Judge, Hicks, and Stanton. They'll be averaging about 30 games a year by now and the rest of the OF will be journeyman dumpster dives. But Jasson will save everything!'

But I'm being cynical. Don't worry: I truly believe that one day, Jasson Dominuez will be every bit the household name Jerry Mondalto is today.

Anonymous said...

One never knows.

I suppose we can be comforted by the idea that all great players come from somewhere. The international draft has supplied some good ones for us (Even if we didn't do the initial signing.)

Sanchez (I know, I know)
Johnny Lasagna (I know, I know)
Gio Urshala

I always wonder about the wisdom of giving millions of dollars to a 16 year old (ANY 16 year old - although it clearly works out for child sit com stars)

Throw in that they come from places where the avg annual income can be measures in bags of rice and it makes it harder for them to keep perspective. I think this is Gary's biggest problem BTW. A life time of being "special" and doing it his way against the reality of MLB pitching.

I hope the kid (Jasson Dominguez) pans out but I wouldn't worry about the Mantle, Trout etc. comparisons getting to him.

He's already all of that and more in the eyes of his village and always has been. We can only hope that he has the internal fortitude to not let it go to his head, stay focused, and live up to it.

Doug K.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great post! I've thought about Jackson for years, wondering how Life turned out for him. You also NAILED the ruthlessness of the press, and ownership. Thanks for your time in reminding people of the separation of Reality and hype.

Matt on the Internet said...

No post yet about the Houston Asterisks cheating the whole damn 2017 season? Was hoping you guys would weigh in!

13bit said...

baseball becomes increasingly irrelevant, even as a distraction. the Yankees are failing me.

Unknown said...

Yes - I wait with garlic breath. Whoops, I mean bait breath.

Anonymous said...

Matt there are a bunch of comments in the thread before this one about Houston

TheWinWarblist said...

Who is this Matt of which you write??

HoraceClarke66 said...

And yes, to repeat the obvious, if the Yankees had been found to have done this, it would be treated as a war crime, and their World Series victory might even be overturned.

Since it was Houston, it will be greeted with a big, "Meh."

Alphonso said...

And it will be a miracle if most of us are alive by the time he is MLB ready.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Yeah, but it will probably still come before Giancarlo plays a 120-game season in pinstripes.

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