A 12 year old that can throw 103 mph? Daniel Stern as the barely coherent hitting instructor (seems pretty logical that the team he’s from is the Cubs)? Gary Busey as a pitcher on the decline? The Cubs suck? Sounds like a classic to me! Of course, "Rookie of the Year" in no way stands up to movies like "Field of Dreams" or "A League of Their Own" or the great all around "*61" (and I love Barry Pepper as Roger Maris), but what is it? A great kids Baseball Movie.
Now, prior to snapping the tendons in his shoulder back to normal during the NLDS, 12 year old Henry Rowengarter was lighting up the National League with his electrifying 103 mph fastball and even post tendon correction he had that wicked "floater" pitch, which I believe to be pretty close to the mythical Eephus pitch. Play any of the MLB2K series. Create your own pitcher. Choose Eephus as one of his pitches, crank the ability level up to around 85-95, and watch the strikeouts pile up! He of course was backed up in the rotation by "Rocket" Chet Steadman, who was very much on the decline of what was probably a pretty decent career, that is until he meets Henry and becomes a quasi-father figure/pitching instructor and gains his fastball back.
So what does all of this mean? If Henry was a free agent right now and still had his 103 mph fastball, would he not be the hottest FA out on the market right now? Consider this: Henry Rowengarter’s got a lot of upside being only 12 years old, in that he can be had with a 10 year contract and still only be in his early 20’s. The downside, no doctor really knows how good Rowengarter’s arm can be and for how long? Henry gained his ability by rolling on a baseball and landing on his shoulder. When the tendons healed in his shoulder, they seemed to have tightened up considerably. With the wear and tear of a 162 game season, will Henry take good enough care of his arm in order to keep it the flame thrower that we all know? This brings up a very interesting point that is prevalent at this time of the year: risk vs. reward in signing a certain free agent.
Alright, so this kid has the possibility of being a 20+ win a year pitcher, who throughout the movie very rarely gave up any hits except to Butch Heddo of the New York Mets, who looked like a cross between Ogre from "Revenge of the Nerds" and John Kruk. However, in their second meeting in the NLDS East (which makes no sense whatsoever consider the Cubbies are a Central Team and there’s no way anytime soon the Mets will make it to the NLDS) Henry is able to squeeze the floater by Heddo for a K. Other than that, we are led to believe, via the great movie plot device- the montage, that Henry is just blowing guys away in the batter’s box. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire. All victims of Henry’s crazy fast fastball.
So Larry Fisher (the GM-esque character) signs this 12-year old kid. Long story short, Henry gets hot, turns the team from losers into world beaters, Cubs make the NLDS, Henry falls on his arm and is forced to beat nemesis through trickery. Who in the world would ever sign a 12-year old kid to pitch in the majors anyway? Who would keep an old broken down starter like Chet Steadman and keep trotting him out to the mound? Are we not sure that Larry Fisher is running the Houston Astros?
I wouldn’t mind seeing ol’ Henry in bricks reds.