Former first-overall pick of the Astros, Brady Aiken announced that he had Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL. A no win situation, and many prominent voices in the baseball world said as much. Now, let us hear the reactions from the TCB writers who have been following the story since the beginning.
Quite simply, I don't like my reaction to the news.
It's terrible. That's what my rational mind tells me. It's terrible that this young man is in a physical condition that could severely hamper not just his baseball career, but really the entire rest of his life. As much as we like to think that Tommy John is a routine surgery that goes off without a hitch and that folks always bounce back from, there's always a degree of risk.
It's terrible for the Astros, who go from having a first-overall pick to having a second-overall pick -- and, concurrently, who have to wait a year to turn that pick into a prospect, at a time when "waiting a year" isn't exactly what anyone wants to do.
It's terrible that the Astros had to weather a bad P.R. storm, playing the role of the villains who promised this young man millions of dollars and then snatched them away right as Charlie Brown was about to kick a field goal.
It's terrible that Mac Marshall and Jacob Nix became pawns in this drama, though perhaps not entirely unwilling ones. And now, Brady Aiken is stuck with an injured elbow and no doubt a large case of wounded pride, all while his #BandOfBrothers find themselves looking for work, each having literally turned down millions of dollars. There's no guarantee they'll get that back. Maybe it all could have been avoided had the adults around Aiken been able to act with a little more maturity and responsibility. Maybe it couldn't have.
If there's a lesson to be learned, it's one that's been learned a thousand times before. Don't rush to judgement and villify somebody just because it's trendy, or because you're too short-sighted to even acknowledge the possibility that maybe the Astros really did see something concerning in the physical.
This is a lose-lose-lose situation, and I hate it. I hate everything about it. Part of me wishes the Astros had been wrong. Most of me hopes that Aiken bounces back and has a nice, long career. But my heart goes out to him - and to Marshall and Nix, as well.
My reaction is mixed. I don't feel any particular pleasure in Aiken's suffering, but I certainly do in the fact that the Astros have been vindicated (no matter which national writers still refuse to believe it). Aiken is a kid, and frankly, I think his decisions were dumb. But kids make dumb decisions, I sure did in my time. This is something he'll have to live with, and if he wants to keep fooling himself into believing he made the right call in ignoring the Astros' doctors and turning down life-changing money that he may well never see again, he's certainly welcome to. I can't say I hope he recovers, but I also don't hope he doesn't recover. Frankly, I just don't care. I won't dance with glee if he never pitches a big league inning, and I won't feel dejected if he throws a perfect game seven of the World Series for some other club some day. I can't sit here and tell you that I feel sick to my stomach about this terrible situation, because I don't. People get hurt, pitchers need surgery, careers flame out. It happens. Oscar Taveras? That made me feel terrible. Two people died. This? I don't feel terrible about his injury. I don't feel glad about his injury. It no longer matters, because he made his choice, we made ours, and frankly, I think we made the right call.
At this point, if you still want to pile on the Astros, you have to believe that, no only was Aiken fine and the Astros and/or their doctors lied about everything, but also that his elbow just happened to blow up immediately after he started pitching this year by coincidence (and remember that one of his selling points pre-draft was that he hadn't done a lot of the extra pitching and tournaments and so on that a lot of young guys are doing now, which are believed to contribute to arm injuries in the future). If you really believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. So yes, the front office is vindicated in this regard, and that's what I care about. We lost out on Nix who, statistically, doesn't have a great chance of being an impact MLB regular. We dodged a bullet with Aiken. Marshall was never going to be ours anyway. We'll get two elite prospects in a couple of months and the only people who will still care about this over-blown nonsense will be the people who aren't ready to stop grinding their axe against the Astros because they're doing things differently than the established "right way" to do them.
I have spent the last hour trying to come up with something to say, but it's hard. Maybe it is because the two sides of my brain are in competition with each other. On one side, I'm the father of a son just about Brady Aiken's age, so I have a parent's empathy for him in this situation. I couldn't imagine if my boy's future had a serious setback like this. As a rational, feeling being, I hope he eventually gets to live out his dream. On the other side, I have nothing but contempt for the way the Aiken's camp handled everything (last summer, and currently) by painting the picture of the Astros as a manipulative and evil group (and cheap, at that). Even after the team was still willing to pay millions for what they viewed as damaged goods (not to mention the costs they would incur from surgeons and rehab specialists when his elbow finally went), they insisted on throwing in not-so-veiled digs at the Astros about not being "comfortable". The fact that the team could not respond last summer due to the privacy issues surrounding the medicals, and will not respond now to the injury/surgery, leaves a big hole in the story. As a fan, that hole is the part that really bothers me, as it could affect how draft picks and free agents deal with the Astros for years to come. I just hope folks are smart, and see Aiken's "press release" for what it is; he's protecting his brand by using the same old "Astros bad" meme.
I guess one day we might know both sides of the story.
I hate it for the kid. His lifelong dream of playing baseball may be ruined. He may bounce back and have a good career but only time will tell. I wish for his sake he had taken whatever money Houston had thrown at him. That way not only would he be monitored by a MLB team, he would have an MLB team to rehab with and MLB doctors around. It really saddens me knowing that someone in his camp, whether that be him, his father, or Close was so cocky that they turned down the Astros guaranteed offer because emotions got in the way. I hope he's able bounce back and have a fantastic career (except when he faces the Astros).
Just as Anthony so eloquently stated, this is most definitely a lose-lose situation...right now.
However, as an eternal optimist, I will focus on what I hope ends up being the most important part of this story 5-10 years from now: redemption. Brady Aiken is still just 18 years old. To put himself in a position to be drafted 1-1, he obviously has the necessary talent in his left arm. In addition to that though, he also has shown tremendous self-discipline, work ethic, and dedication. If he applies that plus perseverance, my hope is that he can bounce back from this road bump, and fulfill his lifelong dream to play professional baseball. I hope that he realizes his dream, and I wish him nothing but health and success going forward. Good luck Brady Aiken!
For the Astros, as we know, they were given the number two overall pick as a result of not signing Aiken last year. At that immediate moment, it really stung. Here they just drafted a kid that they obviously genuinely liked and frankly gushed over, only to find out that there was much more risk in the player that they hoped would ultimately wear an Astros' hat in Cooperstown. Although it unfortunately did not end up that way, they have a chance for redemption by hitting a homerun with the second overall pick this year. There are some very intriguing and talented options in this year's draft, so the Astros can potentially walk away with a tremendous amount of talent (two picks in the top five, and four in the top 46). So as fans, we can hope that they add even more high-end, superstar-potential talent to their already well-stocked farm.
So although there is really no positive to come out of this unfortunate situation as of yet, the rest of the story is still unwritten. I hope that there is a happy ending for all parties involved.