Washington Football: Why Shaq Thompson's Baseball Struggles Are a Good Thing
Sometime in the last month in the great state of Washington, Steve Sarkisian sat in an office study, methodically rotating a pair of stress balls in one hand, watching a Gulf Coast League Red Sox game in silent darkness with a rocks glass filled with scotch whiskey.
Okay, I really have no way of confirming that, but if I was the head coach of the University of Washington football team and my star recruit was playing professional baseball all summer, I would not be taking it lightly.
Shaq Thompson played one year of baseball at Grant Union High School in Sacramento before being selected in the 18th-round of the MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox.
Since then, he has completely stunk for 13 games with the GLC Red Sox.
Let me rephrase that: His play has been an abomination. Mind-numbingly awful. Unfathomably wretched.
In his defense, he played one season in high school! The last time he picked up a bat and stepped up to the plate competitively before 2011 was in sixth grade. No wonder he has gone 0-39 with a marvelous 37 strikeouts in 13 games with the GCL Red Sox.
Sure, reports from this article by Alex Speier of WEEI Sports in Boston suggest that Thompson is a hugely likeable guy. I‘m sure he is. But he can’t hit a baseball.
If I am Sarkisian, I am secretly rooting for his hitless streak to continue.
Best of Both Worlds
Thompson is the top recruit in the state of California and the fourth in the nation at the safety position according to Yahoo! Sports. WEEI reported that Thompson changed his commitment to play for Cal for an agreement that he can continue to pursue baseball professionally while playing football for UW.
He earned a $45,000 signing bonus. Not a bad deal, right? You really can’t blame the man from taking some cash and trying his luck on the diamond, especially since he won’t be making any stipend or any other type of revenue from his performance in his entire college football career. It’s the best of both worlds: two sports plus money.
Unless, of course, you collide with a teammate running full speed while chasing down a pop up in no-man’s land in left-center field. Or you get beaned with a pitch and have to sit out for 4-6 weeks of the football season.
Injuries of these kinds don’t happen everyday. But why would the Huskies want their player even risking this. They recruited him because they agreed to let him play both sports, sure. But wouldn’t you be covertly wishing for his next 37 strikeouts if you knew he had some football to play?
Swing, batter batter. Swing, batter batter. Schhhwiiing batter.
Ready to Play, Football, Not Baseball
If Thompson has half of the work ethic he is reported as having in a three-week stint in the GCL, Sarkisian will have an absolute star for at least two years to come. He is ready to play now, evidenced by his high recruitment, athletic ability and because he has actually played the game of football in the last six years.
If you’re Sarkisian, you just hope that he will have enough time and energy to learn the system and playbook that will be implemented at UW and adjust to the speed of the college game.
How can you do that when you are too busy getting struck out by mediocre pitchers in a rookie-level league like the GCL?
He can’t hit. He can’t hit. He can’t hit. Schwiiiiing batter.
Young and Experimental
The more Thompson chases breaking balls in the dirt and fans on fastballs high in the strike zone, the more he will become discouraged with the game of baseball in general.
All the better!
The man hopes to make a career out of athletics. The sooner he realizes how much he truly stinks at the game of baseball, the more focused he will be in striving to reach his true potential in football.
Hey, Thompson is 18 years old. He’s going to want to take risks and challenge himself. You’d rather he wastes his time experimenting with baseball than acid.
At this point in his baseball career, though, I’m not sure it would be a bad thing if he stepped in the box tuned in. Remember Doc Ellis.
Even Michael Jordan needed to dabble with baseball before he realized just how silly a decision it was.
Thompson’s ideas of playing professional baseball are like Ron Artest’s desire to focus on his rap career, without all of the psychopathic tendencies. So maybe more like Shaquille O’Neal’s rap and movie career.
(By the way, I don’t care what sport it is, there shouldn’t be another player named Shaq in all of professional athletics for the rest of time. For that reason, I’m calling Shaq Thompson “Crab-Shaq” from now on. I can tell you how I came up with this, but it’s not worth it. We’ll see if it catches on.)
Shaq the Way He Ought to Be
Washington football is on the upswing since Sarkisian entered the fold. With Jake Locker at the helm of the offense, the Huskies scored the second-most points in franchise history during the 2011 season (434 points), the most since their 1991 national championship.
With Locker playing in a Tennessee Titan uniform next season, it is likely that Washington will need to bolster its defense to make up for the transitional period that is sure to come from losing a prolific starting quarterback to the NFL.
At a time when the Pac-12 is weakening and your team has just signed massive television contracts, it is more important than ever that the Huskies prove their worth to a nation of fans and potential recruits and the entire Bowl Championship Series Committee.
What better way to start than with one of the top five defensive recruits in he country?
Of course, he needs to be ready to play in order for his impact to be at all meaningful.