[Note: I wrote this before Game 7 against Toronto, but Ventura’s strong performance in a no decision still puts stardom in play for Ace Ventura in Game 3 of the World Series]
KC Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura has a rare opportunity before him. With a strong start today, followed by two more in the World Series, and he can capture enough public imagination to propel him to baseball super-stardom.
Being a superstar is about more than pure performance. A player has to do something that captures the imagination of baseball fans across the world. One way to achieve such notoriety is to perform unique, or rare, feats that few have seen before. Or, more commonly, you can excel on the game’s biggest stage.
That’s the chance that 24-year-old Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has lying before him.
Today, Yordano Ventura can pitch the KC Royals into their second consecutive World Series. If he succeeds, he and the Kansas City Royals will then face down a battery of aces in New York Mets pitchers Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard.
I’m sure no one will notice. The Kansas City Royals will just be playing against a team from the media capital of the world.
Just imagine if Yordano Ventura can secure a KC Royals World Series title by beating Mets phenom Jacob deGrom, who has already out-dueled Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and Jake Arrieta in this post-season.
That, boys and girls, is how playoff legends are made.
Ventura has struggled so far in the 2015 playoffs. In two starts against the Astros and one against the Blue Jays, Yordano Ventura has an unsightly 6.56 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched. However, those games will be forgotten as meaningless prelude if Ventura can dominate his next three starts.
The baseball public has a short memory.
Yordano Ventura certainly has the talent. The last two months of 2015, Ventura harnessed his best-in-baseball fastball among starting pitchers. In his final 10 starts of the 2015 regular season, Ventura went 6-1, with a 2.51 ERA and 10.3 K/9. He learned to compliment his fastball with off-speed stuff to make hitters swing and miss. He also learned to master his competitive fire to avoid touching off the ugly brawls that marred the beginning of the KC Royals 2015 season.
Yordano Ventura has already shown he can excel under pressure. He pitched seven shutout innings to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series. Add a Madison Bumgarner-like flourish to pitch the KC Royals to a title, and he’ll take his place among baseball’s elite.
What Yordano Ventura needs to do is relax and capture the full flowering of his prodigious natural ability. With a little help from his teammates, he will become an enduring legend in both Kansas City Royals history and his native Dominican Republic.
It’s yours for the taking, Yordano. Every kid that tosses a ball toward an imaginary home plate dreams about it. You have the chance to do it.
Make us proud!