“Quarterback U” is once again making headlines as “Coming-back U.”
When Mark Appel pulled an Andrew Luck on Friday, announcing that he was returning for his senior season and turning down $3.8 million from the Pittsburgh Pirates, he bought the Cardinal at least a few games it just couldn’t have won with another pitcher on the mound.
They say baseball’s all about winning the second game of a three-game series, and now Stanford has two starters who can do that consistently: Appel and rising junior A.J. Vanegas. Last season, a couple more series wins would have meant the difference between hosting a Super Regional and traveling to Tallahassee. Next year, they could be Stanford’s lifeline for any sort of postseason berth.
Appel is that lifeline. He’s that good, that important to a Cardinal pitching staff that’s seen better days. And his talents are staying on the Farm for another year.
Even more encouraging to Stanford than how much its baseball team’s stock suddenly shot up for next year, its athletes’ continued dedication to the University has got to make it most proud.
But it’s a head-scratcher, albeit a commendable one, that Appel values the final $60,000 of his Stanford education at nearly $4 million. Ballplayers come back in the offseason to finish off their degrees all the time, and there’s no real urgency for him to graduate before he begins his pro career.
Then again, Appel is a management science and engineering major, so who’s to doubt him when it comes to money?
And make no mistake; money was a major player here. Had Appel been the first overall pick—as was expected—he would have been offered over twice this much and likely would be wearing a minor-league uniform right now. Luck didn’t have the same luxury of testing the draft waters, since football and basketball players can’t renege on the pros once they decide to enter the draft.
In an injury sense, Appel’s decision is also much less risky than the one made by Luck, who was just one big hit away from never making it to the NFL. Pitchers suffer hand, elbow and shoulder injuries all the time, but at a young age they’re not usually of the career-ending variety.
When it comes to unfinished business, at first, I’m not really sure I buy the “coming back to win a national championship” argument here. Where Luck’s senior season was another glittering opportunity at a BCS bowl, Appel’s final year will be spent without the core of a roster that struggled in conference play and looked asleep in two straight Super Regionals.
Then again, anything can happen in baseball, and if Appel had pitched better against Florida State, the Cardinal would have been a win away from Omaha.
And therein lies Appel’s motivation for returning. I’ll be darned if that seven-run fourth inning didn’t leave a sour taste in his mouth, and Appel’s hoping another year on the Farm will be just the breath mint to erase those memories.
Chances are that Appel will make enough of a name for himself in the pros and nobody outside Palo Alto will care in 10 years what he did (or didn’t do) at Stanford. But if he’s working to improve his legacy here nonetheless, that shows real dedication to his fans, his teammates and, most importantly, his school.
It’s far too early to predict another 10-win season for the ace—again, he’ll have a depleted roster playing behind him—but our lasting image of Appel is not going to be the sweating, exhausted righty getting shelled in Tallahassee. He’s going to impress us yet again, and this time, 3.8 million George Washingtons will be turning their heads as well.
Joseph Beyda wouldn’t leave The Stanford Daily for $3.8 million. Really, he wouldn’t. But he’s always open to donations, so let him know how much you can donate to the Beyda Bank at firstname.lastname@example.org.