Stroman grew up in Medford, N.Y., in Suffolk County. His parents split up when he was in 5th grade of elementary school but still have a good relationship, living barely a mile apart and working together to raise Marcus and his two siblings.
Earl Stroman is a police detective. He coached his son’s football, basketball, and baseball teams when Marcus was young, before passing him along to more advanced coaching.
"Basketball was my first love,” he said. “But I realized I could go further in baseball. I still miss basketball. But it was the right decision.”
Earl Stroman is a police detective, who offset his own small stature with an unrelenting will in the gym. He lifted every day and transformed himself into a physically imposing man. Earl, who is African-American, schooled his son on the inherent unfairness in life, that because he was small and black, he'd have to work twice as hard as anyone else to survive. He needed to be cocky, to know he was the best, and then back that attitude with action.
As a 6-year-old, Marcus was already running parachute sprints and dragging weighted sleds.
Though divorced, both parents were heavily involved in his life: Adlin, his mother, was the supporting, loving one, and Earl was the hard-ass. In the weeks that Marcus stayed with his father, Early would sometimes awaken his son before 5:00 a.m. so they could work out. They'd return to the gym later that night.
"Go to work Boo," Earl would tell Marcus.
"He pushed me to the edge," Stroman says of his father. "He was intense." (Robert Sanchez - ESPN the Magazine - 5/08/2017)
Stroman played point guard in high school through his senior year. He was second-team all-Long Island as a senior.
In 2009, the Nationals chose Stroman in the 18th round and offered him a bonus of $400,000. But Stroman turned them down. Instead, he went to Duke University.
In 2012, the Blue Jays drafted Stroman (see Transactions below).
- Marcus is the first Duke player to be drafted in the first round of the MLB draft. He earned All-American honors from Louisville Slugger and Baseball America during his junior year. Stroman was also First-Team all ACC academic honor roll selection in 2012.
September 2012: Stroman tested positive for the stimulant Methylhexaneamine and MLB suspended him for 50 games, beginning in April 2013.
So Marcus did not begin his 2013 season until May 19. He said his suspension was from an over-the-counter supplement that he had been using before workouts.
"When [the news] first came out, that was hard to be on (Twitter)," Stroman admitted. "I kind of stepped away from Twitter. But I feel like it's out there, it is what it is. I'm not going to run from it. I'm not going to be one to completely shut down Twitter and shut down my interaction with everyone.
"It is what it is, people realize what it was. I'm moving forward from it, I'm completely past it. I used the extended spring training period I had to develop my pitches and I think that kind of propelled me to the season. Looking back at it now, it was an honest mistake and I owned up to it. I'm just looking forward to the future."
In 2013, Baseball America rated Stroman as the 7th-best prospect in the Blue Jays' organization. He was moved up to #2 in the winter before 2014 spring training.
- In September 2013, Marcus threw a touching curve ball at his mother when he surprised her by paying off her mortgage.
Stroman tweeted, “About to do something legendary…” before posting a video on Instagram of his mother’s shocked reaction to the news.
January 2014: The fact that Stroman has yet to make his Major League debut has less to do with his overall abilities and more to do with Toronto's philosophy on developing prospects. The Blue Jays' organization stresses patience with its young players and often resists the urge to skip any steps along the way. That can be difficult to handle for a lot of prospects, but in Stroman's case, he understands there are a lot of positives with it as well.
"Yes and no," Stroman said when asked if he was frustrated by the club's philosophy. "I'd say yes, because you put in all this hard work and you feel like you're ready to contribute, but there is that waiting factor. And then no, because it shows you that they believe in you, that they want you to develop and refine everything that you have in your arsenal so that when you do get to the big league level, you're ready to contribute right away.
"They don't want you to have any doubts in your pitches or your mound presence or anything else. It's a little bit of both sides there, but it definitely makes you want to work harder to push the envelope a little bit."
The biggest benefit of Stroman's extended stint in the minor leagues is the amount of time that has been put into his development as a starting pitcher. When Stroman was drafted, the initial belief was that he would be best served as a reliever and had the potential to become a future closer.
One reason behind that scouting report was that Stroman is just 5-foot-9 and there were questions about his overall durability. That's a stereotype the New York native has been battling his entire playing career, and so far he has proven the skeptics wrong at every turn. (Gregor Chisholm - MLB.com - 1/10/14)
March 6, 2014: Stroman has always been a fiery and animated pitcher. "I'm very critical of myself; that's the way I've been my whole life," Stroman said. "I expect nothing but the best out of me. I'm my harshest critic; that's how I've always been, and that's how I always will be. I definitely have some work to do, but I know that I'll get there."
It is certainly not a stretch to consider Stroman a perfectionist on the mound, but he is also not someone who is going to sit there and lament for days about where things went wrong. That is a good quality to have as a starting pitcher with another outing looming in the not-so-distant future.
"You have to have a short memory in this game," Stroman said. "I'm not going to dwell on each performance. I'm going to come to the park the next day, put a smile on my face, and I work hard and get after it again and get ready for my next start."
He may be small in stature, but there's no shortage of heart in Marcus Stroman. And that's what Blue Jays manager John Gibbons likes about his young pitcher. "He's good, and confident," said Gibbons. "Very productive for us."
At 5-foot-9, the knock on Stroman has been that he's too short to succeed. But that type of analysis has only fueled the fire that burns inside of him.
"It's something that I've faced my whole life, and I kind of enjoy it now," said Stroman. "I enjoy being small, because you're always doing things you're not supposed to do."
When he didn't make the Blue Jays' roster out of 2014 spring training, Stroman headed for the club's Triple-A affiliate, the Bisons. He burned through the competition in the early goings of this season. It appeared inevitable that the Medford, N.Y., native would eventually join the big club.
Stroman's time in Buffalo was valuable. It allowed him time to work on his changeup, the last pitch in his five-pitch repertoire. He's been throwing it steadily since 2012, and he now uses it to great effect as a counterpoint to his mid-90s fastball.
"It's a pitch that I feel really complements my arsenal and helps me a ton," he said. "It's huge. I think a good, quality change can probably be one of the best, if not the best pitch in baseball … as far as messing up [a hitter's] timing." (Ross - mlb.com - 5/9/14)
September 17, 2014: Stroman appealed a six-game suspension imposed by MLB for throwing at the head of a Baltimore hitter, Caleb Joseph. He stayed in the game, struck out Joseph to end the inning and engaged the Baltimore dugout as he left the mound. Stroman's pitch came a half-inning after Joseph blocked the plate as Jose Reyes slid home. Marcus, four days later, had his penalty cut from six to five games.
Marcus's slogan is "Height Doesn't Measure Heart." And he is a mental stalwart who always believes positively.
"I never have a doubt," Stroman said early in 2017. "I feel like once you doubt a situation, you've already lost. I just put a lot of confidence into myself."
His 'Height Doesn't Measure Heart' T-shirts and New Era caps are no as omnipresent on him as the gold HDMH" charm that dangles from his necklace.
Marcus will take three classes in the spring of 2015, two more later in the summer and plans to graduate with a major in Sociology and a minor in Markets and Management studies in December. He'll have a busy schedule with a mixture of classes and rehab programs on his long road to recovery.
"My parents pushed me from a very early age to make sure that it was all academics first," Stroman said. "I was a kid who wasn't allowed out if I wasn't going to work, or I was the kid studying when everyone else was partying. That's something I always try to preach to everyone I'm around, even high school students now, I always try to gear them towards college.
"I tell them that to kind of get them going on that degree path, at least where they're getting close. If they want to play professional baseball they can still go back and get their degree. It means a lot, because you never know what can happen." (Chisholm - mlb.com - 4/24/15)
Before Marcus Stroman became a Twitter self-help guru, and even before he appeared on our television screens as the 5-foot-8, ACL-surgery-has-nothing-on-me Blue Jays phenom we know today, he was Marcus, an audience member on Nickelodeon's "Figure It Out."
"Figure It Out" was one of those those game shows in the '90s that featured kid contestants, celebrity guests culled from other Nickelodeon shows and a lot of slime. And, lo and behold, one of the episodes from the show's 1997-1998 first season had none other than a young Stroman in the audience. Stroman was the randomly selected audience member who won a Toys R Us gift certificate, all because one of the contestants … asked a question. (Ben Cosman - 2015)
- 2016: Stroman adds to his resume as he raps on Mike Stud's new album. Stud, whose real name is Seander, was a former relief pitcher at Duke and Georgetown who finished his college career with a 3.41 ERA over 87 innings pitched. So even if you know nothing of his musical abilities, now you know a little something about his baseball work.
The album comes out on Jan. 12, so there's just a little bit of time left to remember music as it was, before Stroman changed it forever.
Every big-name athlete has at least a couple of those "I made it" moments, and for Stroman it happened when he met basketball legend Charles Barkley during the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto.
The startling thing wasn't that Stroman got to meet Barkley, but that the Hall of Famer knew his story. It was Barkley who pulled Stroman aside during the All-Star weekend to tell him that he was an "inspiration." As Stroman reflected on their recent conversation, he still seemed giddy over the encounter.
"I was at a dinner and he was there with his family and friends, and he just kind of called out to me," Stroman said. "He had me come over to his table, sat me down. It was pretty special. He told me he was familiar with my story, told me how much of an inspiration I was and I had a really good talk with him for about 10-15 minutes.
"It was crazy just being a huge basketball fan. He's the man, he's one of the funniest guys to watch on TV being an analyst, and just to see that someone of that nature is familiar with who I am is pretty special."
During their chance encounter, Barkley praised Stroman's decision to return to Duke University in the summer of 2015 to complete his degree while rehabbing a torn ACL ligament in his left knee. Toronto's promising right-hander not only finished his education, but he also made a stunning recovery from surgery by getting back onto the field in September and excelling in the postseason.
Stroman was 9 years old when Barkley retired from basketball in 2000. Like a lot of people, Stroman was a big fan, and the fondness grew as he got older and watched Barkley on TNT, where he became one of the most popular analysts in sports with an uncanny sense of humor and blunt takes on teams and players around the league.
Barkley has been a superstar for more than three decades, yet it wasn't Stroman who was full of praise during their conversation, it was the other way around.
"When he said my name I was just like, 'What?'" Stroman said, shaking his head still in awe. "I was kind of taken aback, and then when he said he knew my story it just shows you how crazy it is. It's truly special, and I'm just honored to be in the position that I'm in.
"I still feel like a little kid when I have these run-ins with celebs and people who are familiar with me. I look up to them, I get giddy like a little kid on Christmas when I meet some of these individuals, and it's crazy to me to know that they know my story, and for them to think that I'm an inspiration when I think the same of them. It's humbling and it's been fun." (Chisholm - MLB.com - 2/26/16)
Stroman was selected to be the cover athlete of the Canadian version of 2016 R.B.I. Baseball 16 Playstation game. Mookie Betts will be on the U.S. version.
Stroman took over as the team's undisputed ace during his third big league season in spring 2016. It has been a meteoric rise of sorts and one that will come with added pressure and scrutiny, but Stroman believes that's the type of environment in which he thrives.
"I think that brings out the best in me," Stroman said. "The more pressure, the more that you have to get it done, I feel like the more I rise to the occasion. I'm excited to be the ace, I'm looking forward to running with it and I think I've put myself in a position where I've worked extremely hard. I've worked like an ace, so now the fact that I can actually go out there and be the ace is extremely gratifying and just shows the confidence that not only the team or my brothers have behind me, but the entire country of Canada has in me. I'm excited."
"I'm more strong now physically, mentally and emotionally than I have ever been," Marcus said. "I went through a lot in 2015 and I learned about myself, the character of myself, because I was at a really low point in my life when I tore my ACL.
"Being able to battle back, get my degree while doing so, I feel like I'm in the best position now than I've ever been as far as confidence and I'm ready to just kind of take it and run with it."
Stroman likely doesn't have enough tenure in the league to be a vocal off-the-field leader quite yet, but he can definitely lead by example. He has one of the most vigorous workout routines in the Majors, he is a close friend and protege of veteran lefty Mark Buehrle and he got to experience firsthand what it was like to be around Price.
"I picked those guys' brains as much as I could while they were here," said Stroman. "DP actually just texted me and said, 'Congrats on getting Opening Day 2016, young champ.' That just shows you the type of individual he is.
"I'll look to take as many things as I can from DP, from guys like Buehrle. Not only things on the field like tempo, pitch sequences, the way they go about their business in the clubhouse, but also things off the field—how to handle your business—and I've just been in an extremely lucky position to play with those guys." (Chisholm - MLB.com - 3/23/16)
Stroman travels with his own spotlight. Wherever he goes, the former Patchogue-Medford High School star totes his 192,361 Twitter followers (@MStrooo6) and 259,000 more on Instagram. No wonder the back of his personalized Nike Jordan cap reads “STROSHOW,” the benefit of a newly inked deal signed weeks earlier with the shoe giant.
Pound-for-pound, few players pack as much entertainment value as Stroman does into his 5-8 frame. And that’s not something he unpacks only for Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Even on this minor-league mound, facing Double-A hitters, Stroman is operating at max levels — scolding himself, smiling after strikeouts. One victim gets pounded hard with fastballs, then nearly falls down swinging when Stroman cuts the throttle for an unhittable changeup.
The kid is laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of that pitch as he looks over at Stroman, who is grinning back at him. “That’s a big-league cambio, son,” Stroman says, using the Spanish word for change.
This is playground stuff. When the game actually is a game and it’s still fun. Stroman is among the sport’s new generation that wants baseball to reflect those feelings, to shake it free from the straitjacket it’s worn for the past century. Bryce Harper rekindled the debate this spring, saying that baseball needs to be jolted awake from its “tired” state. But few live those words as openly as Stroman, and he’s only getting warmed up.
“I have a big personality, so I always push myself no matter what,” he said. “I’m always going to be myself no matter what the situation is. So the fact that the game is getting younger, and you’re allowed to be yourself, it’s just more accommodating to the young players coming up. So I’m all for that. It’s baseball taking a little bit of a turn, getting out of the older ways. And I’m all for showing personality and emotion out there.”
Stroman isn’t limiting that to between the lines. He posts frequently on Twitter, and in a recent tweet, Stroman writes, “Yeah, I stay up late at night, thinkin’ bout my life, want a lot, will I get it all? #aintnotellin”
The flip side to showing personality, maybe the hazard of it, also means leaving yourself more exposed. A look-at-me generation that consumes social media like oxygen risks giving too much to people who will use it for more nefarious purposes. Because once that personal snapshot is indeed out there, there’s no erasing the image,
Baseball’s unwritten conduct rules get stretched more each season. And players such as Harper and Stroman — to mention some of the more higher-profile names taking part in the movement — aren’t deterred by the risks involved with breaking new ground.
“Nah, I have zero worries,” Stroman said. “I know how hard I work. I know that a lot of people who are going to judge you are the people who aren’t working as hard as you. So when I put it all into perspective and realize how short life is, I honestly just truly enjoy every position that I’m in. Having fun is being able to show your personality, and that’s how I’m going to be, regardless of what anybody says.” (David Lennon - Newsday - March 26, 2016)
April 15, 2016: For the first time in his career, Stroman was in a Major League uniform, wearing No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.
"It means a lot for me," Stroman said. "I'm African-American, so without his efforts, who knows. He was the guy who paved the way, who integrated baseball. I couldn't be more thankful for anybody than Jackie Robinson. Without him, arguably you could say I wouldn't be in the position I am today. So I'm extremely thankful to wear 42 on his special day."
"I knew a pretty good amount about him," Stroman said. "Actually, I did a couple of book reports and school projects on him growing up. I know he went to UCLA. I knew he was a several-sport athlete. I knew his upbringing and his background. I've always been pretty in-tune with his career and what he did and just thankful for him." (M Mullen - MLB.com - April 16, 2016)
BROMANCE WITH SANCHEZ
Toronto Blue Jays resident BFFs and starting pitchers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez can’t recall at this point exactly when and where they first met or when they initially connected as pals. It may or may not have been at a Tampa steakhouse, or on some dusty Blue Jays minor league Florida practice field in nearby Dunedin back in 2012. They did share the same agent when they were in the minors, so that first official meeting was inevitable.
At this point, four years later, all that matters to them, their Blue Jays teammates and a few million baseball fans in Canada is that they did meet.
They call each other “brother” so often it would be far more poetic if they played in Philadelphia. Sanchez and Stroman spoke to Bleacher Report in separate one-on-one interviews here this past weekend about their fraternal bond and how it has helped carry them to the majors.
For this “Duo of Brothers,” every day has become St. Crispin's Day.
“In the beginning, we were just friends. But we started hanging together in the minors,” Sanchez said. “Ever since then, we became brothers. He’s my best friend and knows more about me than anyone else. But he’s more my brother than anything else.”
For Stroman, the Blue Jays' Opening Day starter in 2016, his relationship with Sanchez has grown into a brotherhood thanks to shared time and purpose.
“It’s similar to the family aspect in a sense of the bond that you have between two individuals. It’s no different than having a brother—even though there isn’t blood,” Stroman said. “In baseball, you spend time with your teammates and your buddies more so than with your family. So from February to November, I’m with my brothers—we get to the clubhouse anywhere from noon to 2 on a game day, and we’re here until 11 p.m. at night.
The "Stromance" between Sanchez and Stroman has been social media fodder for at least two years and has its own #StroChez hashtag.
Stroman and Sanchez share a Toronto apartment, which has a spare room for visiting family and friends. They spend just about each waking hour together, whether or not they're at the ballpark.
"We enjoy being in [Toronto]. Toronto is not much different than New York. It’s much, much cleaner, smaller, nicer people, like a smaller New York City. It’s a very diverse place, and it fits our personalities well,” Stroman said.
The diverse geographic roots of its members are another unique component of this unlikely alliance.
Stroman is a determined, confident 5'8" starting pitcher from Stony Brook, New York. His parents were divorced when he was in the fifth grade. His father, a New York City police detective, spent considerable time with the young Stroman in fostering his baseball talent and his fearless attitude.
Stroman is one of seven starting pitchers 5'9" or shorter to pitch in the Majors, according to pointafter.com's sortable database. He has branded himself around a trademarked slogan that reads "Height Doesn't Measure Heart."
“That’s his personality,” Sanchez said. “He likes to prove doubters wrong, and he’s done it his whole life. You don’t see a lot of 5'8" starting pitchers in the game.”
"The difference in our backgrounds goes along with our story," Stroman said. "We’re very different personality types. Our upbringing has something to do with it. I was brought up on Long Island. I spent a lot of time in New York and have been around cities a ton. Aaron is from a small-population city. Ever since we started hanging out, he’s kind of opened up and his personality started coming out."
Sanchez, 23, said any soft-spoken persona is often temporary. “If you know me, you get the full me,” he said. “If I don’t really know you, I’m kind of reserved. He gets to see the real me.”
How close are these two? “It’s definitely unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two guys who didn’t grow up together be so close,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
This common experience has led to an uncommon friendship.
“It’s unique between me and Marcus because we’re doing memories of a lifetime, doing something we love,” Sanchez said. “A lot of people don’t understand it’s nice to have that same friend with you because we go through a lot of the same (stuff) of being so young and being away. We’re there for each other and we know when someone is missing their family they always have that brother right there to feel comfortable and know that we’re going through the same thing together.
Whenever one half of #StroChez is pitching, the other is emotionally along for the ride.
“I had runners on base a couple of time and I could hear Marcus (from the dugout) saying ‘Come on, let’s go. Now’s the time. This is the hitter you want.’ Stuff like that,” Sanchez said.
To no one’s surprise on the Blue Jays bench, Stroman was the first player atop the dugout steps to greet him.
“You know that umbilical cord can only go so tight before it snaps back,” Gibbons deadpanned.
“I try to be that top-step guy, more so for him, because we’ve been through the trials and tribulations together. We know each other better than many other people know each other. I can go up to him and say 'I think you should focus on this a little more,' and it resonates more than if it was coming from someone else,” Stroman said.
“When Marcus is pitching, I feel like I’m out there with every pitch. The thing about Marcus is that he trusts and values my opinion, as I do for him. If I see something when he’s pitching, or he sees something when I’m pitching, it’s easy for us to have that dialogue together, as opposed to someone else coming up to him,” Sanchez said
“He’s such an emotional guy. He’s so anxious to pitch,” Sanchez said. “When he’s out there, it’s more like me telling him to ‘calm down’ or ‘keep control.’ It’s more about staying in the moment. It’s about knowing that if you get the ball on the ground and stuff behind you doesn’t go the way you want, you need to just keep going.”
Gibbons sees plenty of benefit in the #StroChez dynamic. “They’re basically out there with each other whenever one of them pitches. They push each other, they encourage each other, and they get on each other. If I need to talk to one of them about something, and it applies to the other, I can say ‘just go see your buddy, too.’ So you don’t always have to go to the source to get your message across.”
When the two do talk baseball away from the field—a rarity—the conversations are forward-focused and center around approaching a hitter or a certain lineup
These are professional athletes living the dream in the big city and enjoying every coveted minute away from baseball. On an off night, you might find them “playing games, laying low or going out to eat at a cool restaurant,” Stroman said. “We’re normal people.”
“It was easy to get along with him,” Sanchez said. “He likes the same stuff as me off the field. We like to just get away. We try not to be so in-depth with baseball; when we’re away, it’s keeping the mood light and keeping the vibes good. It’s making sure that you’re having fun.”There are no disputes over who’s the messy one, or when it comes time to cook the occasional at-home meal.
“We have a good dynamic. We don’t fight, ever.” Stroman said. “We have two different personalities. I think we kind of round each other out. There’s a great dynamic.
And Sanchez's constant presence, Stroman said, remains a calming, stabilizing effect.
“It’s good to have someone there that you can bounce ideas off of and someone there that knows what you’re going through lately. It limits stress. It limits the tough times that you go through because you have someone there that’s usually going through the same thing you’re going through,” he said. (Bill Speros/Bleacher Report/ May 4, 2016)
May 15, 2016: Stroman could not have felt any lower when he tore the ACL in his left knee in the spring of 2015, but as the Blue Jays right-hander looks back now, he thinks it might have been a blessing in disguise.
Not only did Stroman return in September and play a pivotal role for Toronto in the postseason, but he went back to Duke University during his rehab process to complete his sociology degree. The days were long, the work was hard, but the countless hours will all be worth it when he walks across the stage.
Stroman was in attendance to receive his diploma at Duke's spring commencement. Many friends and family members were there as Stroman officially fulfills the promise he made to his mother back in 2012 that he would complete his education. (Gregor Chisholm - MLB.com)
December 3, 2016: Stroman announced that he would pitch for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
February 23, 2017: If you were to think of one Blue Jays player who could make his teammates smile, who would that be? Marcus Stroman, of course.
During the club’s spring training picture day, Marcus acted as “official photographer.” Stroman showed off his work in a Players’ Tribune post.
“Everything about photo day at Jays camp changed this year when The Players’ Tribune asked me to flip the script and take over as our official photographer,” Stroman wrote. “We kept it extremely loose, and I gave guys the freedom to really be themselves.” (Sportsnet Staff - February 23, 2017)
March 22, 2017: Stroman dazzled for Team USA as it secured its first World Baseball Classic championship with an 8-0 victory, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning and stifling a Puerto Rican lineup that had slugged its way through the tournament with a plus-37 run differential and a perfect 7-0 record.
His performance earned him Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament as well as a spot on the 2017 All-World Baseball Classic Team. (Chad Thornburg - MLB.com)
Marcus had dozens of tattoos. They include a Martin Luther King quoted on his right pectoral, "Dreamchaser" down one arm and "BREAKING STEREOTYPES" along a forearm.
"He's smart, he's passionate and he's talented," Blue Jays 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson said. "And he definitely has a chip on his shoulder."
In Stroman's case, that is a literal statement. He got a poker chip tattooed atop his right shoulder in 2014 with the words "Critics Doubters & Haters"written on it.
"I like pressure," he says, then pauses. "No. I love it, I've always loved it."
Feb 16, 2018: Marcus admits that his emotions got the best of him after he came out on the losing end of his recent arbitration case in Arizona. Stroman created a bit of a stir on social media when he opened up about his frustrations surrounding the case. One of his tweets included the quote: "The negative things that were said against me, by my own team, will never leave my mind."
The 26-year-old later deleted the tweet and insisted he was not mad. The following day, Stroman addressed the media for the first time since the incident and tried to provide some clarity on why he said what he said and some of the regrets that come along with it.
"It's an extremely tough process," Stroman said. "I went through it last year. I went through it again this year. It's not a process that is enjoyable at all. I was frustrated. I tweeted pretty much what happens during the arbitration case, which is the other side doesn't say very nice things about you, and they bring up your entire career. It's tough. It's tough to sit in a room like that for five hours, be quiet and listen to all of the things that date back to the time I was in the big leagues that worked against you. I was upset and I think I have every right. I think if I wasn't upset, it would be even weirder."
The Blue Jays, like most Major League teams, used outside counsel to represent the organization during the hearing. Both sides made their case, and eventually an independent arbiter sided with the Blue Jays for a salary of $6.5 million, instead of the $6.9 million that Stroman had been seeking. Part of the arbitration process involves both sides making their case. Toronto's representatives argued for the lower salary, while Stroman's team argued for the higher amount. It's not immediately clear exactly what the Blue Jays focused on during the hearing, but the arguments typically include a lot of comparisons to other players along with a plethora of stats and rankings.
Stroman didn't want to attend the meeting after experiencing it first-hand a year ago, but he said it was mandatory. The case appeared to create friction between the two sides, but Stroman and general manager Ross Atkins sat down to clear the air. Stroman was adamant that his relationship with the organization was not damaged and he is just simply looking to turn the page.
"There's no bad relationship there," Stroman said. "It's something I was frustrated with. Even when I went through it last year, those things that they say in that room, even though you don't want to hold onto those things, you do. To be honest with you, I pitched with a lot of those things in my head last year. A lot of the things they said, that was motivation, that was fuel to the fire, that I pitched with last year. I understand it's a process and I understand it's going to blow over in the next couple of days. My relationship with the team is still the same. It's still extremely strong. I talked with Ross, and I'm just excited for this year."
Stroman has two years of arbitration remaining after the 2018 season, so it's possible he's headed for a similar fate in the future. One way to avoid that is by signing a multi-year extension. Stroman said he has always been open to negotiating something long-term, and while he hasn't received any offers from the Blue Jays, he doesn't expect the recent events to change any of that.
"I can't express to you, honestly, how much I love the city of Toronto," Stroman said. "How much I love the country of Canada. I know I'm not a Canadian citizen, but I truly do feel like one. I promise you that. That's evident in the sponsorships I work with, the businesses, the companies that I'm an ambassador for. That's evident in the trips that I take back to Toronto in the offseason, cross-country trips that I take to see the fans. I love this country. I do, and I want to be here. That's it. I want to be here and I want to be here long term. I just want to feel like I'm wanted here." (G Chisholm - MLB.com - Feb 16, 2018)
March 2018: Marcus appeared in a new commercial for New Era Caps. It features some of the best young players in the game, including Stroman, Jose Altuve, Corey Seager, Dellin Betances, Robinson Cano and Javier Baez.
April 7, 2018: The touching tributes to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's Humboldt Broncos tragedy have been pouring in from everywhere. On Friday, April 6, 2018, the team's bus crashed on the way to a playoff game, killing 15 people. Marcus Stroman, who started on the mound for the Jays against the Rangers, sported a hat that had "Humboldt Broncos!" inscribed on the right side, and "SK" on the left for Saskatchewan.
According to MLB.com's Dic Humphrey, Stroman doesn't have a special connection with the Broncos, but he wanted to show sympathy for the lives lost in the accident. The Rangers also held a moment of silence at Globe Life Park in memory of the Broncos prior to the game. Before the game, we held a moment of silence for members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team who were involved in a fatal bus accident. 🇨🇦 #PrayersForHumboldt (J Kleinschmidt - MLB.com - April 7, 2018)
Much the way anything is improved with the addition of adorable baby animals, so too is yoga improved with the addition of goats. Now, we can't say if they'll help you get deeper into your king pigeon pose, or if they'll help open you up to spiritual enlightenment, but they'll definitely make it more fun.
Just take a look at Marcus Stroman, whose yoga practice now includes ... a goat on his back. (Cut4-MLB-Feb. 2019)
Feb 17, 2019: Marcus Stroman spoke to the media for the first time this spring 2019, and what ensued was a wide-ranging 21-minute interview that touched on almost every aspect of his game and the Blue Jays rosterStroman spoke out about the lack of veteran leadership in the clubhouse, the current state of free agency and the lack of big moves Toronto made this offseason. With his own free agency looming two years from now, Stroman also went on record to say he has not received any long-term contract offers from the club.
Here are some of the top excerpts from Stroman's eventful scrum.
On becoming a leader as one of the club's most-tenured players ...
Stroman: "I love the idea of being a leader. I think if you asked any of the guys they would tell you I'm a leader. ... They know I got them. Every single person knows that. I think it's a little weird coming into the clubhouse, having Jose Bautista's original locker when he used to be a veteran. I think it's different. I think it's pretty sad that the game's losing the ability to put these veteran presences in clubhouses because I don't think that people understand how valuable having those guys in the game [is].
"I would have never been the pitcher I am today if I didn't have the likes of Mark Buehrle, LaTroy Hawkins, Casey Janssen, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera. I came up with unbelievable guys who have been in this game established for years. I cannot tell you how much I've learned from those guys. Without those guys' knowledge that they spewed to me sitting in the cage, sitting on the field, day in, day out, I wouldn't be the pitcher I am today."
On dealing with trade rumors ...
Stroman: "I promise you I'm in a great place mentally. The trade rumours, it's a business, it is what it is. I could care less. I'm at that point in my career where there's going to be trade rumours. I can tell you one thing, there's no one that embodies or loves pitching for the city of Toronto or the country of Canada more than me, nor will you ever find them. No one. I can promise you that. That's raw passion, emotion, that's real. I go back to the city of Toronto and country of Canada all the time in the offseason because I want to see the people, because I enjoy the culture. You can't teach that, that's something that's ingrained in me that I love. That's pretty much all I have to say on that."
On whether his commitment to the organization has wavered with no long-term extension ...
Stroman: "I'm committed to this city and the people and the country of Canada. I love the people. I'm committed to those people. The city, the people, the life, the culture, all across Canada. I don't go and take trips in the offseason across Canada in St. John's, Moncton, Ottawa, Saskatoon for nothing. I do that because I love seeing the people and it's such a passionate country, coast to coast. It's something that I love to get out there and see. It's hard to say. It's a business, but I don't look at it that way anymore. I honestly look at it, I'm thankful to have been in the city of Toronto since 2012 and I love Canada. Canada will always be a part of me regardless of what happens going forward."
On whether he's been forced to become a veteran early on ...
Stroman: "I am. It's weird. I have no problem stepping into that role, but it's weird for a 27-year-old to be a veteran in this clubhouse. I walked into this clubhouse and I have Jose Bautista's locker. When I walked in it was Melky Cabrera, Bautista, LaTroy. It's very, very different where the game is going. Like I said, the young wave of guys is extremely talented, but they need to be mentored. They need to know how to go about the ins and outs."
On his relationship with the front office ...
Stroman: "It's a business, man. It's a business. Mentally, I'm ready to perform wherever it may be. I want to play here. I've been wanting to play here for a long time. I've been waiting to sign a long-term deal, I've been offered nothing. There's no one that embodies the city of Toronto more than me, and you're not going to find guys who come in and want to embody the city of Toronto because it's just not natural. I've taken a liking to that myself. That has been organic and natural. It's not something I had to do. It's something I wanted to do. Like I said, I've always wanted to be here. I want to pitch in the AL East, I want to pitch against the Yankees. I want to pitch against the Red Sox. People shy away from that. People go away and hide in other leagues. I'm here. I don't care who's in the box. I'll face anybody. I could care less."
On whether the lack of extension talk is bothersome ...
Stroman: "Would it bother you? I play year-to-year, pretty much. It doesn't affect my relationship with the country of Canada. I'm able to disconnect the two now, between business and people. Just as long as the people know how I feel, that's all I really care about."
On whether Stroman has approached Mark Shapiro/Ross Atkins about an extension ...
Stroman: "No, but I don't think I should have to go and verbally say that. They see it. Everybody sees my work ethic. Everyone sees the passion, everyone sees how hard I work on the daily, year-round. It's not like I'm just working sometimes. I put a lot of emphasis into my body and being good at this game. A lot more than most people. There is nobody that embodies this city better. I would love to pitch in the AL East for a long time, against the best competition in all of baseball. I think if you can pitch in the AL East, you can pitch anywhere."
On whether the number of unsigned free agents gives Stroman pause regarding his own upcoming free agency ...
Stroman: "I'm trying to remain hopeful, but I'm never going to be someone who settles. I know what I'm worth. I put in a ton of work daily. I know the type of pitcher I'm going to be over the next four, five, six, seven years. I take care of my body like no other. Whatever it may be, it's a business. I haven't been approached with anything, ever, since I've been here so I don't even know how to talk about things like that."
On whether the front office has done everything it can this offseason ...
Stroman: "We're going to see. We play against the Red Sox and the Yankees. I know their rosters, I play against their rosters all the time. If we match up, we match up. But that's not my job. I'm preparing all of us for what we have to do when we go out there. Are they doing what they need to do to put the best product on the field? At the end of the day, I only care about what's going on in the clubhouse and I promise you, those 25 guys in the clubhouse, I'll have those guys ready to rock."
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins declined to get into a back-and-forth with Marcus Stroman, sidestepping criticism from his pitcher. Atkins addressed comments Stroman made earlier in the day to a group of reporters. In his first media availability of the spring, Stroman criticized the Blue Jays for having a lack of veterans in the clubhouse and for not approaching him about a contract extension. Stroman's comments drew a great deal of attention, leading Atkins, who was not with the club, to host a brief conference call with local reporters back at Toronto's Minor League complex.
"Any negotiation, any discussion, I'm not going to comment on," Atkins said when asked to respond. "We've had lengthy discussions with Marcus' representation. I'm excited to have Marcus Stroman as a Blue Jay, extremely excited about his health, the way he has performed thus far, the way he looks, his energy has been awesome in the clubhouse."
One of the lines from Stroman that received the most attention was, "I've been waiting to sign a long-term deal, I've been offered nothing." A source within the Blue Jays organization disputed that notion, but at the same time did not get into specifics about whether an official offer had been made or whether it was restricted to a general framework.
Stroman also suggested the Blue Jays needed to add more pieces to the roster if they were going to realistically contend in the AL East. He suggested that Toronto should bolster the roster and specifically pointed to the bullpen, position players, and possibly even another starting pitcher as the main areas of need.
Atkins was asked to respond to those comments as well, and the Blue Jays general manager remained diplomatic.
"I agree with him, that we need to do everything we can to put the best roster on," Atkins said. "We will look to continue to bolster the roster any way we possibly can. That won't end the day the season opens. That's our existence. It's all we think about. We obsess about it and we'll continue to do that.
"As it relates to adding position players, we're excited about Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, Brandon Drury as I've mentioned, Randal Grichuk. There are a lot of established pieces that we are very excited about with some veteran presence. If we do look to add to our roster it will most likely be on the pitching side." (G Chisholm - MLB.com - Feb 17, 2019)
July 2019: Stroman earned a place among baseball’s best at the All-Star Game.
In 2018, Marcus wasn’t himself. The 28-year-old righthander fought through the season, battling injuries, unable to showcase himself as the pitcher he knew he could be, had been before and would be again. “I knew it wasn’t me,” Stroman said. “I knew where I was at, but I knew I could go out there and grind through it, and I did that. I got through it, but I knew I wasn’t anywhere near myself, and I knew that what I needed was an offseason to get right.
“I’m excited to change that narrative of me as a pitcher, which was me grinding through a shoulder problem, not necessarily me becoming a bad pitcher or me getting knocked around.”
At the All-Star break in 2019, the narrative has certainly evolved for the most consistent hurler in the Blue Jays’ rotation. Stroman owns a 3.18 ERA over 18 starts and 104.2 innings, with 32 walks and 81 strikeouts. He is on pace to surpass an impressive 2017 season in which he finished eighth in AL Cy Young voting.
Stroman's comeback follows a 5.54 ERA over 19 starts and 102 1/3 innings last year. “I’ve been through a lot in my life, last year is not anything,” Stroman said. “I’m usually pretty good with adversity, I usually bounce back really well from it. I’ve grown as a person, and that’s something that my family instilled in me.
“I always look to adversity as an opportunity, not as something to get down and out about. So I always welcome any of that. And I knew what I was capable of, it was just a matter of putting in the work in the offseason. It’s really awesome to see it all play out for my family and me.”
With his family by his side in Cleveland for the 2019 All-Star Game, they’ve helped the hurler enjoy the festivities from a fresh viewpoint. “This is crazy, to be honest,” Stroman said. “Just walking around, seeing the names. It puts it more in perspective when I see my young brother walking around here and how star-struck he is, every day. That kind of puts it in perspective, so I’m just really trying to enjoy every moment here, capture it with my family and take this into the second half.”
Stroman’s recent success landed him in the middle of the All-Star festivities in Cleveland, where he can’t wait to take the opportunity to learn and continue to get even better.
“I’m just trying to take it all in,” he said. “I’m excited to meet everybody, talk pitching grips, talk swagger, talk confidence. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can while I’m around the best players in the game. I’m going to take whatever I can from each and every person and apply it to my game.” (Brudnicki - mlb.com - 7/8/19)
Long before they profiled as postseason starting pitchers, Steven Matz and Marcus faced off in what Long Islanders now call the most notable high school baseball game in recent memory. The date was April 16, 2009, and when those Long Islanders talk about it, a few details remain ambiguous. Some, like Stroman's coach Anthony Frascogna, recall it being an "overcast day, one of those early-spring baseball days," that call for windbreakers and enough luck that the skies don't open. Lou Petrucci, Matz' coach at Ward Melville High, recounts it as "a beautiful day for baseball." Unsurprisingly, Petrucci is the one that shortly afterwards adds, "and it was even more beautiful that we won."
This is how legends work, growing and permutating with the stature of their protagonists. Six years later, Stroman and Matz have been important pieces for Major League teams looking to squash significant October demons. But when they met that day, they were former teammates opposing one another for the first time.
What resulted served as a climactic point of the opening act of both their careers—an epic 1-0 game at Patchogue-Medford High that drew fans and scouts in record numbers and still has them talking. "I've been in the business for 34 years," said Larry Izzo, the Mets scout that eventually signed Matz. "And this was one of the best duels I've ever seen."
There is no denying some of the numbers. They pass the test of time, popping out in black ink of Frascogna's worn scorebook to this day. Stroman notched 14 strikeouts, walked none and threw a three-hitter. Matz struck out 12, walked four and allowed one hit, emerging victorious after Ward Melville scored the game-winning run on -- what else? -- a dropped Stroman strikeout.
All this in front of an unprecedented audience for Suffolk County, an area that typically produces just a handful of Major Leaguers each decade. "From dugout to dugout," Petrucci said, "there was a scout from every Major League team. For early April on Long Island, that's unheard of. It's never happened."
The horde of scouts—54, by one count—watched Matz and Stroman match one another pitch for pitch. Both hit 93 mph with their fastballs. Both went hitless against the other. Both cemented their place as the prime prospects in the region with dominating performances.
After Matz struck out one of Frascogna's players on an 82-mph changeup, the coach approached the angry victim. "Look, there are two people in the country that are going to hit that pitch right now. You're certainly not one of them, so just relax. It was more of a showcase," Frascogna remembers. "The outcome was secondary to the show."
Matz and Stroman were born about 15 miles apart, and had been teammates on local summer teams like the Paveco Storm for years. Come their senior years, both pitched on Thursdays—Stroman so he could play shortstop by the end of the weekend, Matz so he could play first. In fact, Izzo first heard of Matz via a recommendation from his longtime friend Ed Mathis, who was scouting for the Dodgers. Mathis liked Matz's swing and glove at first base.
"And I hear," Mathis told Izzo, "he is a very good pitcher, too."
Two months after the duel, Washington drafted Stephen Strasburg No. 1 overall. New York took Matz in the second round. Stroman was drafted in the 18th round by Washington, but attended Duke University. The Blue Jays made him the No. 22-overall pick in 2012 and signed him for $1.8 million.
"I played with Steven since I was probably 8 or 9 years old," Stroman said before his Game 2 ALDS start. "He was on every single one of my travel teams all growing up. He's battled that injury since 2009, and just to see that he is back, healthy, contributing to a playoff team, it's special. And the fact that he's a hometown guy right by where I grew up makes it even better. His family's best friends with my family and couldn't be more proud of him."
Say the stars start aligning. Then every inch further the Mets and Blue Jays push into October would ratchet up the anticipation for a possible Matz-Stroman rematch. And for those who witnessed their dizzying first encounter, blur that day more and more into myth.
"There were about 1,500 people there," said Petrucci. "But as those two get bigger and bigger, that number will probably jump to 15,000."
July 29, 2019: The trade of Marcus Stroman to the Mets has caused some wild ripple effects throughout the baseball landscape. Now, everyone's wondering if the club can actually make a late run at a postseason spot, or if it just means that Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler's futures in Queens are in jeopardy. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the Stroman sensation on Twitter has been the re-emergence of a particular Stroman highlight that has absolutely nothing to do with baseball.
Stroman was one of the Blue Jays' bright spots in 2015. That year brought the team its first division title since 1993, and Stroman rebounded from ACL surgery to pitch brilliantly down the stretch. During the following offseason, the buzz was enough that it was discovered that Stroman had actually appeared on TV before, when he was introduced by former Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders as a featured audience member on an episode of the Nickelodeon game show "Figure It Out." The latest Stroman news brought this revelation back to the fore: he once won a $100 Toys R Us gift card on the nickelodeon show.
Don't think that we missed seeing his dad, Earl Stroman, too. Those muscles are recognizable anywhere, and he hardly looks like he's aged at all. Back to the show, though . . . kudos to Amanda Bynes for accidentally helping Stroman secure the prize. Little Marcus was pretty stoked about those Toys R Us "Geoffrey Dollars." Can you blame him?
Imagine all the cool things he could get with that! I would've gone to town on that gift certificate, too. Except instead of baseball toys, I would have spent it on some sweet Nintendo 64 games that I absolutely didn't need. (Looking at you, "Hey You, Pikachu!")
I'm willing to bet that Stroman found a better use for it. Things worked out quite nicely in the long run. (A Merans - MLB.com - July 29, 2019)
Oct. 11, 2019: The Mets traded for Marcus Stroman in July and, with Jeff McNeil already wearing the No. 6 jersey the pitcher had with the Blue Jays, assigned him No. 7 instead.Friday night, the Long Island native tweeted that he'll be clad in a new number when he takes the mound for the Mets in 2020. Though he didn't say what that number will be, he's making the switch to pay homage to a longtime Mets favorite, Jose Reyes.
At first glance, getting a tattoo of yourself on your body sounds absurd, like some kind of decision made by the actual Narcissus himself so that he could tear his gaze away from the reflecting pool.
But then Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman showed off his body art and I realized that you can tattoo yourself on yourself without being a true sociopath. (Michael Clair - Cut4 - Oct. 23, 2019)
April 15, 2020: Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman wants to take a swing at the NASCAR driver who uttered a racial slur during a live broadcast of a virtual race. NASCAR’s Kyle Larson on Sunday (April 12) apparently thought his audio had cut out when he used the N-word on the popular Twitch video game streaming app during the sport’s iRacing series, which was created with real life sports now on hold because of the coronavirus.
“You can’t hear me?” Larson said "Hey, (racial slur.)".
That’s when one of the 61 drivers responded, “Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud.” Another said, “No way, did that just happen?”
Stroman, who is black and not afraid to speak his mind on social media, blasted Larson.
“He should never be allowed to race again in @NASCAR,” the 28-year-old righty tweeted. “Said that derogatory word so nonchalantly. Your apology doesn’t matter. Post-career…I’ll fight this man in a @ufc event for charity. He needs his ass beat. Would love to hear him say that word in the octagon.”
It is unclear how many fans were streaming the race at the time, but NASCAR already has suspended Larson, whose father is white and mother is Japanese-American.
KYLE LARSON FIRED BY CHIP GANASSI RACING FOR USING RACIAL SLUR.
The 27-year-old apologized Monday, but was suspended “without pay while we work through this simulation with all appropriate parties,” NASCAR said in a statement.
Larson said there was “no excuse” and that he “wasn’t raised that way,” while wishing everyone well during the coronavirus pandemic. When Larson’s suspension ends, he’ll have to find a new team. (Mark Fischer - New York Post)
June 2012: The Blue Jays drafted Stroman in the first round (#22 overall), out of Duke University. They signed him for a bonus of $1.8 million.
February 2018: Stroman signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays for $6.5 million.
Jan 11, 2019: Stroman and the Blue Jays avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $7.4 million.
July 28, 2019: The Blue Jays traded Stroman to the Mets for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson.
- Jan 10, 2020: Marcus and the Mets avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $12 million deal.