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On Losing Tyler Glasnow

Our leading man heads to Hollywood.

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

When he is on his game, there is no one better.

I’m convinced that Tyler Glasnow has one truly amazing, healthy, 180-200 inning, Cy Young competing season in him. I hoped it would be in St. Petersburg. Instead, he’ll get his chance in Los Angeles.

We want to give our departing players a good send-off, so join us to celebrate the Rays career of Tyler Glasnow. You can read our tribute to Manuel Margot here.

Stand-out moments vs. Stretches of dominance

We asked our readers last week to share key Tyler Glasnow memories, and a few noted that Glasnow had not had an on-field signature moment for the team. He has certainly had some very dominant games, and some dominant stretches, but it’s true: he has had some shaky post-season performances and has not been on the mound for any must-win moments.

Given his ace quality, it was part of his allure. When he took the mound, that signature moment felt like it was always within reach.

MLB: Game One-Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

But his regular season numbers for Tampa Bay have been great.

Traded to the Rays at the 2018 deadline (along with Shane Baz and Austin Meadows), he has pitched to a 3.20 ERA, a 3.10 FIP, and he’s struck out on average over 12 hitters per nine innings.

Of course, over those six seasons he’s never thrown more than 120 innings, losing time to injury nearly every year. But even with a few lost months and seasons, he’d accumulated 9.2 WAR.

When the Rays pulled off the heist trade that included Glasnow in 2018, it wasn’t quite clear what they were getting. He’d been a fifth round pick for Pittsburgh, drafted out of high school, successful in the minors, but unable to translate that success to the majors. In his time with the Pirates he was walking just under six batters and striking out just over nine batters per nine innings. When he wasn’t walking batters he was getting hit hard. By 2018 the Pirates had relegated him to relief duty.

Glasnow has often spoken about these struggles, for example in this 2020 article, and in this 2021 Tampa Bay Times piece. When he came to Tampa Bay in 2018, he was immediately tapped to start, and he pitched 7 innings of 2 hit, 1 run ball, perhaps his best major league performance to that date. While he was rocked in his second Rays start, the team kept with him and he was solid.

What changed? Perhaps he found a better pitch mix: with Tampa Bay he steadily reduced his fastball reliance, largely ditched the change up (which his hand was too large to grip), and developed a slider that is considered one of the best in the league. But he’s also talked about responding well to a more laid-back clubhouse, developing a more consistent routine, and thinking less (which can be a good thing).

Things really seemed to click for him in 2021. Into mid-June he had a 2.66 ERA, was pitching deep into games and consistently providing quality starts. It was a Cy Young contender season. Most of his starts looked like this:

But while pitching in June in Chicago, Glasnow felt a “tug” and was pulled from the game. Early reports suggested he had just a partial UCL tear that would require rehab, but we all knew better. And indeed later that season the Rays reported that he would be undergoing elbow surgery, from which he returned in a limited role at the end of 2022 after having a brace installed in his elbow.

If baseball is looking for personalities to market, Tyler is your guy

Glasnow’s talent as a pitcher is clear, even if frustrating injuries (the UCL tear in 2021-22; a forearm injury in 2019; an oblique strain in 2023) have kept him from realizing that potential.

But he’s also a big personality. He was elected the team’s player rep early in his Rays stint, which meant he was the point person communicating between the union and the players during both the COVID delays of 2020, and the lockout of 2022.

His thoughtful if slightly goofy air has also made him a favorite of baseball media. He’s done extensive podcasts with Chris Rose, where he talks baseball, hair care, and travel (in recent off seasons he’s cavorted with monkeys in Thailand and trekked the Andes in Peru). But he also does backflips for the heck of it.

When in New York, he hangs out in Washington Square park to play chess. He’s done skydiving and cliff jumping (hey Andrew Friedman, any hazardous activities clauses in that contract?) and listens to neuroscience podcasts. He claims he’s seen the movie The Notebook a dozen times. He’s emotional on the mound — not screaming at teammates after an error emotional, but fist-pumping strikeouts and celebrating great plays emotional (even though his mom gets on his case when that emotion involves f-bombs).

He’s entertaining.

Folks say he’s easy on the eyes

It’s hard not to comment, of course, on Glasnow’s appearance. First, many have noted his resemblance to Irish actor Cillian Murphy — and indeed both Glasnow and Murphy have commented on that likeness.

Except that Glasnow is also a well-built 6’8” with flowing hair.

And his physique is one of his pitching tools. His height and his pitching motion give him unusually long extension, so that he actually releases his pitches nearly 8 inches in front of the mound. This gives hitters even less time to decide if that oncoming missile is a fastball or a slider.

I’ve given some thought about whether and how to write about Glasnow’s good looks. If a male writer were to make too big a deal about a female athlete’s attractiveness I’d probably be put off — it’s important to take people seriously as athletes and not objectify them because they happen to be attractive. I don’t want to engage in behavior I might find offensive coming from a different writer commenting on a different athlete.

But here’s the thing: just about everyone talks about Glasnow’s appearance, it’s just part of the chatter about him. That reputation precedes him. Chris Rose, Glasnow’s podcasting partner, often makes reference to Glasnow’s looks. In a Tampa Bay Times article John Romano describes Glasnow like this:

And when you see Glasnow up close, you can understand why. He’s all muscles and limbs. He’s got washboard abs that look prosthetically created.

And then quotes a trainer:

“He just has that stature, that aesthetic look. He’s what, 6-7 or 6-8, and he’s chiseled. It’s like looking at a Greek god. He is impressive, no doubt about that.”

I suspect Glasnow will be a big hit in LA

A top pitcher who looks like a movie star and is at ease in front of the cameras? I have a feeling he’s going to do well there.

When that happens, it will be hard watching the baseball media “discover” him now that he’s playing in a big market, and thinking “hey, all that was true when he played for Tampa Bay, where were you then?”

And I do hope he has that monster year, because it will be fun seeing him put it all together — but also really hard to see that happen on a different coast.

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Here’s the farewell video from the Rays organization: