“Baseball is the sport that cackles back at can’t-miss kids. Baseball humbles every player sooner or later. Baseball confers greatness stingily, in its own sweet time. At least that’s what the bow-tied essayists and sandlot scouts solemnly tell us.” - Johnette Howard in Sports Illustrated
Stephen Strasburg’s been on my mind a lot lately. For some reason I’ve been paying attention to the negotiations this year and was surprised when the Washington Nationals were able to secure Jason Werth. This
is huge! When the Phillies were playing the Giants in the playoffs, my anxiety would surface when Werth was at the plate. Not so anxious about their pitching staff, but definitely Jason Werth. He was that good. So I’m happy Werth’s going to a team that really “needs” him and will appreciate his talents. The Nationals finished last place in 2010 for the 3rd year in a row. So when the scuttlebutt started this week about the Nationals being in the race to acquire Cliff Lee, after acquiring Werth, it was almost a heart-stopper! All of this brought back a reminder of my annual physical this year when I told
my doctor I was taking an organized baseball tour and the first thing he asked was “Will you get to see the Nationals
play?” It was an odd question because who cares anything about the Nationals anyway? But his daughter lives in Washington DC and she’d been talking about the new young pitcher who was causing a wave of near hysteria . It didn’t take me long to figure out what all the fuss was about. His name was Stephen Strasburg.
The Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg as the first pick in the 2009 MLB Draft for a record $15.1 Million, 4
year contract. Strasburg was a 21 year old rookie who ESPN referred to as the most hyped pick in draft history and was the only college player selected for the 2008 Summer Olympic US Baseball team in Beijing. On May 8, 2010, Stephen Strasburg made his much anticipated major-league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sports Illustrated coined it the most hyped pitching debut the game had ever seen. In the game, the young pitcher pitched 7 innings, struck out 14, walked -0- and allowed only two runs, earning him his first major league win. In games two and three he struck out another 8 and 10 batters, respectively, setting a major league record for 32 strikeouts, the most in any pitcher’s first three games. And after only his second start, Sports Illustrated featured him in their cover story. I and thousands of others became an instant fan of the young Stephen Strasburg, the savior of those poor, downtrodden Washington Nationals. But it was not to be.
Strasburg’s Major league Debut
On August 27, 2010, Stephen Strasburg was placed on the disabled list. The Nationals announced Strasburg had a torn ulmar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery and 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation. He had been placed on the disabled list in July, 2010, with an inflamed right shoulder and returned to play, but was removed again with an apparent injury before being placed again on the disabled list, this time requiring the major surgery. How did this happen? Or more to the point, why did this have to happen?
I keep reflecting on the number of times this year when rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarner was prematurely pulled from the game for no apparent reason and how ticked off it made me. After all, we were ahead and he was pitching superbly and then for no reason, the powers that be bench him and go to the bullpen. Ye gods man! Let the kid pitch.
Then Mike Krukow, one of the best of the best, would announce and explain in detail why the kid was pulled, and it was usually because of the pitch count. Young kid, young arm. Needed time to develop, to mature. Makes sense to me.
It doesn’t seeem possible to me this could be the reason for Strasburg’s predicament. After all, these major league baseball teams have the best resources available to them and wouldn’t you think for sure they’d want to protect, not only the kid’s best interests, but the interests of their $15 Million investment? Strasburg would most likely have been up front in the running for the Rookie of the Year, and even possibly the MVP and who knows how it would have affected the Nationals standing? I don’t know, I’m just saying. I read a lot of baseball stuff and I’ve never seen this in print. No one’s talking about it.
But if young Strasburg is in rehab, recovering from surgery because he was “overexposed” (34 strikeouts in 3 games with each pitch at or over 100 mph?) shame on the Washington Nationals and shame on major league baseball for allowing it to happen. It could have been avoided.
Miracle or mistake? Does it matter? Geez, I sure want to believe it was a freak of nature and not just a mistake in judgment by an overzealous manager, so I’ll cross my fingers and say a prayer that hopefully Stephen Strasburg will return soon, breaking new records and performing a few miracles with some really good guidance from the powers that be. Hope to see you back on the mound soon kid!