Strasburg mania is here and it’s only going to get bigger as the phenom recorded 14 Ks and no walks in a stunning debut for the Washington Nationals. Al Dannity says it’s time to believe the hype.
The Nationals are relevant For the brave few that have followed the Washington Nationals in recent years this has been a special week. On Monday the team drafted Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in the draft and then last night 40,315 fans packed Nationals Park for the debut of the biggest prospect ever. Stephen Strasburg has, almost single handedly, turned the Nationals from the worst franchise in Baseball, with back to back 100 loss seasons, to one capable of looking seriously at playoff run in 2011, or even possibly this season, and then onto yet greater things in 2012.
This is the fourth team in what is, with due respect to the Capitals and Wizards, a one team town. The idea that Baseball is suddenly the talk of D.C. is remarkable. It’s all because of Strasburg and if we see more nights like Tuesday then the Nationals could actually turn the size of the Washington market to their advantage and become a serious ballclub in the long-term.
Speaking of Hype Throughout the broadcast of Strasburg’s first start commentator Bob Costas stressed the need to play down the hype surrounding the phenom, then proceeded to build yet more hype. At various stages during the broadcast Costas compared Strasburg to Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, mentioned how Strasburg had Hall of Fame potential, and flat out insulted Pittsburgh pitcher Jeff Karstens because he wasn’t Stephen Strasburg. Costas also used Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax and a bunch of other legends to compare with the Washington pitcher who was making his first start.
While Costas was jumping the gun, and then some, with his praise of the Nationals new star it’s not like he’s been alone on this front. Anyone with an eye for Baseball can see the raw talent possessed by Strasburg and it’s not like he’s walking into the Yankees where he’d be just another star. This is Washington, a huge market with no star power bar an aging Pudge Rodriguez and Adam Dunn. Dropping in a player who has received as much praise from analysts as Reggie Bush, Sidney Crosby, and Greg Oden did combined before they were drafted changes all of that. That trio has had wildly varying careers since being drafted in their sports so one good start will not guarantee anything for Strasburg.
Can he succeed? There’s no point in asking will Strasburg succeed, we won’t know that for at least two full seasons but we can take a look at what’s in place to help him succeed. Washington have been smart so far by giving him time to groom in the Minor Leagues, whether he needed it or not. Secondly he’s working with a veteran catcher in Pudge Rodriguez who will help get Strasburg through any rookie lows he encounters. The big factor of course is the fundamentals of the young pitcher’s game. He has shown consistent control of his pitching at every stage in his career. Strasburg hasn’t needed to lean on his physical attributes, which are substantial, to cover deficiencies. Maintaining the kind of form he showed in the Minors will be difficult in the Bigs but Strasburg will at least have every opportunity to try.
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