It only took a few performances in the major leagues by Stephen Strasburg for Washington D.C. to come down with a bad case of Strasburg-mania. But now, just as quickly, the city is reeling, and the Washington Nationals have been dealt a gut blow that could make Virgil Hill feel bad for them (watch the clip at about 1:00 minute).
Strasburg’s season is done, as he’s headed to the surgical table to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a ligament in his elbow. Not only is he missing the rest of 2010, but it’s a near certainty that he misses all of 2011, and the team has to hope, pray and beg, whoever they can, that he’s back and healthy for 2012. But really, who didn’t see this coming?
His minor league performances drew fanatical crowds, and major league scouts, players and television analysts kept gushing and gushing. He even brought excitement into the Washington D.C. baseball scene, a rare feat, indeed.
He’s a lock for the Hall of Fame, he has the best stuff the game has ever seen for a starting pitcher, he’ll be the best pitcher in baseball the minute he takes the mound for the first time, and on and on the talking heads went. Yet, the brutal record of young, phenom fireballers simply flaming out instead of achieving a long lasting blaze of glory went ignored. Really, nobody else could have predicted something like this to happen?
Some surgeons have reportedly voiced that a pitcher such as Strasburg will have a 75% chance to regain his velocity and accuracy, if not improve, after he has recovered. Surely Strasburg will be dedicated to the cause and will give it his best shot. Maybe he’s back and better than ever and pitches for 20 productive years, or maybe he never wins more than the five games he won this year, as a rookie. It’s simply an unknown, and in truth it’s impossible to predict how he is going to perform in the future, or how his body will hold up in the future even if he does recovery from this injury perfectly.
Strasburg, as intelligent, hardworking and motivated as he has been, surely bought into the absurdly inordinate amount of hype he kept on hearing, that if he kept on putting it all together he’d be one of the best of the game’s current crop, if not one of the game’s best ever. He has to be crushed, but if the worst happens to his baseball career, he still cashed in that record signing bonus for a draft pick.
But how about the Washington Nationals? They have a sparkling new stadium and can’t sell tickets. They’re perma-stuck in the cellar of the NL East. They couldn’t attract talent if the home dugout had a tunnel to the Oval Office, and if they could, they couldn’t pay the guys anyway.
Then here comes Strasburg, the franchise savior, the guy to turn it all around. For a few months, as the stadium started filling up, as the team drafted the next franchise savior in the making, Bryce Harper, as a core of players like Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn continued to emerge, it looked like maybe this whole baseball in Washington D.C. thing could work out after all.
Then, in an instant, a grimace after a pitch in a routinely meaningless summer game, it all comes crashing down in shambles. Really, who didn’t see this coming?