What If Stephen Strasburg Is the Ryan Leaf of Major League Baseball

Anthony EmersonAnalyst IAugust 24, 2009

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 21:  Stephen Strasburg, the overall first pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, takes part in a press conference where he was introduced at Nationals Park August 21, 2009 in Washington, DC. Strasburg, a right handed pitcher from San Diego State University, signed with the Nationals earlier this week wth a record contract for an amateur player.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)


Ryan Leaf to a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, 1998

Overall No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg recently signed a record four-year, $15.1 million contract with the worst team in Major League Baseball for the past two years, the Washington Nationals.

I've already called Strasburg "The Savior of DC" to my friends and family.

There's a tremendous amount of pressure put on the kid from San Diego State.

A little like the pressure put on a certain quarterback who happened to play for a San Diego team, no?

Ryan Leaf was drafted second overall by the San Diego Chargers out of Washington State in 1998, and was predicted to be a Hall of Fame quarterback. He was supposed to be better than Peyton Manning, who fell to the Indianapolis Colts, and has since won three MVPs and a Super Bowl.

Leaf played four seasons for three teams, from 1998 to 2001.

Leaf has been called by MSNBC analyst Michael Ventre "The biggest bust in the history of professional sports." He was listed first on two ESPN lists: The 50 Biggest Draft Busts and 25 Biggest Sports Flops between 1979 and 2004.

Leaf has since gone back to college, graduating with a bachelor's degree in arts and humanities in 2005. He then joined the West Texas A&M football coaching staff as quartback's coach, and as golf coach until he was placed on indefinite leave for asking one of his players for pain pills. On November 6, 2008, Leaf resigned from his position at West Texas.

Now, the question I'm asking is: what if Stephen Strasburg, who I've already labeled as the "Savior of DC", turns out to be a $15.1 million mistake. What if Strasburg can't handle the pressure put on by the Washington Nationals fans, players, brass? What if he just plain isn't as good with in the MLB as he was in the NCAA.

I hope with all my heart that Strasburg will be able to lead the Nats to glory, but this thought of him turning out like Ryan Leaf (minus West Texas A&M and drug addiction and a huge outburst to a newspaper reporter) continues to fester in the back of my mind.

What if he's a bust? Then what?

Well, then the Nationals will be negatively impacted for years to come. That's what.

Well, at least the Nats would have Bryce Harper to look forward too.