Stephen Strasburg Debut: Rookie Saves Beltway Baseball ... For Now
Can we get carried away?
Stephen Strasburg astonished and astounded Tuesday afternoon, plowing through Pirates like a Battle Royale between a fire hose and a flock of four year-olds.
Baseball Jesus hath risen.
It's incredible to think right out of the box, something as bombastically blared as the looming legend of one Stephen Strasburg could end up seeming ... not trumpeted loudly enough.
Nobody's supposed to be this good, this soon. LeBron wasn't. Tiger wasn't. Hell, neither was the personal computer, or sliced bread.
Strasburg struck out 14 hitters and gave radar guns a triple-figure workout. He earned the 'W'. An SRO crowd filed home jubilant. Batters needed GPS to locate his curve.
All of just 20 years old, Strasburg could legitimately threaten to strike out his age, right?
This was Springsteen at Harvard Square Theatre, 1974. We are all Jon Landau. Repeat after me: "I saw baseball's future and its name is Stephen Strasburg."
Of course, in an era of continuous news, analysis and opinion - where legends and empires grow exponentially larger and faster with each passing minute - there is a tendency to project future returns based on instant input. And, make no mistake, we must be careful of doing just that.
All his victims were also all Pirates, who have trouble hitting a beach ball with a tennis racket. Why, just last week, Max Scherzer - another ex-future-superstar also K'd 14.
Pitchers only start 32 games per year. Neither Strasburg or the Nationals will win all of them. And there are plenty of question marks up and down the rest of that rotation, which won't necessarily help matters.
Pitchers' legacies are enhanced by two pieces all the talent in the world can't predict: A winning supporting cast and good health.
Curt Schilling is regarded as a great big game pitcher because he pitched on teams that were outstanding enough to play in big games. Nolan Ryan is Nolan Ryan because he pitched till he was just shy of receiving his A.A.R.P. card in the mail. It's a long and winding road to Cooperstown; just ask Mark Prior.
Baseball is an individual game and the position of starting pitcher is the loneliest endeavor in all of sport. Strasburg's arrival doesn't save baseball in Washington, or rocket the Nationals to title contention, neither this year nor the next. He's one man, on one mound, on one day out of five.
There will come days when St. Stephen will give up runs.
When he'll give up a walk with the bases loaded.
When he'll finish up a season with a tidy 17-10 record and a mid-threes ERA.
There will be DL stints and shoulder surgeries and years where mathematical elimination comes in May.
Truly, the sky's the limit this kid, but before we go blasting into the Strasburgsphere, let's keep ourselves grounded.
You know, just in case this kid happens to turn out to be merely amazing.
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