When Stephen Strasburg was drafted, the book on him was that he had unbelievable control, had command of four pitches, and had overpowering speed.
Strasburg’s major league debut was a performance for the ages. Strasburg struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates and walked none. He fanned the last seven hitters he faced and eight of his final nine. Strasburg threw harder in the seventh inning that he did in the first inning. Amazingly, Strasburg 94th pitch of the day was clocked at 99 miles per hour.
In his second outing, Strasburg was very good, but not nearly as dominant, as he failed to go six innings and walked five batters. Strasburg did, however, strike out eight Cleveland Indians and was still throwing in the high 90s when he left the game.
Washington Nationals fans believe that, in watching Strasburg, they are going to have a front-row seat to watch the career of a Hall of Fame pitcher.
Several baseball commentators, however, have cautioned Nationals fans not to begin making Strasburg’s bust for the Hall of Fame as no first overall pick in the draft has ever made it to the Hall of Fame.
While it is true that no first overall pick has made it the Hall, the cold water being thrown on the enthusiasm of Nationals fans appears to be misplaced as there are five players who appear poised to break the jinx before Strasburg is ready to call it a career.
The five players that will likely end the jinx of the first overall player not getting to the Hall of Fame are:
Josh Hamilton – 1999
Hamilton is, once again, considered to be one of the premier outfielders in baseball. In his first four seasons with the Rangers, Hamilton has 440 hits, 75 home runs, 274 RBIs and a batting average of .294. Hamilton turned 29 earlier this year and his prospects for getting into the Hall of Fame will likely be dictated on whether he gets enough at-bats over the course of his career.
Joe Mauer – 2001
Mauer is not only well positioned to get to the Hall of Fame, but is putting up numbers such that he could be considered to be the greatest player at his position.
In his sixth season, Mauer has 908 hits, 74 home runs, 425 RBIs, .a career 326 batting average, three Silver Slugger awards, and a Most Valuable Player award. Joe has an incredibly strong arm, which limits the number of runners who take chances on the base paths against the Twins; Mauer has also been awarded two Golden Glove awards.
Alex Rodriguez – 1993
A-Rod is about join very elite company later this year, when he hits his 600th career home run. Rodriquez will turn 35 in July and many wonder whether he will play long enough to become the all-time home run leader; he will likely play long enough to join the 3,000 hit fraternity. A-Rod’s career numbers appears to be more than Hall of Fame worthy: 2,596 hits, 591 home runs, 1,749 RBIs, .304 batting average, three Silver Slugger awards, three MVP awards, four Hank Aaron awards and two Golden Glove awards from his earlier days at shortstop.
If Rodriquez does not make the Hall, it will be because voters believe that he did more than have a brief flirtation with steroids.
Chipper Jones – 1990
Jones has been one of the more prominent faces of the Atlanta Braves franchise. Jones will not reach the magical milestones of 500 home runs or 3,000 hits, but it is difficult to see how his offensive career numbers don’t get him into the Hall of Fame at the end of the day. Jones' career numbers: 2,444 hits, 429 home runs, 1,467 RBIs, a .306 batting average and a Most Valuable Player award. If Jones does not make it to the Hall of Fame, it will be because voters believe his defensive skills fell short.
Ken Griffey, Jr. – 1987
When he announced his retirement last week, almost all stories concerning Junior acknowledged that he was going to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player.
Griffey’s career numbers: 2,781 hits, 630 home runs, 1,836 RBIs, a .284 batting average, seven Silver Slugger awards, an MVP award, 13 All-Star selections and ten Gold Glove awards. Griffey was also selected to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team in 1999.
Griffey will be the first player selected first-overall in the draft that will be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Strasburg will, therefore, not have to worry about the jinx of being selected first overall. Of course, those who are superstitious and believe in the power of black cats will point out that the jinx concerning players drafted first overall still applies—to pitchers.