If you want to dwell in the negative, have at it. There is plenty of that surrounding Stephen Strasburg. But remember this, there is no Nats’ World Series trophy if it wasn’t for Stras. Maybe the Nats don’t even get out of the Wild Card game without him. The ace threw 3.0 scoreless innings in relief in that Wild Card game to keep the deficit at a 3-1 game. When he handed the ball to Daniel Hudson, the Nats were up 4-3 in the most dramatic come-from-behind win to date for this team.
This first round 1-of-1 pick from San Diego State went 5-0 in the 2019 postseason, and improved his postseason ERA to 1.46. That would rank him Top-5 in baseball history for pitchers in the postseason who threw at least 50.0 innings or more. Three of them are Hall of Famers and legends of the game.
For the greatest postseason pitchers ever (min 50 IP)
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats) October 20, 2022
This is how Strasburg should be remembered when his name is etched in the Nats’ Ring of Honor. A postseason legend. Unfortunately, most have him pegged as an oft-injured pitcher who the Nats wrote a bad seven-year $245 million contract on. That deal will most likely be ranked as the worst deal in baseball history unless Stras can miraculously recover from his latest ailments.
After dealing with the after-effects from his risky thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) surgery in 2021, he still isn’t right. He tried to make a comeback during the 2022 season and it did not go well. In baseball years, he is already old, and before next year’s trade deadline, the big righty will be 35 years old. Most pitchers are retired before that age. Yet, Stephen contractually still has four-years remaining on his deal at $35 million a year.
“I realize the clock is ticking. It’s been almost three years since I’ve been able to pitch competitively, and it’s not like I’m getting younger,” Strasburg told Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post in an exclusive interview last month.
First off, make this legend into a mentor. Have him teach the kids in this organization the best changeup that baseball has seen from a starting pitcher in the last decade. Have him impart any wisdom he has learned along the way on how to stay healthy. Have him teach these kids how you keep a steady heartbeat on this mound, and how to shutout the noise.
“If I’m (Strasburg’s) teammate… I can’t make eye contact with this dude,” former catcher, and now manager David Ross said during “Baseball Tonight” on October 10, 2017.
On the morning of October 11, 2017, the D.C. sports radio chatter was calling Strasburg “soft” and other negative words after it was reported that he was not going to make his start in the elimination Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cubs. Yes, Stras had the flu or a bad reaction to mold spores or whatever they were saying about him, and he made his start and stepped on the mound that night and pitched 7.0 scoreless innings to keep the Nats alive and even that series 2-2 on that night. In all, he threw 14.0 innings in that NLDS with zero earned runs. He did his job. Unfortunately, some of his teammates didn’t do theirs, and his manager and PR folks all kind of dropped the ball on handling the noise.
To call Strasburg “soft” is so utterly offensive. Does anyone think this guy wants to be injured? His body just cannot do what his mind wants it to do. A common issue for a top athlete. We still do not know what the future holds for Strasburg, nor does he. Almost certainly if he comes back they should try him in the bullpen in shorter stints and work up from there.
The World Series MVP of 2019 has an uncertain future. His future of course is affecting the Washington Nationals more so now in payroll terms, because nobody is mentioning him like they did a year ago to be the ace in the upcoming season’s pitching staff. Yes, the Nats counted on Strasburg to anchor the starting rotation for the 2022 season and managed to pitch in just one game in a devastating display of just 4 2/3 innings, possibly his last.
But again, things don’t have to end this way. Have this man who threw the most electric debut in MLB history with 14 K’s as a mentor to these young pitchers. Turn the negatives into positives and find ways to improve this team through other channels. Again, Strasburg’s final chapters as a baseball player have not been written yet. We will see where this goes.