The pitcher who was supposed to be the greatest hurler since Cy Young is having problems and that is too bad. Baseball fans don’t want to be teased by reports of greatness potential, they want to marvel at and appreciate greatness–even if he plays for another team.
It is hard to be more heralded than Stephen Strasburg was coming out of San Diego State, but in-between our glimpses of his talents he has been traveling 100 miles of bad road, making a wrong turn on Bad Luck Lane. The same body that made him a millionaire around the same time he became old enough to drink (if he does), has been letting him down.
Just Friday night Strasburg was yanked from his start against the Atlanta Braves. He departed leading after just two innings as his Washington Nationals went on to victory while fretting about his condition. The right-handed power pitcher apparently has a strained muscle in his side, which a few years ago started being called an oblique muscle in disabled list parlance.
Strasburg is 6-foot-4, weighs 200 pounds, and has a fastball that can singe eyebrows on a batter crowding the plate. Now 24, Strasburg made a substantial late-season cameo for the Nationals in 2010, going 5-3 with a 2.91 earned run average. That was supposed to be the warm-up act for 2011. However, just five appearances into that season Strasburg’s vaunted arm came up lame and he underwent surgery.
As expected, Strasburg returned in top form in 2012, although no baby has been more pampered than the way the Nationals protected him. Although Strasburg went 15-6, with no apparent ill effects of his injury, the Nationals shut him down early, before the closing days of the pennant race, and refused to allow Strasburg to take a turn in the playoffs. The result of the controversial move was that Strasburg lost out and the Nationals lost.
All was supposed to be made up for in 2013. The Nationals were made heavy favorites to proceed to the World Series and a healthy Strasburg seemed likely to lead them. Instead, both the team and the player have been floundering. The Nationals are hovering around .500 and Strasburg isn’t even at that level.
Despite a superb 2.54 earned run average, in 12 starts Strasburg stands at 3-5. Now comes a fresh injury problem. A strained oblique isn’t as damaging as many other types of injuries a pitcher can suffer and it will take a little while to figure out exactly how long Strasburg will sit out.
This is no suggestion that Strasburg has been, or will be, a bust. This season seems more about bad bounces than bad pitching. Once he is back to full strength it seems likely that Strasburg will distinguish himself on the mound again. He’s just too good to fade out of the picture.
A really big year awaits.