Michael Jordan coming back to the NBA and signing with the Wizards was just a drop in the bucket.
Alexander Ovechkin didn’t brew anywhere near this kind of hype and status in his early days with the Capitals.
Joe Gibbs returning to coach the Washington Redskins wasn’t even this big.
In fact, the only story in the nation’s capital that could top the arrival of Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg is President Obama himself – upon being elected the first black president in the history of the country.
Sure, it’s not a fair comparison to tie in politics with sports, but let’s face it – D.C. is as passionate about their politics as they are about their sports franchises.
That’s what brings us to the big day… Tuesday June 8th, where the wait is over for Nats fans… for Washington D.C…. and for the game of baseball.
The talented triple-digit fireballer is here – making his debut at Nationals Park against Jeff Karstens and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
So now that Strasburg’s time is here, the question remains as to whether the hype is worth it.
Well, is it?
Many critics may chime in to say no way – but I beg to differ.
It is worth it, and I truly believe that, even after hearing about and watching Mark Prior as he put an early stamp on the game of baseball – dominating daily for the Cubs – until it all came crashing down.
It’s a fair realization to understand that baseball can be a fragile game – that injuries can and do occur.
It’s also fair to point out that the major league level is a big difference from AAA – and that even after posting gaudy minor league numbers (7-2, 1.30 ERA, 65 K’s in 55 1/3 IP across AA and AAA), that doesn’t mean Strasburg will be an instant hit.
In fact, he could be instantly hit upon.
Yes, even that 100mph heater, too.
But the hype is deserved and it’s legitimate, because for a long period of time, Strasburg was presented as the consensus top pick in the draft – and that his stuff was so nasty, that he would force his way to the majors sooner rather than later.
That statement has held true.
The hype is also necessary and deserved because no one else in the nation’s capital has been able to steal away the spotlight from Strasburg.
The Redskins have underachieved in recent seasons, and while the McNabb-Shanahan combo has brought excitement, neither has played a game. D.C. has no proof that the duo will bring new life. There’s fear that they could instead be the next in a long line of hyped up disappointments.
The Presidents Trophy winning Capitals have upped their game during the NHL regular season, but underachieved in the postseason.
The Wizards won the lottery, but John Wall is still just a pipe dream, and not a talent signed and ready to play. That, plus the Arenas gun story still continues to leave a dark cloud over the D.C. pro hoops world.
That leaves the Nationals – a team that since returning to the nation’s capital as the “artist formerly known as the Montreal Expos”. This newer DC baseball franchise still hasn’t posted a winning season (since its debut in 2005).
Enter some significant improvement in 2010, with a record near the .500 mark as the midway point approaches. Then toss in the most hyped pitcher in the game in Strasburg.
So that’s the reason for the hype – because Strasburg can flat out pitch and because no one else can steal the hype away.
Now it leaves the question as to how the kid will perform with the entire country watching?
My take is Strasburg will put in a quality start against the Pirates, and be a serviceable starter as the season continues. He won’t put up gaudy Ubaldo-like numbers yet. But he will continue to grow and Washington D.C. will love their brand spankin’ new franchise player.
And after that… fans will open their arms again for another can’t-miss guy in Bryce Harper (drafted by the Nationals with the top pick in the 2010 MLB Draft).
Well, that is… if they can manage to sign him.
But for now, the spotlight is all on Strasburg.
“Get your popcorn ready.”