(Charles Dharapak – AP)
Strasburg’s LeBron like start will be remembered forever no matter what happens…
There are debuts where a kid from a small town has a 5 year minor league stint and out of necessity somehow finds himself on a major league mound to start a game. As he makes his way through the club house to well wishes and spots his crying Mom and proud Dad from the bullpen, he’s both anxious and appreciative.
Nothing is really expected of the kid and he makes it into the 5th before he finally gets his first K. The inner smiles of “Yes! I made it!” consume him and subsequently the next batter hits a bomb he knew was gone before he tipped his pitch in overconfident measure. Before the umpire reaches in his bag to retrieve a new ball, he sights the manager, who called him the wrong name, place his foot on the bottom step and heads out of the dugout.
“Damn!” he says disgusted in himself because his Pop just this morning warned about tipping his pitches. Still, he’s appreciative and exits to a warm ovation led by his proud Mom and crying Dad.
This fictional character gets a no decision but manages a 15 year Major League career before becoming a manager himself making his hometown proud and boastful.
Flash fast to the nation’s capital on the same night Boston and Los Angeles were playing in the NBA Finals and the Stephen Strasburg hype machine was churning the livest and the loudest since LeBron James stepped into Sacramento Arco Arena cowbells.
There was an incredible scene in Washington and what Strasburg did was nothing short of fantastic. The Nationals are promising and were on a two day high after drafting another stud in Bryce Harper number one.
Strasburg struck out 14, walked none, allowed two earned runs and gave up four hits in seven innings of a 5-2 victory. He sent the last seven batters he faced back to the dugout shaking their collective heads K’d and confused.
Future Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriquez came off the disabled list to catch the young phenom and it had to be a boost for Strasburg to have a World Series champion who has caught no hitters and even the great Nolan Ryan as his battery mate.
Stasburg was under a pitch count so was pulled despite having a lot left into the 7th. Jim Riggleman was the manager of record when another phenom, Kerry Wood, made his 1998 debut (the same year Sammy Sosa hit 66 homers) and Riggleman was not about to err by over pitching his second lightening in a bottle so Stasburg was sent to the showers.
Riggleman has caught much wreck for the demise of Wood’s curve ball mainly for leaving Kerry in too long in his 5th major league start where he eventually had 20 strikeouts.
Of the 94 pitches Strasburg threw, 65 were strikes…including 18 misses from Pirates batters. Pittsburgh has not the most talented lineup in MLB but no other team wiffed as many Pirates this season and no pitcher in the league has struck out 14 in any outing.
J.R. Richard and Karl Spooner share the strikeout record for a debut with 15 in nine inning performances where both pitchers walked three.
He was 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA in the 2008 Olympics for the bronze medal winning USA squad.
In the minors he was 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA and had 65 K’s and 13 base on balls in 55 1/3 innings. His Triple-A debut in Syracuse drew 13,766…an attendance record where they have been watching professional baseball since 1876.
Stasburg signed a four-year deal worth $15.1 million, plus incentives on August 18th, 2009.
Will Stasburg open his career with three straight 200 inning seasons or go ROY and Cy Young back to back like Doc Gooden? Will he be a Hall of Fame pitcher? Are we witnessing the next great athlete? With Jason Heyward and Austin Jackson making noise in Atlanta and Detroit, respectively, baseball is infused with a new energy that might carry over for the next 15 years.
Stasburg’s command in front of the world when he had to give a great performance was Tiger Woods like. Yes, he is supremely talented and had a Hall of Fame coach in Tony Gwynn teaching him the nuances of being a professional while at San Diego State, but the kid had to show and prove and that he masterfully did.
He’s gonna baffle most hitters but the indicator will be when he makes his second go round as hitters scout his sick curve and change. Think about how wild Randy Johnson was for the Expos…if this kid can throw his assortment of pitches while hitting his spots without the walks his career will be incredible.
His only mistake was a change up 2-run homer hit by Delwyn Young. 34 of his pitches hit 98 on the gun.
One year the number 1 pick in the draft, the next year last night fastballs and curves outta sight.
He is a big fella and looks as if he stepped out of somebody’s cornfield and directly into the land Barack is rebuilding.
President Obama’s winds of change has blown into the District of Columbia just as fast as a Stasburg heater and every sports team in Chocolate City now has reason for optimism.
There are other beginnings of note:
Wilt Chamberlain had 43 points and 28 rebounds in 1959 in a performance that stands alone as the most outstanding debut in sports history.
Wayne Gretzky for Edmonton had an assist in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Magic Johnson scored 26 the first time he stepped onto NBA hardwood for the Lakers.
LeBron James went for 25, 6 boards and 9 dimes straight out of high school for Cleveland.
Michael Jordan put in a respectable 16 for Chicago his first game as a rookie.
Allen Iverson scored 32 for the Sixers.
Randy Moss caught 4 balls for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns in a Vikings win vs. Tampa Bay.
Ken Griffey Jr. got a hit in his first at bat.
Mark Prior won, had 10 K’s in his much anticipated first start also against the Pirates and Daisuke Matsuzaka struck out 10 as well in a win vs. the Kansas City Royals. Kerry Wood sat down 7 in a loss to the Expos.
These are just a few of note and while some will see Strasburg as the greatest to ever throw a baseball, those grounded in history will put his performance in its proper perspective. He could become the best to ever do it or simply the hypothetical pitcher in the intro.
The best thing for us to do is watch in historical anticipation of what is to come.
NL Boxscore Pittsburgh vs. Washington
|Andrew McCutchen CF||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.306|
|Neil Walker 2B||4||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.320|
|Lastings Milledge LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.246|
|Garrett Jones 1B||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.256|
|Delwyn Young RF||3||1||1||2||0||0||1||0||2||.241|
|Andy LaRoche 3B||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.244|
|Ronny Cedeno SS||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.242|
|Jason Jaramillo C||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.182|
|Jeff Karstens P||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.182|
|Evan Meek P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Ryan Church PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.200|
|Javier Lopez P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Cristian Guzman 2B||4||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.311|
|Nyjer Morgan CF||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.258|
|Ryan Zimmerman 3B||4||3||3||1||0||0||1||0||0||.316|
|Adam Dunn 1B||4||1||3||2||0||0||1||0||0||.280|
|Adam Kennedy PR-1B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.243|
|Josh Willingham LF||3||1||1||1||0||0||1||1||0||.278|
|Ivan Rodriguez C||4||0||2||0||1||0||0||0||0||.331|
|Roger Bernadina RF||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.250|
|Ian Desmond SS||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.273|
|Stephen Strasburg P||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Willie Harris PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.180|
|Tyler Clippard P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1.000|
|Matt Capps P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
LOB_Pittsburgh 2, Washington 5. 2B_C.Guzman, I.Rodriguez. HR_D.Young (3) off S.Strasburg, R.Zimmerman (12) off J.Karstens, J.Willingham (11) off J.Karstens, A.Dunn (11) off J.Karstens. SB_R.Cedeno (6). GIDP_G.Jones, I.Rodriguez. DP_Pittsburgh 2 (L.Milledge and J.Jaramillo), (N.Walker and G.Jones); Washington 1 (I.Desmond, C.Guzman and A.Dunn).
|Jeff Karstens (L 1-2)||5.0||9||4||4||0||0||3||72-52||4.81|
|Stephen Strasburg (W 1-0)||7.0||4||2||2||0||14||1||94-65||2.57|
|Tyler Clippard (H 13)||1.0||1||0||0||0||2||0||16-11||1.62|
|Matt Capps (S 19)||1.0||0||0||0||0||1||0||10-7||3.49|
J.Karstens pitched to 3 batters in the 6th.
Umpires_Home,Tom Hallion; First, Ron Kulpa; Second, Lance Barksdale; Third, Ed Rapuano.