Stephen Strasburg continued to impress Sunday at Viera, Fla., in a Grapefruit League matchup with the Cardinals. The rookie sensation threw three shutout innings using a sharp fastball in the mid-90s to keep the Cards at bay early. His spring totals are now pushed to five shutout innings, just four hits, four strikeouts, and plenty of excitement in the nation’s capital. St. Louis broke free when Strasburg left the game to win 7-3.
It will certainly be hard to convince the Nationals fan base that Strasburg shouldn’t be the opening day starter, let alone on the staff. It seems like a no-brainer. Washington needs help. It’s the joke of baseball right now. Strasburg can help.
After maturing in college at San Diego State University under Tony Gwynn, Strasburg is ready to handle the load. He is not a high school kid being rushed to the big show. He faced top college talent. He worked hard in the weight room. College was enough for this kid to be ready. The Nats can still be cautious and keep him to six innings to start, but the team needs him on so many levels.
It needs him to be competitive. The team has been the bottom-feeder of baseball for the last few years. The few talented players like Ryan Zimmerman will likely bolt when free agency comes. Without a promising sign from the organization that it is committed to winning, few players will ever want to play there.
It needs him to change the culture. The buzz already has some veterans excited. Perhaps his youthful talent will invigorate the other players and push them to another level on the field. It is a lot more fun to come to the park knowing you have a chance to win. With Strasburg on the mound, Washington will always have a chance to win.
It needs him to make money.
The Washington community embraced the team when it came from Montreal for the 2005 season. 2005 was a magical season for the Nats. Frank Robinson led the team to a surprising 50-31 mark heading into the All-Star break. The future looked bright for the “new” franchise.
Unfortunately, Washington couldn’t keep up following the break, and it hasn’t been able to keep up since. The franchise has been in a free fall for a while now. The fans haven’t been coming out to see the embarrassment on the field. With Strasburg, this can change quickly. The new Nationals Park that opened in 2008 is a state-of-the-art ballpark that is great place to watch a game. Strasburg will make the games great to watch and peak interest.
He looks like a solid foundation for a franchise to build on. With a few more young pieces, the Nats could make some noise in the near future.
Turning back to the present, today’s game showed how far the team must come. The Cardinals jumped on the Washington relief pitching to win 7-3. It continued the theme this spring for the winless Nats: poor pitching. The team has an ERA of 9.92, highlighting the need for Strasburg even more. Allen Craig went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Nick Stavinoha was 2-for-4 with an RBI-single.
Adam Wainwright was better today, throwing four innings and giving up two runs. Wainwright threw a good game, building up some stamina and sharpening his pitches as summer closes in.
It was a good day for the Cards at the plate and on the mound as it moved to 5-5 in the Grapefruit League.
For the Nats, the future looks bright. Now, the organization must decide when the future will come. 2010? 2011? The baseball world will be watching closely.