Stephen Strasburg made his long awaited debut for the Washington Nationals this afternoon in Viera. The young right-handed starter hurled two innings, allowed two softly-hit singles, and struck out two batters with a total of 27 pitches on the day. He flashed a high 90’s fastball and a devastating curve, and a lot of other things happened which you can read about in many other blogs and reports. So instead of writing your typical ‘Stephen Strasburg Debut’ post, I’m going to break down what today meant for me, a Nats fan.
Being a Nationals fan has always been about believing despite your own reasonible sensabilities. D.C. is a city deeply intrenched in logic, realism, and yes, synicism, and being a Natinoals fan means that you are going to sniff out the crap that a certain former GM fed you, and that you’re going to have to try and be ok with it. Because despite our minds telling us that we should not put up with the garbage that has been put on the field in front of us, our hearts know all too well what it is like to have no baseball at all. Therefor, our choice is simple, bad baseball over no baseball.
Through the years a team has been patched together out of bad situations. The Montreal Expos were in a bad situation when Major League Baseball took them over, and Major League Baseball was in a jam when they awarded the Expos to the D.C. Area. Since 2005 Nationals teams have been built upon with a foundation of players that either never had done what they were supposed to, or once did but no longer could. Being a Nationals fan was about trying to find the optimism when Pedro Astacio threw a compelte game in under 100 pitches, or trying to figure out how Chad Cordero ever got anybody out.
Sure, there were exciting times. Alfonso Soriano went 40-40 in front of a homely RFK crowd in 2006. Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run in the first-ever game at Nationals Park, and of course he had that 30-game hit streak last season. But through the exciting deversions there were few events as anticipated and as promising as todays debut for Strasburg.
You see, Strasburg represents a new horizon that for once may not be spurred from our own delusions. Strasburg’s fastball is tangible, his speed is something that few have ever possessed and for once that raw talent, that physical superiority is in a Nationals uniform. That curveball we saw today, which left Tigers batters in the dust, is something you simply can’t learn. It comes form a god-given talent to have master control and spin on the ball like number 37 displayed today.
Strasburg’s start today meant that for the first time, arguably ever, the Nationals have something in their franchise that other teams covet. It means that we have someone who is a game changer, and hopefully a franchise changer. Certainly it’s a long way between where Strasburg is now, and where he would have to go for that to be true. But for once, I feel like my hopes may finally be based in truth.