Can Stephen Strasburg save Major League Baseball?

I recently attended my first major league baseball game of the 2010 season.  The game took place at Tropicana Field between two of the league’s best teams: the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.  It featured two of the game’s, best young pitchers (Clay Buchholz vs. Wade Davis) and hosted plenty of firepower with home runs from David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and Carlos Pena.

As you can see, the game had a lot going for it.

So then why was I bored out of my mind by the third inning, sneaking away to catch the Magic-Celtics overtime playoff game calling to me from the local sports bar.

I grew up in a baseball family.  All other sports took a back seat.  As a kid, there wasn’t a statistic I couldn’t rattle off the tip of my tongue or a starting lineup I couldn’t recite by heart.  But these days, I find the sport unwatchable.  I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself thirsting for the instant gratification of the NFL and NBA.  The home run has lost its luster.  Heck, even golf is more entertaining these days… as long as Tiger Woods is playing.

Over the past few years, the NFL and NBA have done a considerably better job marketing their product.  The NFL continues to sell itself, despite the continual off-the-field incidents of many of its stars.  Under Commissioner David Stern, the NBA chose to market itself by emphasizing the individual athlete in lieu of the team.  Many criticized the league for this… but it worked.  LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard are instantly recognizable.  Albert Pujols is arguably the best player in Major League Baseball but could the average American pick him out of a lineup?

This is exactly why baseball should market the hell out of Stephen Strasburg.  There is no doubt that, at 21 years old, this young pitcher has the potential to not only be an all-time great, but to bring back something baseball has lost.

I plead guilty to tuning into Strasburg’s major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The kid lived up to the hype and then some.  He fanned fourteen batters and tipped the radar gun at over 100mph.  Strasburg was definitely worth the watch despite Bob Costas fawning all over him with endless comparisons to Walter Johnson.  But Costas wasn’t the only one in awe.  ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian called Strasburg’s performance “stunning beyond words.”

These days we’re quick to proclaim athletes the best ever but in Strasburg’s case, the publicity might be warranted.  In his second outing, he struck out eight Cleveland Indians.  He’s already been named National League Player of the Week… and he’s only BEEN in the league for a week!  At this rate, he better have plenty of room on his mantel.

We can set aside the historical comparisons for now.  The kid needs to make it through a few solid seasons and make legitimate contenders out of the Washington Nationals first.

But baseball needs Stephen Strasburg.  He’s already the most marketable player in the game.  Heck, he was baseball’s biggest individual asset before even throwing a pitch.  He got me watching and that’s more of an accomplishment than striking out fourteen Pirates.

Of course, the dinosaur that is Bud Selig probably won’t heed this advice and recognize the need to rebuild the sport he has sorely mismanaged.  And that’s a shame because I WANT to be a fan again.

Strasburg’s long-term success obviously depends on his health, desire and luck but if he can keep it up, the sky’s the limit.  Let’s just hope Major League Baseball recognizes him as such.

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19 Replies to “Can Stephen Strasburg save Major League Baseball?”

  1. Chris

    The very same thing was said about Kerry Wood. And we all know how his career has gone don’t we ? Let the kid play without the undue burden of so much expectation.

    Anyway if it all pans out for him within four years he’ll be in Yankees’ pinstripes . The Nationals haven’t the wherewithal to hang unto Strasburg especially with Scott Boras as his agent. Need I say anymore on the matter ? His arbitration clock has already started ticking and Boras will be laughing all the way to the bank.


  2. First of all, Al, I don’t recall there being nearly this much attention paid to Wood and if so, it’s only because he was on America’s lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs. Wood wasn’t even the first player selected in his own draft.

    Secondly, Major League Baseball was doing just fine back then. Now not so much. I honestly feel the sport needs Strasburg to get fans to believe in it again.

    As as far as pinstripes go, can you imagine how much he’ll warrant when he eventually becomes a Yankee? It’ll make that A-Rod contract look like chump change.

  3. Pingback: Sports Chump » Can Stephen Strasburg save Major League Baseball? | baseballcn

  4. Sorry Chris. One man cannot change MLB for the better. Oh,let me correct that. The only man that can make MLB better would be Bud “Light” Selig. And he could do it by stepping down as the worst comissioner of any pro sports league in history. Selig is the George W Bush of sports. I don’t have to list his failures, as I’m sure you’re up on them.
    Finally, one player can not make the game good again simply because there are 29 more teams in addition to the Natinals. Are we all going to become Washington fans? As for Strasburg evertually going to the Yankees, that’s precisely why the game sucks so much. You can’t get excited about the league knowing that there’s almost no chance for your team to go all the way, unless you’re a fan of the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Phillys or even the Rays.

  5. HB… I think he’s a little better than Rich Gedman… although I do believe it was Rich Gedman who got on base to allow Dave Henderson to hit that game winning home run of Donnie Moore, R.I.P.

  6. Did that seven ounce beer cost you $7?

    Concur with you about San Diego State’s very own Stephen Strasburg. The guy could be MLB’s savior but I doubt Bud will seize the opportunity to do so.

  7. Snake… all great points.

    I don’t know that one man can make the sport great again but he can get us watching and that’s a start.

    I don’t know that there’s an answer to every great player jumping ship to the Yankees other than imposing a salary cap and right now team salaries are so far away from that and the players union is so strong, I don’t ever see that happening.

  8. The seven-ounce watered down Jack cost eight bucks per, which is why I occasionally went for the double. I think you can tell by the glazed look in my eyes that that was towards the end of the evening.

    Ya know what I don’t understand, Drew? If EVERYONE thinks Selig has done a horrible job, how is it that he’s still friggin’ employed?

  9. I am not a baseball fan, mainly because I’m an O’s fan, but anyways….

    Strasburg has got me into baseball again, or at least I watched his first game, which was the first MLB game I have watched in a long time

  10. I think Balzac and Liar North are secretly Red Sox fans as they both named two Fenway faithful.

    It’s okay to jump off that Yankee bandwagon, fellas. I won’t tell.

  11. Chris

    You must’ve been asleep then when Wood had 20 strikeout game for the Cubs then ? And that happened early in his career . I thought you were a sports fan first and foremost ?


  12. Feeling a little ornery today, Al?

    Just because Wood had a 20 strikeout game doesn’t mean that the hype surrounding him comes anywhere close to Strasburg?

    The promise, maybe? Strasburg’s already got more strikeouts in his first three starts than any pitcher in the modern era.

    But it’s not about strikeouts. Any hurler can strike out a few batters. It’s about game management.

    Did you own a Kerry Wood poster or something?

  13. Why does baseball need to be saved. Most of us love the sport the way it is. If you lost your passion, thats more on you than anyone else. Strasburg will be great, but the game has amazing pitchers in King Felix, Lincecum, Greinke…

  14. TBO…

    That may or may not be the case but I don’t think it’s arguable that interest in baseball is generally down across the boards.

    The game’s young pitching is great. How many no-no’s have we already seen this year? But fans of the game will always wonder how much that has to do with good young pitching and how much has to do with hitters no longer on the juice?

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