Run for your friggin’ lives! It’s the End of Days! I’m talking about a total Straspocalypse!
At least that’s the position presently being taken by several prominent national baseball writers in the wake of the apparently tragic, sky-is-falling, end-of-the-world, might-as-well-shut-down-Major-League-Baseball news that Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg has a torn ligament in his elbow and will require Tommy John surgery. Heading up the “NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME – EVER!” contingent of journalists are ESPN’s Jayson Stark and SI’s Michael Rosenberg, whose columns, “Loss of Stephen Strasburg a huge one” and “Strasburg injury is bad for the Nationals and sad for all of us” respectively are so chock-full of hyperbole and pseudo-idol worship I am left concerned that these two nitwits are locked in a dark room, listening to “I Know It’s Over” by The Smiths and repeatedly cutting themselves with a rusty butter knife.
I get it. Strasburg was a phenomenal young pitcher with a gigantic future in front of him, but Jesus, he didn’t die, he’s getting freaking surgery that several pitchers have eventually bounced back from – you have to look no further than this season to witness the career renaissance of Minnesota Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano, who, after a few so-so seasons, has reemerged as an incredibly effective – if not dominant – pitcher.
I suppose that is the point writers like Stark and Rosenberg cannot let go of: Strasburg had electric stuff and now, it’s all over. Shut ‘er down, folks. Nothing to see here anymore. I don’t understand why Bud Selig hasn’t canceled today’s games so we could all for a National Day of Mourning. If not for us, at least do it for these sad sacks so they can compose themselves, stock up on Kleenexes and score some Lithium.
First up, Stark:
This isn’t just the Washington Nationals’ loss.
You understand that, right?
If Stephen Strasburg isn’t going to throw a pitch for another year — or even more — the entire sport of baseball isn’t going to be quite the same.
There aren’t many pitchers — there aren’t many players, period — who can cause you to interrupt your regularly scheduled life because you just have to watch them do their thing. But Stephen Strasburg was one of them.
But now that we know that’s true, we need to digest this news and what it means. And boy, is there a lot to digest.
This guy was special.
It was clear from the moment he stepped onto the big league stage in June and punched out 14 Pirates that he was something special.
And what lay ahead promised to be just as special.
That was part of the electricity of watching Stephen Strasburg. It wasn’t simply about the fun of watching him hit 100 mph on the gun, buckle knees everywhere with his breaking ball or induce some of the ugliest hacks ever witnessed with his dive-bomber changeup.
It was also about wondering where it was all leading.
If you live in a big league town, one of the heart-thumping benefits is the thrill of looking at the schedule and realizing: “Whoa. Strasburg pitches here next week.”
It’s been that way forever. No different than the days when people thought: Koufax comes to town next week … or Gibson … or Pedro … or Fernando.
Those evenings are never just another night on the schedule. They’re Events.
And even though this guy trailed all those guys decisively in Cy Young trophies, Strasburg Night was already in that same class. It was An Event.
That’s the rub, Stark. He wasn’t already in the same class. Twelve games does not make a career, let alone a magical season. Granted, his first start was amazing, but in the end, he was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in those twelve starts. Excellent, to be sure, but world-changing? Let’s all take a deep breath here.
And now, Rosenberg’s crack at overdoing it:
There is something terribly sad about this latest Stephen Strasburg news. It’s not just sadness for Strasburg, who apparently needs Tommy John surgery — he is a wealthy and (mostly) healthy young American male who should be fine, no matter what happens. And it’s not just sadness for the Washington Nationals, who lost the one guy who has made them relevant.
No, it’s the sadness of an artist who is no longer able to paint, or a musician who suddenly can’t play a chord. What is lost is not just a game or a part of a career, but something on the outer edges of human achievement.
Strasburg was not just on his way to becoming a dominant pitcher. He was doing things with a baseball that some Hall of Famers could not do.
And now, precisely because he could, he no longer can.
Sweet Jesus. Somebody get this guy a towel so he can mop up the mess he made with all that Strasburg knob-gobbling.
Just step away from ledge, guys. It will all look better tomorrow. Life goes on and because of that simple truth, so will Major League Baseball. Even without your Wonder Boy , Stephen Strasburg, to dazzle and enthrall the masses. At the same time, shouldn’t every major league team be required to wear a Washington Nationals #37 patch on their jerseys for the balance of the season? It seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t it?