Honestly, I can’t believe there is so much discussion about whether or not Washington Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg should pitch in the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 13th in Anaheim. The 21-year old from San Diego State has made five major league starts. The last came on Monday, when he threw 6.1 innings, struck out seven and lost to the Atlanta Braves. Over his five-game career, Strasburg is now 2-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 31.2 innings. Reasonably impressive numbers, but he’s lost two in a row. Should he play in the All-Star Game? Of course he should!
The Nationals stink. They are 34-44, and dead last in the National League East. The only reason fans would ever want to see them play would be if Strasburg was starting. If that alone doesn’t make a player an all-star, I don’t know what does.
Each MLB team must be represented at the All-Star Game. That’s a rule. If Strasburg was not the Nats’ rep, who would be? Way-over-the-Hill catcher Ivan Rodriguez? Sure he would…if this was 1999. First baseman Adam Dunn? He has 17 home runs and 47 RBI, so maybe. But, tell me this, would you rather go to the park to see Dunn or Strasburg? Ya, I thought so.
Even though it’s used to determine which league will host a potential Game Seven of the World Series, the MLB All-Star Game has become a bit of a joke anyway. Cemented by the 2002 Let’s-end-this-in-a-tie fiasco, the game has fallen miles since Pete Rose thought it would be a good idea to take catcher Ray Fosse’s head off to end the 1970 mid-summer classic. What began in 1933, as an event held during the World’s Fair in Chicago, has become nothing more than a muscle-bulging showcase for big names. And is there any bigger name in baseball right now than Stephen Strasburg?
In my memory, I can only come up with one pitcher who has burst onto the scene as strongly as Strasburg has. In 1976, 21-year old Detroit Tigers’ rookie Mark “The Bird” Fidrych made his major league début on May 15th against Cleveland. He defeated the Tribe, 2-1, talked to the ball, patted down the mound and watched baseball fans fall in love with him. By the end of June 1976, Fidrych was 8-1. The Bird started that year’s MLB All-Star Game at Veterans Stadium in Philly. He pitched two innings, gave up four hits, two earned runs and took the loss. By 1981, Fidrych was out of baseball. On April 13, 2009, while working under a 10-wheeled dump truck at his home, Fidrych was accidentally killed.
There is absolutely no way of knowing how long Stephen Strasburg’s major league career will last. He could be like Fidrych, who finished his career with a 29-19 career record, but completely captured fans of the game for one magical bi-centennial summer. Or he could be like Roger Clemens, who won 24 games as a 23-year old and went on to win seven Cy Young Awards over 24 seasons in the major leagues. (We’ll leave Clemens’ off-field stuff where it is for right now).
Stephen Strasburg is a wonder to watch this summer. Let’s hope we all get to watch him in the All-Star Game in two weeks. (And, check it out, I never used the word “phenom” once!)