I generally view televised MLB as a trip to the dentist's chair, but I'm not immune to the hype. And tonight the hype lands in Washington DC.
The Nationals have already issued 187 media credentials - about the same as a World Series game, and they're anticipating a sell-out. One of many on the horizon when Strasburg throws. Like most, I'm intrigued by Strasburg's otherworldly talent and wonder if he is a once-in-a-lifetime guy. Curt Schilling was quoted as saying that he's "never seen anything like Strasburg" and that "he might be the best pitcher in the major leagues as soon as he arrives."
Overhype from the Bloody Sock? Perhaps. But it's in keeping with all of the expectations that have been placed on Strasburg by scouts, GMs, and baseball observers since he began dominating at San Diego State.
It's not so much that Strasburg was born with a rocket launcher for a right arm - a major league fastball between 95-100 isn't exactly unknown - it's that he's able to get movement on that pitch and then he pairs it with a wicked curve and good control. His change-up is particularly humiliating once he gets hitters primed for his fastball. In the minor leagues, Strasburg compiled a 7-2 record with a 1.30 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 55 innings. One can speculate if it's an early call-up, but the kid appears to have it. You don't put the four corners on greatness.
The Washington Nationals (27-31) are preparing for a playoff atmosphere against the punchless Pittsburgh Pirates tonight and though I'd be shocked to see Strasburg go more than 85 pitches or 6 innings, the spectacle should be well worth a watch. The zoo begins this afternoon on ESPN at 2:30pm CST with a special Strasburg preview on Baseball Tonight followed by the game at 6:00pm CST on the MLB network. Expect lots of superlatives and wild-eyed former major league greats comparing him to Bob Gibson, Roger Clemens, and Bob Feller.
And if the Strasburg hype wasn't enough, the Nationals just selected 17 year old hitting phenom Bryce Harper #1. Harper famously got his GED rather than complete his last two years of high school so that he could play JUCO ball for the College of Southern Nevada where he hit .443 with 31 home runs and 20 steals in 66 games. Scouts are already calling him a once in a decade hitting talent, something they manage only to find a dozen times a year.