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5 Reasons Why Stephen Strasburg Is Already The Best Pitcher Ever

5 years ago
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By now, you've probably heard the exciting news that rookie Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, 21, utterly dominated in his debut last night-- striking out 14 batters, one less than the MLB record, to push the Nationals to a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Impressively, nobody in the press appears to have experienced a postgame hype hangover. On the contrary, in the hours following Strasburg's stellar opening performance, sportswriters have only continued to pile on the praise, suggesting that the young phenom has what it takes to be one of, if not, the greatest athletes in the history of the game. Here are their main arguments:

1. He went far "beyond the hype."

As AOL Fanhouse's Terence Moore put it: "For one night, Stephen Strasburg proved that hype isn't necessarily a four-letter word. For one night, he actually performed higher than the over-the-top coverage he was receiving -- ranging from a countdown clock on ESPN from early afternoon to his first pitch on Tuesday evening to the Washington Post pushing the locally sainted Redskins off of its front pages for a change to a rare sellout at Nationals Park."

"It is rare, now more than ever, for a player or event to exceed such hype," The New York Times' Tyler Kepner observed, "But Strasburg has. He mastered major league hitters in spring training, then blitzed through a two-month apprenticeship in the minors. Almost nobody touched him there; opponents hit .158.

AP sports writer Joseph White agrees: "Baseball's newest wunderkind went beyond the hype - and anyone's reasonable expectations - with an electric and unprecedented major league debut Tuesday night in the Washington Nationals' 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates."

2. He invites, the buries, comparisons to pitching legends.

"[Announcer] Bob Costas kept trying to keep things in perspective," blogger Ted Berg notes, "then in the next breath would mention Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, Walter Johnson. It's not fair, of course, to expect a Hall of Fame career out of any 21-year-old. But who's to say what the hype machine would have churned out if Feller, Seaver or the Big Train made their debuts in 2010?"

Another AP writer, Frederic J. Frommer, points out that just over a century ago, an ailing Washington, D.C. baseball team (the Senators) were rocked by another sensational rookie pitcher by the name of Walter Johnson. There's also the fact the Strasburg, like Johnston, only allowed two runs in their respective debuts and yet Strasburg managed three times as many strikeouts.

And as White recalls, "Karl Spooner also struck out 15 in his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. He and [J.R.] Richard are the only pitchers with more strikeouts than Strasburg in a major league debut since 1920 - and Spooner and Richard both had three walks."

3. He can rally.

DCist takes an interesting approach by turning Strasburg's one lapse in the game into a source of strength. Recalling that in the fourth inning, Stephen let up a two-run homer by Delwyn Young, Aaron Morrisey writes: "But there he was, the next inning and the next and the next, back to throwing the ball 99 miles per hour and making the same men -- including Young -- look utterly foolish, over and over and over again...That's why we know he'll be successful. Because he messed up, like we all do; but he put it behind him and walked away with the win on one of the most electric nights in Washington sports history."

4. He's already "saved" one city...

True/Slant's Graham Kates doesn't mince words, crediting Strasburg (albeit jokingly) with nothing less than 'saving' Washington, D.C. from a several problems unrelated to baseball. But in all seriousness, Portfolio explains how in one night, Strasburg made D.C. Baseball's capital. Even before he took the mound, the hype surrounding his debut lead to a sold-out game and moved tons Nationals merchandise.

5. ...And might have another named after him.

Already, Strasburg has been considered for a honor rarely bestowed upon notable sports greats: having an entire community--in this case, Strasburg, Virginia--named after him, though it looks as though he might have to wait on that one. Still, its worth noting that traditionally, the trend has been the exact opposite, with baseball players named after cities turning out stellar performances.
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