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Springtime Storylines: So, when is Stephen Strasburg going to get to Washington?

Mar 31, 2010, 1:15 PM EDT

Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Stephen StaNatsburgs:


The
big question: So, when is Stephen Strasburg going to get to Washington?

I just got back from spending four days in our nation’s captial with my family. If I had managed to get beyond Smithsonian Hell and out into the bars I used to frequent back when I lived there, I’m sure the hot topic of conversation would have been Stephen Strasburg and when he’s going to make his major league debut for the Nats.

Wait, that’s not true. I used to frequent happy hours at cheesy bars south of DuPont Circle with my wife and her coworkers and the topic of conversation in those places tended to focus on marrying well, when, not if, everyone should go to law school and whether or not Heath Shuler would get another chance to start for the Redskins.  There were also rumors that President Clinton was messing around with the help, but none of us believed it because we were in our early 20s and had not yet lost faith in the ability of fast-talking womanizers to change their ways once they assumed the reins of true power.

OK, I’m getting kinda far afield here. The point is that if Washington is ever going to become the baseball town guys like George Will always said it would, Stephen Strasburg is going to be the reason why. So naturally the team sent him to Altoona, Pennsylvania to kick things off, leaving the sketchy climbers who inhabit whatever bar has taken the place of The Black Rooster to talk about whatever Redskins quarterback has taken the place of Heath Shuler.

But it was the right move!  Stephen Strasburg could go 35-0 for the Nats this season and he won’t elevate them beyond fourth place at the absolute most. And of course, calling him up early means the Nats will have to pay him more money sooner. The bad, albeit understandable move would have been to start him with the team on Opening Day in a cynical season ticket sales ploy.  Kudos to the Nats for thinking long term about this.  As much as I’d love to see Strasburg face big leaguers now, calling him up later is the smart play.

OK, here’s my guess: Strasburg’s first big league start comes against the Royals on June 23rd. Reasons: the date is about right to give him 15-20 starts for the season, the Royals are a nice harmless opponent, the game on the 23rd is a 4:35 PM Wednesday start which would normally be seen by about 825 people and, if everyone gets their stuff together on this, it could even be moved to 7:05 to be the ESPN game that night, which would be quite a coup for the Royals and the Nats.  Make it happen, everyone.

So what
else is
going on?

  • Ian Desmond won the starting shortstop job over Cristian Guzman. Much has been written about this move. It’s quite obviously a good one, as Desmond represents hope and the future and Guzman represents a lot of balls finding their way into left and center fields.
  • The lineup should be improved this year. A full season of Nyjer Morgan makes things a bit more exciting. Adam Kennedy was quite useful for Oakland last year. In Dunn and Zimmerman the Nats have as good a 1-2 punch as most anyone in the game. 

  • Adam Dunn: starting first baseman is a bit scary, but it’s probably not as scary as Adam Dunn: starting left fielder. And hey, you need the 40 bombs, and he’s gotta play somewhere.
  • The bullpen is going to be kinda scary again. As in scary-bad, not scary-good. The additions were Matt Capps, Sean Burnett and Brian Bruney, and those guys are far closer to being arsonists than firemen. On the bright side, the minute one of those guys blows a Strasburg lead he’ll probably be executed or something, so the pain will only last so long.
  • One last tidbit from my D.C. trip: My wife, who spent three years riding the Metro in to D.C. every day back when we lived there somehow managed to demagnetize one fare card and then miscalculate the fares on another, leading to her being on the wrong side of the gate from our daughter while she had to get exit fare at a busy station (my daughter’s panic level: high). She could have split her pants on national television and she would have been less embarrassed than she was about losing all of her D.C. kung-fu over the past 12 years. It was sad to watch, really.

So how
are they gonna do?

The Nats are headed in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go for this crew. 75 wins is probably the best they can expect, but given where they’ve been lately, that would represent considerable improvement. My wife: she’s probably going to have a lot of conversations with herself in the mirror, trying to figure out at what point she truly became a Midwesterner. I’m going to place it, generously, in late 2008, which is when she bought the station wagon.

Prediction: Fifth place in the NL East unless the Mets are ravaged by injuries again, in which case they could squeak out fourth.

Click
here for other Springtime Storylines

  1. Dave - Mar 31, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Actual, the cynical ticket ploy is to bring Strasburg up in May/June for Opening Strasburg Era Day and proceed to limit his innings by pitching him mainly at home on the weekends.

  2. Scott - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Opening Day sells out anyway (especially with Philly coming to town). Bringing up Strasburg later gives them two high-anticipation days.
    As long as you and your wife remembered to stand on the right half of the escalators to leave the left side open for those who like to walk, I’m sure you were fine.
    Didn’t know you used to live here. I’ll keep an eye out the next time the Braves are in town.

  3. Bill McCloskey - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Hey, the Rooster is still there, filled with Caps jerseys some nights and some Nats caps some other nights. You ought to stop by, the beer is still a lot cheaper than at the arena or ballpark.

  4. Chris Simonds - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    I see very few real station wagons in Columbus, but herds of mini vans, SUVs and SUV cross-overs. If your wife actually bought a station wagon, she’s full bore way cool retro as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Went to law school at George Washington. Lived in Alexandria from 1995-98.
    I thought I read that the Rooster closed a year ago or something. Or that it was going to, maybe. Oh well. Used to drink at ACME too — though that ceased being a bar before I moved — and the Front Page as well.

  6. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    It’s probably not really a station wagon: Volvo XC-70. We call it a wagon, though, because it just kind of looks like a wagon. It’s probably technically a crossover.

  7. Old Gator - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Craig, if you had spent more time up in Adams-Morgan or over at Zed’s on M Street in Georgetown gorging on Ethiopian food instead of cheap beer and pretzels at the Rooster, you might be working for Sports Illustrated now writing real-time text for the swimsuit issue (though I grant you there’s been a trend toward de-emphasis of the swimsuits of late). Wouldn’t that beat trading barbs with John Heyman?
    .
    Well, at least we can agree on one thing: Gnats at the bottom. Adam Dunn coming out of that dugout will look a lot like Chthulhu rising out of the urschleim, but it will be fun to watch him shambling like some mesozoic mutant after those dribblers down the line. Those fifteen or twenty people in the first base side field boxes will be whispering “Buckner” and blowing bubbles in their Diet Cokes. Speaking of cheap beer, I hope Bud Light ordered new energy efficient ventilation for the basement. With the dead weight of spoiling Feesh on top of them, and no Aqavit in sight to wash it down with, this team is going to need it.

  8. KR - Mar 31, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    My wife works in Dupont; I’ve definitely been to the Front Page.
    Also I own a station wagon and I live here. (A real wagon: 2009 Outback. the 2010 redesign is pretty much an SUV though unfortunately.)
    Anyway, got my 9 Nats games again this year (1/9th of a season ticket package we split with my wife’s co-workers). Including Wed Jun 9th vs the Pirates, so I’m going to go ahead and hope for Strasburg to debut then, for all the same reasons you mentioned (except it’s a Wednesday night instead of Wednesday afternoon).

  9. BC - Mar 31, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    Anyone know if the Brickskeller is still there? Land of 1000 beers. I loved that place.

  10. Ron Rollins - Mar 31, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    I used to spend as much time as I could in Old Town. Good trainging for moving to England, becuase it’s like de ja vu all over again.

  11. shyster reader - Mar 31, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    How long do the Nats need to keep Strasburg down to delay arbitration eligibility? Could they bring him up after one start in the minors? Thanks.

  12. KR - Mar 31, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    BC: Yes, Brickskeller is still there.
    shyster reader: Pretty sure it’s June 1.

  13. APBA Guy - Mar 31, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Brickskeller still lives:
    http://www.lovethebeer.com/brickskeller.html
    Although the hotel above is no longer the Hotel Fairfax, it’s now the Brickskeller Inn.
    Gator’s references to DC dining spots takes me back to when I lived by the Zoo (some would say at the Zoo), particularly when Adams Morgan meant Cuban food: Omega, Lauriol Plaza, and El Caribe. Sad, sad day when Omega closed.
    But Gator, what’s this I’m reading about Florida restaurants not serving local catch and moving increasingly to imported fish?
    And Craig, losing your Metro mojo is nothing. Try renting a car and navigating around the bridge construction in Alexandria after you’ve been gone for 5 years. “Hey, this looks like Maryland” is not what you want to hear.

  14. Old Gator - Mar 31, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    Heh heh, now ye gone and done it.
    .
    Remember now, this is Macondo. You have reality; we have magic realism. They’re not the same thing. Part of the problem is that as far as freshwater fish, there’s nothing left but tilapia, peacock bass (which is not a bass at all but a cichlid) and northern snakeheads. They were introduced here over the past couple of decades and have eaten everything else. Also, we’ve overprotected the alligators and cousin Ollie and the rest of the family have been pigging out massively on the fish supply. Last year, some of my less well mannered relations pulled a couple of people off of footbridges where they were dangling their tootsies in the water. No more of that bucolic stuff anymore. But like Gary (The Far Side Larson once noted, I think it’s great that we live in a place where there are things that eat us. It restores perspective.
    .
    Our coastal waters have been pretty well fished out. Good local stuff like snapper, dolphin (mahi mahi, not the cetacean with the idiotic grin on its snout), black marlin, red grouper, hog and yellowtail snapper, and the crown prince of feeshly flavor and succulence, pompano, have just been fished to the point of really diminishing returns and a lot of fishermen have packed up and gone to Mexico to build cars or something. Typically, only the highly poisonous lionfish, mostly flushed-down-the-toilet aquarium pets, and our saltwater American crocodiles are staging a major comeback. They’ve been holed up in the cooling ponds and outlet canals of the Turkey Point nuclear power station down on Biscayne Bay near Homestead. Predators can’t get at the nests or hatchlings ’cause the banks are routinely cleared of brush by good old Florida Power and Light and mama can see everything that comes near the eggs or little ones. Now the power plant waterways have become overcrowded with crocs and they’re moving out and repopulating the bays and harbors. And eating fish…so far.
    .
    Three years ago, they told us with a straight face that the shocking increase in the price of stone crab was due to – are you ready? – an explosion in the octopus population!!! Where was Captain Nemo when we really needed him? I suppose the octopus population imploded the following year along with the housing and condo market and the disappearance of disposable income. Me, I pride myself on being ecologically conscious, but I never knew that octopi fed on disposable income as well as stone crab. But there you have it; it’s a world of wonders out there.

  15. Chris Simon - Mar 31, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    Looks like a wagon to me. The trade papers call it a “sport wagon”. Anyway, I’ll give it a pass – looks like you could fill it with Little Leaguers and still be fantasizing 1950′s and Leave It To Beaver.

  16. Josh in Dallas - Mar 31, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    Craig, I heard that after your wife finally got through the Metro turnstile, she stood on the left side of the escalator. That’s when she really lost her DC mojo.

  17. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 31, 2010 at 8:04 PM

    That’s one thing we did right: impressed on our kids that you gotta stand to the right. Why, they asked. BECAUSE!!!! we said.
    We haven’t lost it all. Just most of it.

  18. Grant - Apr 3, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    My blood pressure just went up even reading about left-escalator-standers (always the worst at Union Station, with their luggage no less), and I haven’t even lived in DC in two years. Man that’s annoying.

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