Strasburg wins MLB debut in lights-out fashion

23 Comments

strasburg nationals park.jpgWe’ve been lucky enough to witness a multitude of impressive pitching performances this season.  Ubaldo Jimenez fired a no-hitter in early April and currently sits 11-1 on the year with a 0.93 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.  Those are historically good numbers. 

Dallas Braden threw a perfect game on May 9 against the Rays, who have owned the best record in baseball for over a month.  He has a 1.09 WHIP.

Roy Halladay, long considered the cream of the crop in the American League, is 8-3 over his first 12 starts in a Phillies uniform with 77 strikeouts and only 13 walks.   He threw his first career perfecto in late May against the Marlins.

It has been a spectacular year for fans of dominant pitching, and let’s go ahead and add Stephen Strasburg’s name to the list of guys who are making it all happen.  The 21-year-old kid — that’s right, kid — out of San Diego State University struck out 14 batters on Tuesday night in his major league debut and picked up his first career win.  It should be the first of many.

Never has a pitcher struck out 14 batters without issuing a walk in a MLB debut.  His 94th and final pitch was clocked at 98 MPH on the Nationals Park gun and he hit 99 MPH regularly throughout the night.

To say Strasburg was impressive would be an understatement.  To say he’s “the real deal” would be spot-on.  His hybrid slider-curve looks like a different pitch every time he throws it.  His fastball has a foot of tailing action, even at 99 MPH.  His changeup, which is still in its infancy, looks like a potential long-term out pitch.  He pairs that all with a devastating sinker and he has an incredible amount of touch and feel for his entire arsenal.

This guy’s good.  This guy is real good.  The Nats may be years away from contending in the stacked-with-youngsters National League East, but that will change as Strasburg carves his way through opposing lineups, Ian Desmond grows into his role as the starting shortstop, and Drew Storen begins wrapping up games with confidence.  Maybe Bryce Harper will even get on the fast track.

The Nationals arrived in the nation’s capital in 2005 and finally moved into their new stadium in 2008.  But not until the night of June 8, 2010 did baseball truly get its welcome back to The District.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.