June 8, 2010

Must Beat Strasburg Tonight

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 8, 2010

As all of you no doubt know, the Pirates face Stephen Strasburg tonight in his major league debut. An interesting fact about your major league debut is that it's one double letter away from literally having your ass removed.

In the minor leagues this year Strasburg is 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA, allowing 31 hits and 13 walks over 55 innings. He gave up just one home run and struck out 65. Those are unreal numbers which tend to suggest that he is better than he's better than Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA this year.

One time when I was like 8 years old I went to take a ride on the Strasburg Railroad while visiting my grandparents, who conveniently live in Lancaster County, home of lots of awful tourist attractions. Well, I was unbelievably pumped for my first ever railroad trip. A train is a lot cooler to an 8 year old kid than either a Chevy Celebrity or a school bus. I loved the idea, loved the start of the train trip, and was generally happy with the whole thing.

Well, halfway into the trip, the goddamn train turned around and went right back to the same parking lot we parked in. It really undermined the goal of getting from place to place, which is arguably the main point of transportation. 8 year old me was disappointed. Disappointment is not a great emotion when expressed by an 8 year old.

So Strasburg is the most hyped pitching prospect of all time. The moral of the railroad story is, nothing lives up to the hype. The most hyped basketball prospect of all time, LeBron James, was wildly successful, lived up to the hype overall, and still lead his team to a 35-47 record his first year. Also, Ryan Leaf.

Karstens himself had a 5-0, 1.49 minor league record in 2007 and managed to go 1-4, 11.05 when called up that year.

Strasburg won't do that. I fully think that he will have a great year and post something like 10 wins and a 3.50 ERA. But he's not Jesus, despite what Nyjer Morgan says. Also, this is a huge game for the Pirates in that they can't afford to look bad in the national spotlight. I personally can't stand to see more tired old "Pirates suck" columns from ESPN etc.

The Nationals want Strasburg to succeed. Given the level of hype it would be disastrous if he got chased in the second inning. Make no mistake, this game was chosen because the Nationals think the Pirates are the weakest opponent Strasburg could face. McCutchen and the other legitimate major league hitters on the Buccos roster should take it as a personal affront and respond accordingly.

I attoned for my Strasburg Railroad disaster with a Chicago to San Francisco Amtrak trip 13 years later. Strasburg, barring injury, will win 200 games. Let's hope tonight's game isn't the first.

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