At 23 years old and coming off a major elbow injury, Stephen Strasburg has yet to surpass 100 career innings in Major League Baseball.
And the Washington Nationals aren't — and might not ever become — the most popular sports team in their own city.
Despite those little details, GQ Magazine decided to name Strasburg among the 50 Most Powerful People in Washington, D.C. (not named Obama or Biden). The only sports figure on a list consisting mostly of politicians and their pals, Strasburg sits at No. 47, right between former senator Chris Dodd (now chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America) and Jack Quinn, a "megalobbyist" for the Democrats.
Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog (who, frankly, should be at least No. 46 on the list) finds Strasburg's placement "kind of weird":
Strasburg isn't the most popular or highest paid athlete in Washington. He doesn't play for the team that attracts the biggest crowds or the best TV ratings. He's never played in a playoff game, or really any game that matters. His name isn't Ted Leonsis or Daniel Snyder or Ted Lerner, who are obviously the most powerful Washington sports figures in any list that isn't just trying to be quirky.
It's true that GQ's list doesn't have an owner, doesn't have Alex Ovechkin or John Wall or even someone like John Thompson III. And it doesn't do a particularly good job of explaining why Strasburg belongs here. But he does.
He pitched twenty-four innings in five games this year. He had one win, one loss and was the most exciting pitcher in baseball. On the night that the young Nationals ace debuted in 2010 — fanning fourteen batters in seven innings, among the all-time great first starts in baseball history — DC's heart swelled for the real-deal phenom with unreal stuff. And then it broke two months later when his elbow popped. The capital warily greeted his post-Tommy John surgery return, but as the 99-mph fastballs, freeze-frame change-ups, and close-shave curveballs flew, Washingtonians let themselves fall in love again.
So, putting Strasburg there is based on a glimpse of what he's done, but it's mostly based on potential — what he might become. And it makes sense, with Washington already a town built on promise. No one man can make a baseball team great, but if Strasburg pitches like he has, and stays healthy and the Nationals start winning, he will get a lot of the credit. Strasburg certainly will be a rallying point.
Strasburg carries a lot of hope on his right arm. And hope, at least in Washington, equals power.
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