August 21, 2009
When it finally came to pass on Friday afternoon, the arrival of Stephen Strasburg in Washington was not greeted by flying doves, trumpeting elephants, a lifting of the Redskins Tweeting ban or the Teddy Roosevelt mascot coming armed with a copy of a healthcare solution everyone can agree on.
Still, Nationals president Stan Kasten called it a "great moment" for his franchise and one might even call it the greatest so long as you're not counting a few of the high times had in Montreal.
After months of anticipation, negotiation and even consternation, the sight of the top draft pick finally stepping into NatsTown had to be encouraging for the group of fans who braved both the humidity of Nationals Park and presence of superagent Scott Boras. If the Nationals ever build themselves into a competitive franchise, the clip of Ryan Zimmerman(notes) handing Strasburg a new No. 37 Nationals jersey with his (correctly-spelled!) name on the back will likely lead all the rebuilding highlight reels.
I would guess that's the hope in D.C., anyway.
For those wondering what Strasburg said in the most anticipated District speech since Obama's inauguration, rest assured that it doesn't really matter. Relying on a bunch of the standard ballplayer cliches, Strasburg came off as the young 21-year-old eager to make an impression, but inexperienced with the phenomenom of the general public being interested in every word he has to say. He did not speak in sound bites.
Also, it appears the plan remains the same and those impatient folks hoping to see him throw in the bigs in '09 did not receive a reversal of fortune.
Just as new full-time GM Mike Rizzo reported earlier in the week, Strasburg plans to head directly to the Nats' spring training facility where the team will evaluate his arm after it just went through a summer of rest and golf. He'll then throw some innings in a Florida instructional league and then maybe move to the Arizona fall league.
"We're going to start him slow," said Rizzo.
And that's exactly what they should be doing. Finally seeing Strasburg in the flesh and within the context of Major League Baseball sure was exciting, but it should all be viewed as part of the bigger plan in Washington — a plan that got just a tad more hopeful on Friday.