Thursday, June 23, 2010 8:28am
By Miss Chatter
Know that feeling when you were a kid and eagerly ripped open packages on Christmas morning (if you celebrated), and one particularly pretty package ended up being a pair of jeans or something (socks, underwear - oh the embarrassment)? Oh the deflation! Unless, of course, you were my husband who actually wanted clothes. Yes, he's a little odd. Nats fans went into the final game of the Royals series looking for a sweep, thinking that rare outcome was nearly guaranteed with Stephen Strasburg on the mound, and instead unwrapped the only loss of the series on the 4th day of a still wildly hyped Strasmas.
I've lucked out and seen every Strasburg start in person so far since we made the trip to Cleveland for his one road start to-date. I've started wondering if I can actually make all his starts, although that's probably dreaming. This was the first one where I sat in the stands as a fan without a camera or laptop and experienced all the pleasures such as sweating into a pool of goo in the blazing blue seat and allowing my kids to wander off with enough money to amply arm themselves with cotton candy, the forbidden fruit. I wanted to soak it all in. K after glorious K and the curly W field celebration for the win at the end. Unlike Strasburg's previous two outings, being the "stopper" was unnecessary for this game as the Nats had already won the series.
The young pitcher has drawn the "Who's Who of Sports Media" to the press box and portable television studios dot the warning track during Strasburg starts. Excepting last night, his starts have been broadcast nationally on TBS and MLB Network, putting the Nationals in the national spotlight after relative non-mocking obscurity. Last night's sweltering start brought in nearly 32K fans compared to 13,592 for the first game of the Royals series, and has provided a boon in the stands both on the road and at home where his previous two starts were sellouts. Instead of the assumed win, Strasburg ended up taking the 1-0 loss when the Nats offense was again MIA. One fan tweeted me that he saw the Nats offense in the back of an ambulance after the game. That's how abysmal getting hits and runs has become. Even Strasmas can't always be enough to bring the wins that seemed to stack up with ease on the stats board earlier in the season.
Strasburg broke the record for the most strikeouts in a pitcher's first four starts (41), but does it really matter when the team loses? Ask any player and they'll tell you (whether they're being honest or not) that personal records don't mean a thing, it's only wins as a team that counts. I'm pretty sure the fans agree as angry tweets regarding the offense zinged through the Twittosphere after the game ended, and hardly a one mentioned broken records. The loss was so painful, Ray Knight and Rob Dibble kind of went at it in the postgame show over whether or not Strasburg threw too many strikes to the Royals. How about somebody put up their dukes about pinch hitting Willie Harris and leading off with Nyjer Morgan, a pair who apparently have a much longer leashes than John Lannan? Strasburg only gave up one run despite allowing 9 hits (yes, that's a tad high). How many runs did the Nats score? Zero. Zip. Nada. Nobody can win with that, despite a bad call by the homeplate ump that would have at least left the game tied 1-1 and heading into extra innings.
There are twelve days of Christmas and I'm beginning to wonder if the hype will have dropped off by Strasburg's 12th start? How much can one player who only appears every five days impact the win-loss record and overall fan swell of support for a team that continues to struggle? Obviously the short-term impact has been tremendous, but I'm curious to see how it lasts over the long haul. I don't disagree that Strasburg is a phenomenal pitcher and a treat to watch thus far, and he has definitely brought excitement to this team, seemingly setting or tying records in every game no matter the outcome. How long will the national and even local attention last? I giggled when I heard Express printed Ks for fans to bring to the game yesterday. That kind of attention is awe-inspiring and fun to participate in after previous seasons. Will the Nationals get a visit from Lady Gaga at some point during a Strasburg start? That seems to be all that's missing at this point.
Therefore, I'm going to continue this Days of Strasmas shtick at least through twelve starts to see how the ebb and flow of attention and hype persists. I'll get over last night's loss. Today is like Christmas for me anyway as I eagerly await a Fed Ex man on my doorstep with my shiny new iPhone 4! Yeah, yeah, I'm a sucker for bleeding edge. It sure beats unwrapping a package of socks any day!