Yes, Stephen Strasburg has arrived and there has been no scene of such an inauguration since a presidential arrival. And there is little doubt that this mellow young man brings more to the municipal budget of the city of Washington than any of his recent predecessors.
I have seen him work. He has been among us in Atlanta, and while he was not returned a winner, the reviews that he triggered left me with the feeling that Walter Johnson may have re-appeared in another identity.
Walter Johnson — you probably wonder who he was. Well, until later returns are in, he remains the greatest pitcher whoever wore a Washington uniform. Of course, the team he played for were Senators, these are Nationals. Their records were startlingly similar. Dismal.
But there’s one difference Strasburg makes. He’s filling ball parks, as he did when the Nationals were here. The night he pitched 42,000-and-others came to Turner Field. The night afterward the game drew just under 20,000.
Stan Kasten, who once dwelled in Atlanta, and ran the Braves, and his minions have dealt gently with Strasburg. Here was a youth — or “yout’” — coming off the campus of San Diego State, and who required some gentle handling, so the Nationals moved him up through their farm system. You invest $15 million in a kid, you give him loving care — with the budget in mind down the road. Bringing him up in June, the Nationals were able to delay his free agency one more season.
What everybody knew was that Strasburg could pitch, in college, at Syracuse, anywhere he climbed a mound. The blessed quality about him is that he is stable. No loose cannon. Strictly a gentleman. You invest $15 million in a kid, you’ve got to know that, or you might have yourself another Steve Dalkowski. At one time Dalkowski threw the fastest pitch in baseball. Trouble was, he never knew where he was throwing it — or what bar he might be closing that night.
As it turned out, Dalkowski never threw a pitch in the major leagues. He wound up working the vegetable fields in California, and I’m not even sure he’s alive today.
No Dalkowski here. Strasburg walks, talks and dresses with class. He could do without that little muff of hair around the chin, but somehow, after a few sentences, you don’t notice it. He interviews with good taste and does nothing to detract from these mile-a-minute pitches he throws. Frankly, far as I’m concerned, once a pitch travels at a speed of 95 miles per hour, anything more is excess, and who among us can tell the difference without the flashing sign above the leftfield stands.
Well, we have had our Strasburg indoctrination. The Braves gave him the Tim Hudson test, and he flunked it. Among other things, Tim was a .395 hitter in the Southeastern Conference, and he carries the liveliest bat among Braves pitchers. Let’s see Stephen Strasburg top that.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.