Stephen Strasburg threw six no-hit innings for AAA Syracuse last night. It was his second start in AAA, and he’s allowed a grand total of one hit. Strasburg is on a six inning leash, which is a shame, because last night he had only tossed 80 pitches, and I’m feeling like there was a relatively good chance he was going to throw a no-hitter. It’s understandable that Strasburg, he of the record bonus, is getting handled with extreme care, but it’s gotten to the point for me where I really want to see what he can do. The Nationals aren’t likely to bring Strasburg up before June, eliminating the possibility of him becoming a “Super Two”, which is salary arbitration talk for “way more expensive.” This makes sense as well. The team needs to save every penny for Bryce Harper, but they are also showing signs of life for the first time in years.
The Nats are sitting at 19-15, which is good enough for 2nd place in the NL East, and also good enough to be right in the wild-card hunt if such a thing existed with 128 games to go. The thing about Washington, though, is that we are already deep into the season for them to still be in contention. Even this April when they started with six quick games against the Phillies it looked like business as usual, which is a last place finish. But they’ve turned it around, are winning games late, catching a break here and there and the next thing you know, they are four games over .500. In May! The shame of it is, attendance is still a little down from last season. The Nats average just under 20,000 people, which is good for 14th in the National League.
For a team that is still relatively new to its city, this isn’t the most encouraging number. Their new ballpark came after the novelty of the team had worn off and after 2 last place finishes in three years. It would be nice to see a few more Nationals fans out at the park to support this decent start, but then again, you can’t really blame them for taking a wait and see attitude. I’d be a little worried about this fan base in general. How many Nationals fans are there, really? Is there a hibernating bandwagon in place if this team ever gets decent? I’m not sure, just sixth year in Washington, no real history, no success, the fans need a reason to form that bandwagon, and that reason is Strasburg.
The Nats will be the lead baseball story every time this kid pitches for at least the first month. If he comes up and has success each of his starts for the remainder of the season will be a big production. Think of the hyperbole, the speculation that will be draped over this kid. Suddenly in Washington you will need to know who Strasburg is, he could be the fad of the summer, and as a result actually build the Nats fan base a little bit. He could struggle, of course, but it’s time to find out what he’s really got. Unleash the fury. This team doesn’t want to be the Expos with a nicer stadium. They got off to the decent start this year, they need to keep building on that momentum. Get the kid up here. Let’s go.