Unleash the Fury, Nats.

Stephen Strasburg of the Syracuse Chiefs.

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.

Would You Read Your Own Press?

As 3LW said, "Them Haters, Gonna Hate."

As 3LW said, "Them Haters, Gonna Hate."

So, I thought of this just now while perusing ESPN’s website.  There is a headline there that read, “King Shamed.”  Pretty harsh.  Keep in mind the Cavs haven’t lost the series, yet. LeBron is taking his lumps, though, and last night I questioned what was going on in the series. I don’t know if it was full fledge hating, but there was certainly some curiosity with the option to be a hater.   I have the capacity to be, and have a track record of being kind of harsh on people.  Not that any famous people are reading my blog, but like I said, all you have to do is go to ESPN’s website and you’ll see harsh opinions on everyone from LBJ to Tiger.  I understand it is part of being famous, but if you were in that situation, could you handle it?  Would you read the haters?  What would your reaction be?

I feel that I would be constantly reading about myself.  I don’t know that I could do anything to stop it.  The only hope would be that I got so busy that I literally didn’t have time.  The curiosity would kill me, though.   I know a lot of athletes, notable figures, trot out the standard line about not reading the papers.  Do you think that is the truth?  Are these people operating on some level of self-assurance that we’re not familiar with, and therefore they actually aren’t bothered by stories about them?  I don’t think I’m buying that.  Look at the reaction the Mariners have had to the Griffey story.  Griffey is obviously embarrassed.  The team is overreacting, I don’t think anyone in that clubhouse can try the, “I don’t read the papers,” line.

Even if you aren’t reading all this stuff,  you certainly have a feel for what is going on.  There’s likely a vibe.  I don’t think LeBron is necessarily having a quiet morning with the paper and a cup of coffee, but he has to know that there are strong opinions out there about game five.  What’s the reaction?  Personally, I am extremely defensive.  I’d probably take everything to heart and start a list of personal vendettas.  That sounds exhausting, but that is my guy instinct as to what I’d do.  If this blog was way more popular and I cultivated some haters, you’d see me arguing with every single one of them.  Remember that link I posted to the story about Haiti?  That Paul Shirley character received over 1,000 comments for his views on the disaster, most were negative.  I wonder how that felt, and how tempting it was to get into heated debates?

I know athletes can’t be feuding with every member of the media, but I think there are certainly cases where relationships between the players and press become broken.  Is it used as motivation, is it just another draining aspect of the season?  I’m not sure.  I could easily see both of those scenarios.   I just think it is interesting to think about, once you get in the public eye a little bit, you really need to desensitize yourself to criticism.  Perhaps some of the trappings of fame make that easier to accomplish, but from my perspective it feels like it would be quite difficult.