I went to bed last evening around 11:40 p.m. after checking to see if the Washington Nationals had signed #1 draft choice Stephen Strasburg. They had not.
I awoke this morning and checked the Nats icon on my blackberry to find…YES, they pulled it off! And for ONLY a little over $15 million. The sun is indeed shining over baseball in the District today.
Writing in the Washington Post, Tom Boswell talked about Washington’s baseball redemption.
Few teams have ever needed a watershed event more than the Nationals. And no town in baseball has needed a validation and a fresh start more than Washington. On Monday night, at 11:58:43 p.m., both the team and the town got their wish.
Just 77 seconds before a witching midnight deadline, the franchise that so often gets kicked when it is down and the town that is constantly accused of baseball’s original sin (being Washington) proved that it could do something big and difficult and right.
The Nats signed Stephen Strasburg, probably the most heralded young pitcher of the last 50 years. Who knows what portion of his collegiate and Olympic fame will prove justified. But not only did the Nats sign him for a fair price of $15.67 million, despite the howls of his crusading agent Scott Boras, but Strasburg also did what has been unthinkable in baseball until now.
He chose here.
The sun is shining and the Nats have avoided losing their second #1 draft pick in as many years. The Nats did have to do something special, but they also have something to build upon, as Boswell notes:
Right now, for a town that is deeply unsure whether it wants to fall for baseball, something special is required. Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham will probably hit 100 homers and drive in 300 runs this year in the heart of a Nats order that is in the top half in the National League. That would be sufficient attraction, even in a last-place season, in some old-line baseball towns. Nyjer Morgan, a new leadoff man hitting .306, on pace for 52 stolen bases and with as much range as almost any center fielder in the game, would add spice. Even a crafty kid such as southpaw John Lannan would have a following.
So let’s cheer the Nats move to do something special and sign Strasburg. And let’s hope the kid (and his elbow) can handle the pressure and hype.
More to come…