Strass (n.) – a flint glass with a high lead content
Burg (n.) – an ancient or medieval fortress or walled town
Together these two words combine to form the word “StrassBurg” or Strasburg, if you will, roughly translating to “glass fortress”. This would seem a fitting etymology of the surname for an ace pitcher who is, almost literally, made of glass. Usually, when one envisions a protective fortress, the last thing they would want that fortress constructed of would be glass. The same cannot be said, in this case, for the Nationals and their fans, as they would love more than anything to have their seasons’ last hopes to be protected by none other than Stephen GlassFortress.
When Stephen Strasburg turned down the opportunity to take the ball for Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series against Chicago, he made the decision to cement his legacy in Washington sports annuls as “Mr. Glass.” Reports from Chicago indicate that the 29 year old hurler reported to the Nationals Tuesday that he had experienced wheezing during his off day half-mile run and wasn’t prepared to pitch Wednesday’s Game 4, despite the start being on his usual rest.
Nats Manager Dusty Baker made multiple attempts to deflect criticism away from Strasburg. He started by saying that Strasburg had thrown a bullpen session earlier in the day on Tuesday. This was found to be false, as he had thrown his last bullpen session on Monday. Even if Baker simply misremembered Monday’s session as Tuesday’s, that doesn’t excuse the next whopper that the 3-time NL Manager of the Year told. Baker relayed that Stephen was “under the weather…like a lot of my team is” and referenced the hotel’s air conditioning as well as the possibility of “mold” in Chicago. Baker said “I think it’s mold.” Yes, you read right…mold…apparently effecting “a lot of [his] team”…in the required, by collective bargining agreement, minimum 4-star accommodations the Nationals are staying in. Perhaps the “mold” Baker was referencing was the malaise that seems to grow in the Nationals clubhouse, and the entire District of Columbia for that matter, every October.
Stephen Strasburg came into the league on June 8, 2010, and immediately lived up the amazingly high expectations that were set for the former Number 1 overall pick, striking out 14 Pirates over 7 solid innings. The honeymoon was over fast however as he was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his Major League career the very next month with right shoulder inflammation. He returned in August only to injure his pitching elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery. Here it was, mere months into his career and the young phenom had already had a bum shoulder AND elbow. Recovery from Tommy John went well as Strasburg was able to make 28 starts in 2012, going 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA only to be infamously shutdown for the Nationals first ever postseason run in 2012, one that subsequently ended in 5 games to St. Louis, and the furthering of the Nationals’ kid gloves handling of their precious star. To make matters worse, Strasburg made 30 starts the next season but had a losing record at 8-9. Since then he has bounced back, winning 14, 11, 15 and 15 games respectively that past 4 seasons, including this one, but has made multiple trips to the DL in that time.
This season he recorded his 2nd consecutive 15-4 record and finished with a career best 2.52 ERA in 28 starts. He followed that awesome regular season by holding the Cubs hitless through 5 innings in Game 1 of the NLDS. The Nationals would ultimately lose that game 3-0 and would go on to fall behind 2-1 in the series, facing elimination in Game 4 on Tuesday. The baseball gods seemed to grant the Nats a reprieve (something not usually seen in the Washington postseasons) when they rained out Tuesday’s game, allowing the opportunity for Dusty Baker to throw his ace in the do-or-die. Maybe something was finally going in the Nets’ favor in the postseason and amazingly something involving Steven Strasburg.
What was Stephen Stasburg’s response when asked to take the mound for arguably the biggest start of his career?
“I’m under the weather.”
It’s been over seven years since Stephen Strasburg debuted in Major League Baseball and he is now known more than ever for his softness, and until he does something, anything, to make people think the opposite, that his how he will be seen and remembered. Maybe he will surprise everyone and suddenly feel well enough to take the ball, and the reigns on his legacy and this franchise, and lead the team to the NLCS for the first time since their return to Washington. Maybe…but doubtful.
Washington and Baker hopes whatever is ailing Stephen Strasburg clears up by Thursday in time for Game 5 in DC. More importantly, Washington, players and fans alike, hopes Baker is right in “thinking Tanner’s going to do his thing.” Tanner’s “thing” better be to get the Nationals back to the nation’s capital with a game to play Thursday or Strasburg will have an entire offseason to feel better.
Author’s Note: After the publication of this article, Stephen Strasburg is “feeling better” and the Nationals announced he will start Game 4.