July 17, 2019

Another Brick in the Wall

June 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Is Strasburg’s looming debut next Tuesday more important for the future of the Nationals, or Roy Oswalt’s admission on Tuesday of this week, that he would accept a trade to Washington? The two are inextricably linked.  Oswalt’s view that there are good things going on in Washington redounds to the excitement Strasburg is generating, but also speaks to the wider perception that the organization is on the upswing.

Under the title, “Nationals Worried About Winning, Not Strasburg’s Preview,” the Washington Post web site this morning offered Ryan Zimmerman’s statement about Strasburg: “He’ll give us a chance to win every fifth day.  That’s good for us.  We are worried about winning here.”  Ian Desmond–the young shortstop who looks like he could also be an important building block for Washington–echoed the sentiment.

They are happy for the young man and wish him well as his career unfolds, but they are interested in building a winning baseball team.  In their mind it is immaterial whether Roy Oswalt or Strasburg is the answer.  The bottom line is winning ball games.  Whoever helps do that, bring em on.

As Matt Aber pointed out earlier this week, the NL East is remarkably competitive as we pass the quarter pole.  The Mets made a run, now the Braves.  The Phillies are still the team to beat, but any one of the teams that can separate itself from the rest could do it. Stephen Strasburg may be a catalyst for Washington to make its own run.  He debuts on a home stand that could help boost the Nationals back into contention.

It is easy to point to the holes in the Nationals.  Pudge is hurt and some of the young players are inconsistent and feeling their way.  Right fielder Bernadina is a work in progress and Ian Desmond hasn’t really established the constancy that manager Riggleman would probably like to see in the future.  But no team in the NL East is without its problems, which is why the Nationals should be kicking Oswalt’s tires.

Skeptics will ask, “What do the Nationals have that Houston would want?”  The conventional wisdom assumes not much, but truth be told the Nationals have a lot more to trade than teams like the Cardinals–also linked to rumors about Oswalt–who have plundered their own system more skillfully than Blackbeard.  For Washington the question is more realistically which potential trade targets do they want to keep and which are they willing to trade for a 32-year old starter.

A trade for Oswalt that would pique the Astros interest could  look something like this: Ross Detwiler, Brad Meyers and Adrian Neito.  Two pitchers with major league potential and a well-regarded low-A prospect should generate interest.  But do the Nationals want to trade the future potential of two young pitchers?  The answer might swing around to Mr. Strasburg again and exactly how much of a difference he makes during the month of June.

With the NL East race as thick as Aunt Franny’s strawberry jam, one good starter could help push a team into contention.  Two even more.  The bottom line is that there are two evolving stories in Washington.  The first is Strasburg and just how good he is going to be.  How much of an adjustment will he have to make to the big leagues?  The second and more important story is the changing perception that he has helped to create.  That may do much to help Washington craft a winner in the future.

There is a real baseball team being built in Washington.  Stephen Strasburg is an important piece, but in the end he is just another brick in the wall.

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