Before diving in, I have to start with a pair of confessions.
1) For the most part, I can’t get my gander up about the draft – particularly the No. 32 pick (where if you care, Dave Magadan appears to be the cream of the crop historically).
2) I am not a Yankee fan today.
You see, my adopted hometown is the center of baseball today. It’s Strasmas. The end of Strasover (Why is this game different from all other games?). Strasburgageddon. The Straspocalypse.
Yes, tonight, at about 7:07 PM the fortunes of my No. 2 team – the lowly, lowly Washington Nationals change, perhaps forever when last year’s No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg will toe the rubber at National Park and face seventh straight Triple-A first major league lineup – the Pittsburgh Pirates.
I’ve been conscious of my Yankee fandom for nearly two decades and the only times I’ve been this nervous/excited for a game was getting ready to watch Game One of the 1996 World Series and getting my tickets and going to Game Four of the 2001 ALCS. That’s it, that’s the list.
As Yankee fans, we’re spoiled. They’ve more or less always been good. Forever. They’ve never been abjectly embarrassing. We can commiserate with the Horace Clarke Era, or talk about Andy Hawkins no-hit loss, but Washington’s baseball history has been horrendous.
No World Series title since 1924. No postseason since 1933. Lost two teams. Finally got a team back, only to see it flirt with contention, then collapse. And this doesn’t count the current iteration’s Montreal years.
However, 42,000-plus people (which could generate roughly $1.5 million, or about 10% of Strasburg’s contract, for the team in one night) will pack the ballpark and watch this 22-year-old savior put the franchise on the map.
In the almost 10 years that I’ve lived here, the only thing that has generate more buzz, more water-cooler talk, more good feelings that Strasburg’s debut is President Obama’s inauguration. It’s that big a deal.
So remember, when complaining about the Yanks’ lack of clutch hitting, their bullpen issues, their lousy drafting, their lousy management, their inability to catch the Rays or bury the Sox – Yankee fans are lucky, and also spoiled. There’s something to be said for struggling, for being bad – because it makes the rebound that much sweeter.
Now, since this is Yankee blog – here are the Yankee connections to tonight’s event (where those not going and not from near me can watch on MLB Network with a healthy dose of Bob Costas and Jim Kaat):
- Strasburg’s batterymate will be Yankee legend Ivan Rodriguez.
- Former Yankee Cristian Guzman will probably play second base.
- Former Yankee and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will likely pinch hit or run at some point.
- With Pudge’s return from the DL – former Yankee Wil Nieves goes back to being a backup catcher (Thank God).
- Tyler Clippard is the Nats’ eighth-inning guy.
- And Brian Bruney won’t be here – being deemed too lousy even by Washington standards.
- The visiting Pirates feature a raft of ex-Yanks: Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutcheon, Octavio Dotel, Steven Jackson and tonight’s starter Jeff Karstens.