Strasburg in Atlanta: Hoops-like hysteria at the ballyard

Stephen Strasburg throws a 98-mph fastball to Martin Prado. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Stephen Strasburg throws a 98-mph fastball to Martin Prado. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

On this matter, Stan Kasten has standing unlike anyone else in his sport. Because the president of the Washington Nationals didn’t start in baseball — he was general manager of the Atlanta Hawks when the NBA got big because of big names. So when Kasten says, speaking of Stephen Stasburg, “I’ve never been through this” … well, you listen.

After his first big-league start, Strasburg had a sandwich named after him. BGR The Burger Joint concocted the Strasburger, complete with 14 pickles. (He’d struck out 14 — Pirates, not pickles — in his debut.) By his second start, Strasburg regalia was flying off the racks at concession stands at Progressive Field in Cleveland, which isn’t his home ballpark.

“That’s something you never see in baseball,” Kasten said. “That’s something you see in the NBA … That happens to Jordan.”

(Do we need to mention that Kasten wasn’t referring to Jordan Schafer?)

Turner Field was close to full for Strasburg’s first Atlanta appearance Monday night — attendance was 42,889, of which 21,608 tickets were sold the past five days — and there’s another departure. “It doesn’t happen in baseball that individuals sell out stadiums,” Kasten said, but here it is. Average attendance for Strasburg’s first four starts is 37,664 — and this, we need to note, is for a rookie pitcher on a last-place team.

This has been accomplished not because the Nationals have four-walled the market with splashy Strasburg promotions; on the contrary, the club has done its best to restrain the hysteria. The man himself addresses the media only after he pitches. He doesn’t do daily briefings at his locker. He doesn’t do one-on-ones. He just pitches, and then he talks, and then he waits to pitch again.

Kasten: “He’s the last kid in the world who wants this kind of thing. But it’s a new age. He had more attention coming out of the [2009 baseball] draft than anyone ever, and the lack of access has only increased the mystique.” (Hey, it worked for Garbo.)

Still, nobody would be changing menus to accommodate a kid pitcher whose ERA is as broad as the national debt. The cold truth is that the kid pitcher with the big hype has delivered on demand. Indeed, he has done something that seemed beyond human comprehension six weeks ago: He has passed Jason Heyward, who had a considerable head start, to become the rookie of the moment.

And that was why, as nice as Monday night was, something was missing. That something was Heyward, who didn’t start because of a bad thumb and afterward was placed on the disabled list. So it was left to Starsburg to carry the rookie banner alone, and he held up his end. Through six innings the Braves mustered four hits but couldn’t score.

Four of the first seven Braves reached, and then nobody did a thing. Strasburg hit 100 mph on the stadium radar gun with a delivery to Melky Cabrera in the third inning, and even if you know empirically that velocity doesn’t equal pitching excellence — Greg Maddux toiled here — it’s always a jolt to see triple figures in neon.

“The Braves are a tremendous challenge,” said Jim Riggleman, Washington’s manager, “and Stephen was up to the challenge.”

The Nats had a chance to score in the seventh. Being the Nats, they flubbed it. Alberto Gonzalez struck out with a runner on third and one out. (Tim Hudson was himself unyielding.) Then, on cue, the Braves broke through. Chipper Jones walked and Brian McCann singled and Ian Desmond muffed a double-play grounder — Riggleman: “We got the ball we wanted” — and finally Eric Hinske lofted a sacrifice fly.

Said Strasburg of his night: “It wasn’t good enough to win the game, period.” Then this: “I understand I’m not going to have lights-out stuff every time. I’m human.”

If this was Strasburg at his worst — and statistically it was — you wouldn’t want to catch him at his best. Or maybe you would, just to say you were there to witness. It was noteworthy that, after the seventh inning ended and the Braves had seized their five-run lead, at least 10,000 patrons rose to leave. They’d seen what they came to see. They’d seen Stephen Strasburg.

86 comments Add your comment

Bill

June 28th, 2010
9:39 pm

Great Job Mark. Go Braves

Mark Bradley

June 28th, 2010
9:41 pm

Why, thanks again, Bill. But I do get paid for this, you know.

Hillbilly Deluxe

June 28th, 2010
9:49 pm

The impressive thing to me is that he has 3 pitches that he can throw for strikes. That’s what makes him unusual.

Kane337

June 28th, 2010
9:49 pm

Strasburg is going to be great. It’s too bad he’s in our divisions, but it’s great that we get to see him pitch.

Rimfire

June 28th, 2010
9:49 pm

It sure is great to hear Ernie Johnson Jr. in the booth. Wish it was permanent, across the board.
So much easier to listen to, and doesn’t try to force funny s*** into every pharse. Just naturally smooth…

Mark Bradley

June 28th, 2010
9:51 pm

If this was Strasburg at his worst — and statistically it was — I’d hate to see him at his best.

Kane337

June 28th, 2010
9:53 pm

Ernie is kind of boring to me doing baseball. I guess I’m still getting used to him. I’ll still take him any day over Chip.

Hillbilly Deluxe

June 28th, 2010
9:55 pm

I still miss Ernie, Sr. A total class act.

Jameytime

June 28th, 2010
9:55 pm

This guy’s Strasburg prediction was SO close: http://TwitPWR.com/Lcr/

Reid Adair

June 28th, 2010
9:55 pm

Welcome to pitching against a better team, Stephen Strasburgh.

The “mighty” Strasburg: 6-1/3 IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned, 2 walks, 7 K
The veteran Tim Hudson: 7 IP, 5 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 6 K

smoore54

June 28th, 2010
9:57 pm

I don’t care what Strasburg does as long as the Braves remain his Achilles Heel. He did fine but if the Braves pull out a win, that’s really all that concerns me. GO BRAVES.

smoore54

June 28th, 2010
9:57 pm

I don’t care what Strasburg does as long as the Braves remain his Achilles Heel. He did fine but if the Braves pull out a win, that’s really all that concerns me. GO BRAVES.

smoore54

June 28th, 2010
9:58 pm

oops. Sorry. I didn’t mean to hit that twice.

Kane337

June 28th, 2010
9:58 pm

I miss Skip and Pete.

Hillbilly Deluxe

June 28th, 2010
10:02 pm

Herschel Talker

June 28th, 2010
10:12 pm

MB:

You the man! You make me not miss Terence Moore! (Actually, to be frank, it’s impossible to miss Terence Moore)

HT

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]

ESPN is a joke

June 28th, 2010
10:34 pm

So ESPN’s headline reads: Strasburg good enough to win but doesn’t get run support.

Headline should have read: Hudson out duels Strasburg.

ESPN is a joke.

ESPN is a joke

June 28th, 2010
10:35 pm

“f this was Strasburg at his worst — and statistically it was — I’d hate to see him at his best.”

In case you missed it, Braves won 5-0.

nola braves fan

June 28th, 2010
10:35 pm

wait, you get paid for this Mark? You are not just a sports fan/blogger who can magically predict the future in sports? See Texas over AL… see Hawks over Orlando… nevermind, we still love ya Bradley… keep up the good work

ESPN is a joke

June 28th, 2010
10:38 pm

ESPN is chatting it up about how Strasburg is all-star material.

The guy hasn’t even played a full half-season and ESPN has already proclaimed him as the greatest pitcher ever.

Other notable “gods” chosen by ESPN.

Matt Leinart, Rex Grossman, Danny Weurfol, Todd Van Popple, Kevin Mass, Andre Ware………….

ESPN is a joke

June 28th, 2010
10:39 pm

“He didn’t win the game, but he again impressed the masses.”

So what did Hudson do?

ESPN is a joke

June 28th, 2010
10:42 pm

“I don’t care what Strasburg does as long as the Braves remain his Achilles Heel.”

There will be many teams that figure out Strasburg.

I remember when ESPN used to call the A’s three best pitchers, Zito, Hudson and Mulder the BIG THREE. I also remember Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz winning 7 Cy Young’s, 1 world series, multiple gold gloves, 2 300 game winners, over 150 saves etc……..

Yet, to ESPN, the A’s had the better pitching staff.

Jeff Key West

June 28th, 2010
10:46 pm

ESPN is a joke needs to take over this blog………He seems to have the only sense out there. And by the way Nola, when has Mark Bradley ever done good work?

Jack Nine Offsuit

June 28th, 2010
10:47 pm

Hey ESPN is a joke: relax brother. Did someone at the four letter network take your lunch money everyday as a kid?

Jeff Key West

June 28th, 2010
10:53 pm

Strasburg is a ratings gimmick to try to save a sorry franchise! I can think of 24 better pithchers in the National League better then him. Including the one that kick his as* tonight.

Jeff Key West

June 28th, 2010
10:56 pm

He is a Kerry Wood and Mark Prior in waiting………….Where are those phenoms now?

mike

June 28th, 2010
10:56 pm

Hey Mark,

Is it Kasten or Babcock that is responsible for the Dominique Wilkins-Danny Manning trade? or both?

Mark Bradley

June 28th, 2010
10:57 pm

I don’t know if Strasburg deserves to be an All-Star. I do know he’s the only pitcher in baseball who could draw a crowd of 42,000 in a visiting ballpark on a Monday.

Reid Adair

June 28th, 2010
10:57 pm

“He didn’t win the game, but he again impressed the masses.”

So what did Hudson do?

———————————————————————–

Hudson threw seven shutout innings and helped the Braves get the win. I’ll take that over “impressing the masses” any day.

Mark Bradley

June 28th, 2010
10:58 pm

Babcock was the general manager at the time, mike. Kasten was the team president.

Mark Bradley

June 28th, 2010
10:58 pm

Headed home now. Thanks for hanging with me these past five hours.

Jack Nine Offsuit

June 28th, 2010
11:01 pm

yeah Jeff and Joke, y’all are right. Strasburg really stinks. To tell the truth, he probably shouldn’t have even come out in the draft last year, and stayed in college for his senior year. He’s nothing but hype, and the “fact” he struck out more batters in his 1st 4 starts than any other rookie pitcher ever is really just a fabrication created by the liberal media that is obviously biased against whoever it is that y’all happen to like.

And I’d love to hear that list of 24 pitchers in the NL you’d take over Strasburg. That should be intreresting to read.

adelfersy

June 28th, 2010
11:11 pm

Tim Tebow=stephen stausberg. ESPN always gets caught up in the hype machine…Don’t get me wrong, I think the kid was very good tonight, however, he was clearly outpitched. Instead of lauding the Braves performance, they kept talking about something possibly being “wrong” with strausberg and how he just didn’t have his “best stuff” tonight. How about the fact that maybe some of his earlier dominance came against horrible teams, i.e. the Pirates and the Royals etc. Tonight a very good rookie pitched against the NL’s best team and their ace and it showed. In addition, its not like the Braves defense helped Huddy out at all tongiht.

will

June 28th, 2010
11:14 pm

strasburg is popular and people want to see him pitch, there’s no doubt…but what people really wanted to see tonight is how he’d be able to compete against one of the top teams in the east and a division rival in the atlanta braves, plus braves attendance has been through the roof all season long anyways…

Greg

June 28th, 2010
11:19 pm

““That’s something you never see in baseball,” Kasten said. “That’s something you see in the NBA … That happens to Jordan.”

(Do we need to mention that Kasten wasn’t referring to Jordan Schafer?)”

Of course you don’t Mark – everyone knows he was talking about Brian Jordan.

DinD

June 28th, 2010
11:23 pm

WHo was the guy that had the most strikeouts in his first 4 starts before Strasburg broke his record? Oh yeah some nobody. He is a good picture, but the hype surrounding these youngsters these days is slightly over the top. It would be a travesty if he made the All-Star game over Hudson.

Turnt_Up

June 28th, 2010
11:25 pm

Hudson looked great, but Nats have only 1 run in Strasburg’s last 3 starts – everybody looks good against Nats. This kid in his 6th game and facing the 1st place braves on the road looked impressive. Too soon for all-star, but he’ll be on plenty of them. It’s okay to recognize opposing talent and still be pleased with your 1st place Braves.

Jeff Key West

June 28th, 2010
11:27 pm

First of all Tim Hudson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Carl Pavano, Justin Verlander, John Lester, CC Sabathia, John Lackey, Cliff Lee, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay, David Price, Clay Buchholtz,Johan Santana, Ricky Romero, Shawn Marcum, Andy Petite, Barry Zito, Cole Hammels, Jeff Nieman, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Phelfrey just to name a few.

Hawk n the Ham

June 28th, 2010
11:28 pm

Go Huddy!!!!

Jack Nine Offsuit

June 28th, 2010
11:31 pm

Jeff Key West: you said in your original post there were 24 pitchers in the NATIONAL LEAGUE you’d take over Strasburg. Now you’re naming AL pitchers too. So does that mean you concede you were wrong?

paw paw

June 28th, 2010
11:32 pm

I was ther and the kids not too bad , but an allstar NO not yet. He has pretty good stuff. The play of the game was when Chipper hesitated going from 2nd to 3rd and partially blocked the view of the shortstop (legal play) so he couldnt field the ball cleanly. Heads up play from the great player he is. GO BRAVES!!!

Jack Nine Offsuit

June 28th, 2010
11:33 pm

And I guarantee you no big league GM would take everyone on that list you posted over Strasburg.

Jeff Key West

June 28th, 2010
11:34 pm

Yes…..Got a little carried away but I would take any of the pitchers over the Great D.C. hype

Jeff Key West

June 28th, 2010
11:36 pm

Make that National Hype Machine.

[...] tickets were bought today to see the game. The Braves usually draw between 20-25,000 a game. The attendance was 42,000. For a  Monday in Atlanta that is pretty damn good. The average attendance for Mr. [...]

Jeff Key West

June 28th, 2010
11:48 pm

Hey Mark, he drew 42,000 to the park to see him LOSE because of hype created by you brainless so called sports writers. You and everyone else should be talking about how great Tim Hudson has been pithching including tonight especially after the Tommy John surgery and to have a chance at an All Star game. Once again Mark misses it again!

Tron5000

June 29th, 2010
12:22 am

MLB Network pulled the same thing. Talking about how well Strasburg threw till the 7th, heaping praises upon him for how special he is…And, oh yeah, Tim Hudson tossed 7 shutout. But let’s go back to Strasburg.

Jo-Bu

June 29th, 2010
12:30 am

It sure is great to hear Ernie Johnson Jr. in the booth. Wish it was permanent, across the board.

Jr. is goofy. He has a radio voice not a TV voice like his dad had. I don’t enjoy him. Joe and Boog were the best but if we can’t have Boog. let’s pull Ernie Senior out of retirement — seriouly. Chip Cary is nothing like his dad, either. Smoltzy and Glavine are great with Joe. Hopefully Glavine will come to realize that he should be on the TV side of the organization with Joe.

eric

June 29th, 2010
1:10 am

I agree with Jeff. Strasburg may turn out to be a great pitcher, but right now he is just a rookie that nobody has seen before. Lets see how he does over the next few seasons before we proclaim him the next Sandy Koufax…