SNIDER: Strasburg's career still a winner


Stephen Strasburg is not a bust.

There's no timetable for the Washington Nationals pitcher to return from injuries that have dogged his career and rendered the last three seasons useless. Indeed, there's a real pessimism that the 34-year old may be done. At most, there may be some encore efforts, but the era of dominating every five days seems a long shot to return.

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And that's OK. Sure, the Nats blew a mountain of money when re-signing him following the 2019 World Series championship. Might as well have set fire to it. But that's the owner's problem, not the public's.

If Strasburg retires today, his career should be mostly remembered not for a myriad of injuries that kept him from becoming the Bob Feller of his generation, but going 5-0 versus four teams in the 2019 playoffs to win a ring. That's the whole goal of drafting any player – a championship. Strasburg did his part to give Washington its title so the rest is irrelevant.

The rest was decent, though. Strasburg is 113-62, striking out 1,723 over 1,470 since debuting in 2010. The 2009 No. 1 overall selection struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates in his debut the next year and it was as magical as promised. Strasburg made three All-Star teams and drew serious backing for three Cy Young Awards.

It all came together in 2019 when Strasburg led the majors with 18 victories and 209 innings against just six losses. There were also three 15-win seasons.

But it has been a quick fade to black since then, going 1-4 over three seasons. Every time Strasburg rubbed a body part it meant a trip to the injured list. Early critics said his delivery would cause Strasburg to break down and it did. Still, it was a good 10-year stretch.

Considering the 2009 draft's top 10 picks were mostly a minefield, Strasburg's effort was Herculean. The next four selections were all busts. Second overall pick Dustin Ashley hit .241 in six seasons. No. 3 Donovan Tate never played because of injuries. No. 4 Tony Sanchez played only 52 games in the majors. No. 5 Matthew Hobgood never pitched in the majors.

Whew – that's a lot of bad picks. The next five were a little better. No. 6 Zach Wheeler was 74-57 in eight seasons with the New York Mets and Philadelphia. No. 7 Michael Minor was 83-90 for six teams. No. 8 Michael Leake was 105-98 for seven teams. No. 9 Jacob Turner was 14-31 for five teams, including 2-3 for Washington in 2017. No. 10 Drew Storen was Washington's second first-rounder. The reliever played 470 games, including 2010-15 with the Nats for 21-13. Overall, Storen was 29-18 for four teams.

Looking back, Strasburg was the no-brainer pick and the only one that really thrived. It would have been nice for him to have won 200 games and pitched 15 years. Maybe there's a miracle in the surgical room awaiting that revives his career. It just doesn't look likely.

It wasn't the Cooperstown career many expected from Strasburg, but it was still good enough. The ring is always the thing.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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