Merry Strasmas! With California, Arkansas, South Carolina, and other states taking a turn as centers of the political universe, Washington, D.C. is free to be the center of the baseball universe today thanks to Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg, has little professional baseball experience, yet is already the standard-bearer for his team. In that way, he’s a little like the 2008 versions of both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.
DC likes to claim to be a secular town, but it’s a town that looks for saviors almost constantly. Whichever political party is out of power and seeking a way back in looks for the Chosen One who can at once articulate his or her side’s philosophy while appealing to wide demographics of the electorate. The list of would-be saviors is truly bipartisan: Howard Dean, Newt Gingrich, Fred Thompson, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, and John McCain have all been set up at various times in the last decade and a half to ride in on the white horse and save their party from ruin. Stephen Strasburg’s role as the savior of a franchise coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons and mired in last place is appropriate for the dialect of his new home town.
Having been mostly dominant in a quick ascendancy through the minors, Strasburg certainly looks like he belongs on the next level – just like both Obama and Palin looked like they were ready for the big stage of national politics in easily winning a Senate seat and a governorship, respectively. Both stumbled a bit out of the gate – allowing interviewers or non-scandals to take them off message. But Obama was prepared and came back from early hiccups to win his primary and, eventually, establish the perception of polished confidence. Palin never really got on track, and her debut on the national stage seemed rushed. Accounts of John McCain’s Vice Presidential selection process seem to confirm that she was rushed through the minors.
When Strasburg, who has been pitching professionally for less than a year, toes the rubber tonight, the Nationals will hope he is a player whose time has come, albeit earlier than most expected, and who will trust his stuff through the inevitable early struggles. They will hope they haven’t given the ball to a pitcher who isn’t quite ready for the big leagues.
They will hope for the pitching equivalent of Barack Obama. They will not, however, want Barack Obama actually pitching.