Bauman: Strasburg fits the All-Star bill
Many reasons to include phenom on National League roster
If the All-Star Game is as advertised, "a game for the fans," then Stephen Strasburg should be on the National League pitching staff on July 13 in Anaheim.
You know, I know, we all know the conventional arguments against including Strasburg on the NL All-Star team. MLB.com's Hal Bodley makes that case.
Strasburg's just barely on board with the Washington Nationals. You can't make the guy an All-Star yet. He's only 21 years old. He has only made three Major League starts and already you want to designate him a full-fledged All-Star?
I think it's the 32 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings, but you can pick your own single reason why Strasburg has grabbed the imagination of the baseball public. That reason will probably be correct. This is greatness in multifaceted form.
The 100-mph fastball is always a good reason. Throw in the changeup and the curveball, especially the curveball, and you have a repertoire that people simply want to see. As far as interest in one individual this season, Strasburg is leading both leagues. And why not? He's an incredible talent, a blend of striking ability and remarkable maturity on the mound.
Let's be honest about it: The typical, knowledgeable, devoted baseball fan views with some skepticism the news of the phenom, the next big thing. TThe advance hype on Strasburg, from before the 2009 First-Year Player Draft all the way to his promotion to the bigs by the Nats, was so pervasive, so over-the-top that you thought, "This guy may be good, but he can't be that good."
And then you saw him. And he was that good. In fact, he seemed to be even better than advertised. He out-pitched the hype. The only question on him now appears to be: Is he a once-in-a-lifetime pitcher, or a once-in-a-century pitcher?
Admittedly, the forces of stodginess will all be aligned against the appearance of Stephen Strasburg on an All-Star roster at this early date. There are always legions in favor of the baseball status quo. Let's not do anything different, because, well, it might be too different. And in this case, even the Nationals probably wouldn't want Strasburg pitching in a situation over which they had little or no control.
But, but, but Stephen Strasburg is a special case. The only negative result from putting him on the NL All-Star roster would probably be that some of the other All-Star pitchers, after seeing him work, would go back to their respective teams with inferiority complexes.
It is technically possible that Strasburg could flame out in his four scheduled pre-All-Star starts and be sent back to the Minors by the time the All-Star Game occurs. But what is much more likely is that he will continue to produce performances that are awe-inspiring, riveting, spellbinding, crowd-pleasing. No, you wouldn't possibly want someone like that pitching in the All-Star Game.
The deck is probably stacked against Strasburg becoming an instant All-Star. If this were a referendum, a direct democracy kind of issue, he'd be in. But it's not that.
Still, it would be a more popular All-Star Game with him included. What Strasburg would bring to this event would be the excitement, the increased interest that his very presence has created, not only for the franchise in our nation's capital, but for all of baseball. In this way, he embodies exactly what you want in an All-Star.
And since we insist on having stakes in this game -- home-field advantage in the World Series for the winning league -- Stephen Strasburg would bring another added benefit. The outcome of this game has practically become a foregone conclusion. The National League hasn't won since 1996, a previous century, a previous millennium. Who could argue that the NL would be anything but improved with Strasburg on its pitching staff? Put Strasburg on the NL team, because he's as good as there is right now. And that is precisely what we all thought an All-Star was in the first place.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.