Thursday, June 10, 2010

Witnessing Stephen Strasburg

Jesus arrived to the major leagues on Tuesday. He probably spent his entire life dreaming of reaching the majors. After spending more than a decade in the minors, the New York Mets recalled outfielder Jesus Feliciano from AAA. Were you expecting another Jeezus?

I was one of the 40,315 in attendance for Tuesday's game between the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates. I was also one of probably only a few hundred wearing any type of Pirates gear (and I'm not including a guy wearing a Jerome Bettis jersey and another with a Hines Ward one). As a baseball fan, this was one of the greatest atmospheres and games I’ve attended in person. The only games in the same ballpark over the last 15 years were Francisco Cordova outdueling rookie phenom Kerry Wood in Pittsburgh; Sammy Sosa hitting home run #60-something in San Diego during the memorable 1998 season; and game four of the San Diego Padres-Atlanta Braves National League Championship Series. As a Pirates fan, I was obviously disappointed with the result.

Amazingly, Strasburg exceeded the hype. He became the first pitcher in baseball history to get 14 strikeouts in less than 96 pitches. Sure, some people are going to mock the Pittsburgh Pirates line-up. This was not the 1971 Pirates featuring Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bob Robertson and Al Oliver. However, the Pirates beat Roy Halladay last month and fared well against Tim Lincecum earlier this week. Plus, no pitcher had struck out 14 batters against the Pirates this year.

Here are my notes from the game (and there are pictures below):

* At least for one night, Washington was a baseball town. The crowd stood and cheered every time Strasburg got two strikes on a Pirates hitter. As a comparison, when I attended a Nationals game last month, the crowd barely made noise when Scott Olsen got to two strikes, and he had a no-hitter into the 8th inning. In addition, the seats were full well before the first pitch. I mentioned this above, but this was definitely one of the best baseball atmospheres I’ve seen.

* Now the negative. I don’t understand why many Nats fans felt the need to boo Lastings Milledge. He was a decent person in Washington who just happened to underperform as a player. Due to his upside, the Nationals were able to parlay him and Joel Hanrahan for the popular Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. Is that worth booing? There were also fans who jeered Ryan Church. What did he do as a National to deserve this reaction?

* I also don't understand wearing jerseys of players not associated with either team playing. For example, I saw people wearing jerseys or T-shirts of the following players: Justin Verlander; Chase Utley; Geovany Soto; Nolan Ryan (actually, this one was pretty cool); David Ortiz (who must really, really despise Milledge); and, a Redskins' Champ Bailey.

* Remember when Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez got benched last month for jogging and all of the subsequent media coverage? Well, Nats manager Jim Riggleman should have benched Strasburg for slowly jogging during his first at-bat. If Strasburg would have showed any effort at all running down the first base line, he would have easily had his first major league hit. The manager needed to set an example to his team, and should have promptly removed Strasburg for a lack of effort. Yes, I am writing this since removing Strasburg would have improved the Pirates chance at winning!

* Stephen Strasburg’s song is Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes. Nice choice. The song also has one of my favorite lyrics ever: I’m going to Wichita. Far from this opera forever more.

* For Strasburg’s debut and since Tony Gwynn was in attendance, I was disappointed not to see any San Diego State gear at the game. S, D, S, U; SDSU; Aztecs Fight!

* Jaared performed the national anthem. It was not this Jared.

* I joked here yesterday (as well as on Twitter and Facebook since I evidently thought this joke needed to be shared everywhere) that all anyone talked about after the game was Pirates pitcher Evan Meek. But was I really joking? Meek pitched 2 scoreless innings giving up 0 hits and 0 walks with 1 strikeout. In his 22 pitches, he threw 18 strikes including first pitch strikes to all 6 batters he faced. Through Tuesday night's game, Meek now has an ERA of 0.78 in 34.2 innings.

* I really thought that last night would be the game when Teddy would win the Presidents’ Race. Nope.

As promised, here are some pictures from the game. Well, I took three pictures and then discovered that my camera batteries died.

Neil Walker & Nyjer Morgan before the game:

They are joined by a cast of thousands, er, a few other players:

Strasberg before his first pitch:

A few more pictures courtesy of Big Kahuna

Finally, here are some links from people who get paid to write about sports:

Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette.
Gene Collier of the P-G
Daniel Malloy of the P-G's Washington Bureau
Adam Kilgore - Washington Post
Tom Boswell of the Post
Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog provided amazing coverage here (view from the stands), here (from Bob Costas) & here (the game had huge TV ratings in DC).


Brendon said...

Piss on me... I meant to change my S. Africa v. Mexico from a S. Africa loss to a tie, but didn't realize how early the game started.

rachaelgking said...

If only it HAD been that Jared. Hilarious!

Sean said...

Hand of Godard - The games really do start early though I enjoy seeing live sporting events in the morning/early afternoon.

LiLu - I wasn't the only person in my section who looked puzzled seeing Jaared announced as the national anthem performer. My reaction: Jared gained some weight back and grew a beard!