Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg Debut Drama.

Stephen Strasburg will make his fifth start for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs at 7:00 pm EST on Saturday, May 29th in Syracuse, NY's Alliance Bank Stadium against the NY Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, that much is for sure, barring any weather issues, injuries, etc. After that? It won't be June 4th apparently, as most had speculated in the last few weeks. June 8th? Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) quoted Nats' team President Stan Kasten on May 24th telling Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin, "'The only way to be sure not to miss it is to buy a season ticket,'" and Mr. Kilgore quoted DC Skipper Jim Riggleman this past Wednesday (the 26th) saying only that, "...the #Nats have a pretty good idea when #Strasburg will debut. he said they'll wait to announce it, if at all."

WFED 1500 Radio announcer Charlie Slowes (@charlie_slowes) sent a tweet out yesterday pointing out that it wasn't the Nationals who started all the guessing games, "Fans should not be angry with Nats. The club has never given a date...members of tweeting media have done so." But it wasn't just the tweeting media that was speculating. Remember the interview DC GM Mike Rizzo did with ESPN's Sportcenter on May 14th, when host John Buccigross (impertinently?) tried to pin the general manager down for a debut date asking, ""How does Friday night June the 4th against the Reds sound to you, Mike?" Mr. Rizzo's response?:

"'Well, you know it's a possibility...there's several windows that it could take place..."

Former DC GM Jim Bowden, now a part of the media he once blamed for "forcing" him out of Washington, has been only too willing to speculate as to when the Nats' top prospect, and arguably the top prospect in baseball would finally get the call, tweeting back on May 16th "...Nationals to purchase Drew Storen on Monday to help up-grade bullpen, Strasburg not far behind...maybe June 4th." FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi speculated on a June 4th debut in a May 26, 2010 article entitled, "Strasburg should bring fans to D.C.", in which he asked a "Nationals employee" to confirm the date: "'Mum’s the word,'" is the response Mr. Morosi received, and he then quotes, "another in the industry" who'd lined things up and concluded, "'Most likely, it will be...[June 4th]."

MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Strasburg's debut could come against Bucs", published later in the evening on the 26th of May than Mr. Morosi's, quoted a team source who said that, "The Nationals are tentatively planning to have right-hander Stephen Strasburg make his Major League debut against the Pirates at Nationals Park in June," which would put Strasburg's debut between June 8-10, when Pittsburgh visits the nation's capital. 

The public perception now, however, is that the Nationals themselves put the possibility of a June 4th debut out there to sell out the weekend series with the Reds, which might not otherwise have drawn a large crowd. And now by not stating definitively which date in the series with the Pirates Strasburg will pitch, the aim is to sell out that entire series as well, a three-game midweek series with former Nats' center fielder Lastings Milledge and the 20-28 Pirates. ESPN's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon summed up the current sentiment and the situation fans who only want to see Strasburg's debut are left with yesterday in a quick segment at the end of yesterday's "Pardon the Interruption" which began with the co-hosts saying, "Happy Trails" to the mystery, sort of:

Tony Kornheiser: "Happy Trails to the mystery over Stephen Strasburg's first major league start. Sources say the Natinals plan to debut Strasburg against the Pirates on either June 8th, June 9th or June 10th, by keeping the precise date a secret, the Natinals hope to sell many tickets to all three games..."

Michael Wilbon: "Then how could we bid 'Happy Trails' when we don't know the date, it's still a mystery?"

Tony Kornheiser: "Because it started out by thinking that he was going to pitch against the Cincinnati Reds on June 4th or 5th, so that's gone..."

Michael Wilbon: "That's gone, we got three new dates...."

Tony Reali: "I guess, technically, Wilbon, you are right there then, the mystery still is there..."

The mystery continues, hopefully everyone who bought a ticket for the June 4th game can afford to go on June 8th as well, that's where my sympathy lies, with a fan who maybe had to make a choice as to which of the games they could afford to go to, and I think fans who are angry have every right to be if they feel they were duped. But did the team do it? Did bloggers, tweeters, local and national writers and commentators do it? Is there any way to ever know when all news is attributed to unnamed sources. Let's hope that once Strasburg's up in the majors and pitching every fifth day the drama of the last month is the last thing on the minds of the DC Faithful...Should the Nationals (Nationals, Mr. Kornheiser!) shoulder the blame if you're stuck with a ticket to a June 4th game against the Reds and might have to suffer through a Strasburg-less outing by a currently-.500 Nats' team against the visiting Reds, who are currently perched atop the NL Central. Are you still going to buy a ticket for June 8th as well? Won't it be nice to forget what happened before his debut when we all get to sit down together and watch Strasburg pitch...

LINK: 

ESPN.com's Buster Olney focused today on the player himself, rather than on the hype surrounding his debut, asking Strasburg's draft-mate and teammate in Double-AA Harrisburg and Syracuse, Drew Storen, in a blog post entitled, "Impaler Imitation", where the Nats' second '09 1st Round pick says he's been, "...struck by the ease with which Strasburg made the transition from Double-A to Triple-A," and thinks the hype is justified, "'Nobody lives up to those kinds of stories -- but he's the only guy who will live up to those stories.'"

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