FBb On MASN: Can Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg Become The Nats' Big Train?

Washington Senators' starter Walter Johnson's statue in Nationals Park, Washington, D.C. - Photo © Ed Chigliak/Federal Baseball

Washington Senators' starter Walter Johnson's first few seasons in the majors didn't go as smoothly as you might expect. Though he put up good numbers, he did so for bad teams, but a few years in the right-hander took off and eventually became a Hall of Fame-worth pitcher. Can Stephen Strasburg do the same?

[ed. note - "Every Friday morning throughout this season, hopefully, if they'll continue to have me, I'll be writing a post over at MASNSports.com, "... as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest," writers to their site. All opinions expressed are my own... A sample follows... You can read the entire post HERE or through the link included below. One other note: This is exactly an elaboration of a 2010 article I wrote. Read the first draft HERE."]:

Walter Johnson was born in Humboldt, Kan., in November 1887. In 1905, the future Washington Senator and his family lived in southern California, where, as Los Angeles Times writer Chris Dufresne noted in a 2008 article, the Fullerton Union High Indians pitcher first made a name for himself. "Johnson attended Fullerton Union High long enough to have, in 1905, struck out 27 batters in a 15-inning game against Santa Ana High," Dufresne wrote. Two years later, after he'd moved to Idaho and been discovered by a scout, a 19-year-old Johnson made his major league debut with the Senators. The Senators faced the Ty Cobb-led Detroit Tigers that day, and Johnson made an immediate impression on the then-20-year-old Cobb.

As Cobb wrote in his biography co-written with Al Stump, he and his Tigers teammates looked forward to facing Johnson. "Manager Pongo Joe Cantillon of the Nats had picked a rube out of the cornfields of the deepest bushes to pitch against us," Cobb recalled. Then Johnson took the mound. "The first time I faced him," Cobb recalled, "I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him. ... Every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park."

The first three seasons of his career weren't easy ones for the sidearming right-hander or the Senators, who lost a combined 199 games. Johnson, however, posted impressive numbers with a combined 1.94 ERA and 395 strikeouts (5.36 K/9) in 663 innings. Health issues slowed Johnson at the start, however, with an ear infection delaying the beginning of his 1908 season and "severe cold" doing the same in 1909. As Johnson's Baseball-Reference.com bio notes, Cantillon, the Senators' skipper, pitched him on short rest repeatedly leading to "a sore arm that kept him out of the lineup for three weeks and scared Cantillon into using giving him more rest for the remainder of the season."

• Read the entire post over at MASN's Nationals Buzz.

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