Stephen Strasburg had a little bit of a scare or nervous moment when he received his 2019 World Series ring this morning in Nationals Park, where the defending champions got their long-delayed ceremony-ish celebration of last year’s win.
“I got a little nervous at first,” Strasburg laughed when he spoke with reporters on a Zoom call from the nation’s capital, “... because on the outside of the box that it came in my last name was spelled wrong.
“Luckily, it was spelled correctly on the ring,” he joked. “So I was pretty happy about that.”
The holdovers from last season’s championship club got their rings, though they didn’t get to have a ceremony with the fans involved that teams usually get, with the coronavirus and precautions surrounding the pandemic making that impossible at this point.
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t have done it in front of a sell-out crowd,” Strasburg said, “because the fans were so special to us down the stretch there last year, but at the very least it was great to be in the clubhouse and see the reactions from my teammates when they got to open theirs as well.”
Strasburg, of course, was the World Series MVP, after going (5-0) with a 1.98 ERA, a 2.39 FIP, four walks, 47 strikeouts, and a .221/.239/.368 line against over six games, five starts, and a total of 36 1⁄3 innings pitched in the postseason, capping off a 2019 campaign which ended with the right-hander (18-6) with a 3.32 ERA, a 3.25 FIP, 56 BBs, 251 Ks, and a .210/.271/.349 line against in 33 starts and 209 IP.
The moment he got the ring today served as a reminder of what he and his teammates did accomplish last October.
“It’s pretty special,” Strasburg said. “You just look at all the little things that they put on the ring to kind of commemorate some of the big moments of the season, and it kind of just takes you right back to that moment. They did a great job on it and they really put a lot of time and effort into making it something special, and I can’t wait to get it home to show my kids.”
Strasburg, the Nationals’ ‘09 No. 1 overall pick, has been around for all of the Nats’ playoff runs (though he didn’t appear in the postseason in 2012; long story), but to finally win the World Series last season, was, he said, a kind of a validation of the work the organization put in over the years before finally winning it all.
“Yeah, I mean there was definitely some heartbreak for this franchise in the past,” the now-31-year-old, 10-year veteran said, “but I think the greatest thing about this organization is that they continue to bring in great talent, great players, great coaches, and we’ve really had just a good nucleus and a good group of young guys constantly be coming up every few years and contributing.
“Winning last year was great,” he added, “... but I think a lot of guys that were a part of the failures or the disappointments in past postseasons weren’t even really on the team, so it was kind of like a fresh start.”
Strasburg and his current teammates will get another fresh start this summer, in what MLB is hoping will be a 60-game sprint of a season if the ongoing coronavirus pandemic allows them to complete the regular and postseason. While it will be what the righty described as a “mad dash” towards Opening Day on July 23rd, just 14 days from now, Strasburg said he’s doing what he can to get the necessary reps and work in to get himself ready for what will be a different kind of campaign, while making sure to listen to what his body is telling him as he prepares.
“It’s trying to get as many reps as you can and get up to as close to game speed as possible, but we know the clock is ticking,” he said.
“So it’s just a matter of doing as best you can to listen to your body, but at the same time, get built up.”
“In any situation as you get older,” Strasburg added, “you have to do a better job of listening to your body and knowing where is the fine line between too many reps and not enough.
“That doesn’t change in this situation. I just think, again, it’s a crazy time right now, and if we can go out there and provide some relief for the fans, something fun for them to watch on TV, that’s the big purpose here.
“So the biggest thing for every player here is just go out there, compete, and give it everything that they have.”
The Nationals, and the rest of the major league teams will have to come out swinging, with just 60 games in the season, if it works, and not a lot of time to straighten things out if the situation plays out like it did last year in Washington, where a 19-31 start left them in a hole they had to climb out of to get into the NL Wild Card game before making their run to the title.
“I think the focus last year, because we started out so poorly, was to just start playing good baseball on a consistent basis,” Strasburg said, “and then the results kind of happened, and that was an extension of us putting in the work and grinding through at 162-game season.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how we start off. Because there’s really no time to make an adjustment. It’s kind of uncharted territory, so I think we’ve got to be ready to hit the ground running and we’re doing everything we can to do that, but again, kind of like what happened last year, we’re going to let the chips fall as they may, and hold our heads high for it.”