Nationals

Stephen Strasburg's big contract is not off to a good start

Nationals

Stephen Strasburg faces an uphill battle.

The perception that the Nationals and the former No.1 overall pick are drifting into "bad contract land" is already gaining steam.  

Dealing with nerve irritation, Strasburg has yet to start throwing since he was placed on the 10-day injured list June 2 with a neck strain, and the whispers of impatience continue to grow louder and louder. 

This reality of pro sports can be cold and unforgiving -- the more money you make, the higher the expectations are, reasonable or not. 

The former World Series MVP is now on the IL for the 14th time in his 12-year career, and since singing that seven-year $245 million contract after the 2019 season, he's thrown just 26.2 innings. 

That's uh, not good if you're keeping track. 

For a guy that's had to fight off the "fragile" stigma his entire career, the return on investment from an organizational standpoint has certainly turned into a worst-case scenario in Washington, as early as it still may be. 

It's like having a friend that's always late to everything, promise you they'll show up on time to your wedding, so you decide to make a big commitment and name them the best man, only to have him scurry in five minutes after the ceremony started looking disheveled and whispering at the alter "I thought the wedding was tomorrow".

Now, sure, it's not like Strasburg promised he wouldn't get hurt again (that would be a little hard for any human to deliver on), but to have more mysterious injuries rear their ugly head immediately after starting a new massive deal when so many people were already worried about this exact scenario playing out, makes you feel pretty discouraged. 

 

Yes, there's plenty of time for Strasburg and the Nationals to put this in the rearview mirror, but they're not off to a great start. 

As this team continues to age, while their record continues to be less than stellar, and more vital pieces to the former World Series champions miss significant time on the field, the narrative that this was a mistake by the Nats will only get louder. 

It's not only Strasburg who isn't the same since that parade, but his paycheck coupled with the rest of Washington's issues puts a spotlight directly in his direction. 

I can hear you saying now "well that's not all his fault", and, yes, you're right. But we're not talking about fairness here, nor are we even putting blame on anyone involved.

As it always is with huge commitments, the reality of the situation is that when a player lives up to expectations, everyone is happy. It was a smart decision. Just look at the decision to sign Max Scherzer in free agency in 2015. That was brilliant. But when the ROI is ugly, even when injuries are involved, blame gets thrown around. 

Public perception is part of just about every industry. Athletes and front office personnel can say they don't pay attention, but they still hear the noise. Right now that noise level is growing from a whisper to something a little easier to hear. 

Only time will tell whether both sides can hit the mute button, or it starts to become deafening.