SBD/Issue 232/Franchises

Nationals Look To Capitalize On Strasburg On And Off The Field

Nationals Will Introduce
Strasburg Friday Afternoon
The challenge for the Nationals will be to develop No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg "into an elite pitcher while capitalizing on his presence through increased sales of tickets and merchandise," according to Tim Lemke of the WASHINGTON TIMES. In some ways, the "two goals are incongruous; many fans will plead for the team to bring him up to pitch at Nationals Park as soon as possible -- take-it-slow approach be darned." Nationals President Stan Kasten said, "Right now he's a minor leaguer. Minor leaguers don't sell tickets." Strasburg's former school San Diego State (SDSU) this past season had a "special season-ticket package for nights" when he pitched. That kind of promotion "may be tough to replicate in the major leagues, but there are plenty of other ways Strasburg can become an integral part of the Nationals' marketing plans" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/20). The Nationals yesterday began offering $1 tickets online for tomorrow's home game against the Brewers in select outfield sections at Nationals Park to mark their signing of Strasburg, and all 6,000 tickets made available "sold out by early Wednesday evening." All tickets for tomorrow's game will allow fans to view the 2:00pm press conference introducing Strasburg. That will be followed by a Q&A session with the Nationals' front office (Mark Zuckerman, WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/20). The team has said Strasburg likely will not appear in the majors this year, but Washington Post reporter Zach Berman said, "Once he makes it to Washington, that’s when you’ll see the buzz hit the city, probably similar to the way Michael Jordan was when he first came into Washington” (“Washington Post Live,” CSN Mid-Atlantic, 8/19).

ON THE RIGHT PATH: SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote under the header, "Strasburg Signing Tops Off Nats' Recent Run To Respectability." The Nationals had "no choice" but to sign Strasburg. The leverage is "normally with the team," but in this case, with the Nationals "again holding baseball's worst overall record and coming off a year in which they failed to sign No. 1 pick Aaron Crow, Strasburg held a bit of leverage, as well." An exec from another MLB team said, "They did really well considering they had no choice but to sign the guy." However, another exec contends, "They probably could have gotten it done lower." Heyman wrote, "Perhaps that's so, but the Nats absolutely could not take that chance" (SI.com, 8/19).

A JOB WELL DONE: In DC, Mark Zuckerman reports the Nationals today at a 4:00pm ET press conference are expected to announce that acting GM Mike Rizzo has been awarded the "full-time job." Rizzo, who has served as acting GM since March, has "continued to make a strong impression on Washington's ownership group," and the "clincher" was his ability to negotiate with Scott Boras and sign Strasburg. This comes despite recent reports that the team was "on the verge of hiring" D'Backs VP/Player Personnel Jerry Dipoto (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/20). An MLB source indicated that the team "made the decision that Rizzo was its man a couple of days ago" (MLB.com, 8/20). In DC, Chico Harlan writes the move eases a "major source of uncertainty within the organization" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/20). The AP's Howard Fendrich writes giving Rizzo the full-time job "lends a measure of stability to a franchise that rarely has enjoyed any" (AP, 8/20).

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