SBD/Issue 241/Franchises

Strasburg's Injury Dims Prospect Of Him Elevating DC Baseball

Strasburg Unlikely To Pitch In MLB
Again Until 2012 Season

Stephen Strasburg "may still be the one who fills the stadium, lifts the woeful Nationals franchise to prominence," but that vision "got a little fainter" on Friday with news that the pitcher is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery and be sidelined until the '12 season, according to a front-page piece by Dave Sheinin of the WASHINGTON POST. The Nationals on Friday said that Strasburg "won't pitch again in 2010" and is "unlikely to pitch" next season. While the news "feels devastating to the thousands of fans who had come to build their television-viewing or ticket-buying routines around Strasburg's every-fifth-day schedule, the long-term prognosis is not terrible." Scott Boras, Strasburg's agent, said, "What we're dealing with here is something that's very manageable." The Nationals knew the severity of Strasburg's injury by Thursday, but team GM Mike Rizzo said that the pitcher "asked that the news be held until Friday, so as not to overshadow the team's introduction" of Bryce Harper, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft (WASHINGTON POST, 8/28). Nationals Owner Mark Lerner said, "We are not holding our heads down. We are going to survive this and we will continue to put the best product on the field. It's our goal to build a championship" (MLB.com, 8/27).

SCREECHING TO A HALT: ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote Strasburg was the "centerpiece of the Nationals' franchise, and now Washington has to sell itself without its star attraction." The team "will take all due caution during Strasburg's rehabilitation period, and if he needs time, they'll give him time; the Nationals won't push him, recklessly." But some appearances by Strasburg "near the end of next season could be very important to the team." He is "lost as a marketing tool for 2011, but he could help in the run-up to 2012 -- which could also be the first year that Bryce Harper has serious playing time" (ESPN.com, 8/29). In DC, Mike Wise wrote, "Strasburg was so much more than a pretty good young pitcher. He was boffo box office, the sole reason the Nationals became a national story this past June." It is a "bad thing for a young phenom" and a "bad thing for a franchise that just stopped mattering again until 2012" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/28). Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga: "What do you sell next year? I don't know. Strasburg's the only thing that has been a real draw at the gate that this franchise has ever had" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 8/27). In DC, Tom Boswell wrote the "growth in interest that has encircled the Nats this summer will be put on hold." Perhaps when Strasburg does return, "with his fallibility firmly established, maybe he will blend into the fabric of the game more, not stand above it -- heralded as the future face of the Nats and, perhaps, of the whole sport, too" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/28).

SAD DAY FOR DC, BASEBALL: In N.Y., Waldstein & Ward note "no baseball player has generated as much interest or excitement this season as Stephen Strasburg" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/28). The N.Y. POST's Joel Sherman wrote Strasburg was "not just a phenom, not just a coming attraction." He gave a "laughingstock organization an image, a cornerstone, a marketing gold mine." Sherman: "It is hard to imagine a more devastating injury in recent times in any sport" (N.Y. POST, 8/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote the repair of Strasburg's elbow "will almost assuredly succeed." Mending a "dispirited fan base, on the other hand, will take years" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/27). MLB.com's Marty Noble wrote, "What a disappointment! And not only in Washington. The game in general has taken a punch to the solar plexus" (MLB.com, 8/27). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said, “People come to the ballpark here to watch him pitch, and now he's probably going to miss an entire year." The Nationals "put a good face on this," but it is a "really bad day for the Nationals and a bad day for baseball" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/27). ESPN's John Saunders: "This was a franchise that without this kid basically has empty seats and is almost non-existent. They were building their entire franchise around this kid" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 8/29). The Nationals averaged 33,446 fans for the seven home games Strasburg pitched this season, compared to an average attendance of 22,590 for the other 55 games prior to this weekend (THE DAILY).

Strasburg's Absence Expected
To Impact Nats' Bottom Line

THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE: MASN's Ben Goessling wrote it is "difficult, if not impossible, to quantify what Stephen Strasburg meant to the Nationals from a pure dollars-and-cents standpoint this year, but we can safely assume it was big." In addition to the increase in home attendance when he pitches, Strasburg's jersey was the "the top seller in baseball in June, and the Nationals have sold more Strasburg jerseys than any in their history." Business of Sports Network President Maury Brown said that he "isn't sure what the Nationals will do to make up for the loss of Strasburg buzz, but he thinks there's certain to be a financial hit" (MASN.com, 8/28). In N.Y., Belson & Sandomir noted Strasburg's absence "will hurt MASN." His 12 starts on the RSN "averaged a 3.85 rating, or 89,897 households in the Washington market, more than twice that for Nationals games over all." MASN Senior VP & General Sales Manager John McGuinness noted that "ad rates had tripled for the games that Strasburg pitched and increased" by 25% for those that he did not. He added, "I’ve been in the regional sports network business for almost 20 years now, and I’ve never seen any player come on the scene and have such an impact" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/28).

TRACKING BACK? MASN Nationals announcer Rob Dibble appeared on Sirius XM MLB Network Radio Friday to discuss Strasburg's diagnosis, "in light of his previous comments" about the pitcher. Dibble said, "To take my comments from Monday, my comments were made about a healthy, 100 percent, strong, strapping kid. And it was more so directed as a pep talk, it was never directed toward Stephen in general, it was more my own opinion." He added, "Now, to have someone transcribe that, twist it and say Dibble's telling Strasburg to suck it up, that wasn't the gist of the conversation. And to have sick individuals twist it to try to make me look bad, that's fine. You can hate on me all you want. But now there's a bunch of sick individuals in cyberspace that are deriving some kind of sick pleasure from this injury to this young man. This young man doesn't deserve any of that. He doesn't even deserve to have me in the same breath" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/27).

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