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Strasburg Outtakes

Somebody really smart -- maybe John Updike? maybe a journalism professor? I'm not smart enough to remember -- once suggested that journalism should resemble an iceberg, with only the very best/most relevant facts from the reporting process appearing in the newspaper. The thing is, if Updike ever had a blog, he probably would have said -- the hell with it, just post everything you know!

So, here's the cutting board material from the Stephen Strasburg piece. Be warned, relevance of this information is, at times, dubious.

* Strasburg is in his third year of college, and athletically he's a junior. But based on academic credit, he is a senior. Because he took so many AP classes while in high school, he arrived at SDSU already with sophomore standing. He'll almost surely be a few credits shy of graduating this semester, but he wouldn't need more than a few more study hours to get a degree.

* The SDSU coaching staff has really tried to insulate its star. Most contact with MLB teams is filtered through the athletic department, which decided that no teams could speak with Strasburg after Dec. 1, 2008. According to Strasburg, every major league team interviewed him before the deadline.

And what do these representatives want to know?

"They're just asking me how my summer went," Strasburg said. "What I've done to get where I'm at. What I do against certain hitters. What I like to do off the field. They like to figure out my mental approach. And it's like building relationships."

* Strasburg is a man of routine. That's why he loves pitching. College aces pitch every Friday night, the day most series begin. Every day before and after, then, always follow the same patter. Saturdays are for recovery, Sundays for some light conditioning, Tuesdays for a bullpen session, etc.

By the way, Strasburg refused to take days off on Saturday until his coach started referring to them as an Active Day of Rest. That, for Strasburg, made things more palatable.

* Strasburg knows Nats hitting coach Rick Eckstein, who was a coach with the US Olympic team in Beijing.

* When I asked Strasburg if he could envision himself pitching at year's end for a major league team, he said, "I'd like to think so."

* Same question put forth to Tony Gwynn: "Yes, I think so. In my mind he could be a September call-up."

* Strasburg spent the summer after his freshman year pitching for the Torrington (Conn.) Twisters. I'm not sure how many games Strasburg pitched, but it was probably no more than 12 or 15. The Twisters retired his jersey.

* The Nationals plan to have a representative on site to see every Strasburg outing this season.

* Strasburg's catcher, Erik Castro, has learned that there's one occupational hazard when working with Strasburg. I'll let him explain: "The only thing that sucks is when a guy makes contact, just barely nicks it, it comes right back at my facemask. And that happens a lot when [Strasburg] is pitching. You know, it's like coming in at 98 mph, and I wear it. That's the only thing that is hard about catching him. On one foul tip last year I got a concussion."

* Strasburg's family has a pet dachshund, giving it one commonality with the Harlan family.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 8, 2009; 7:44 AM ET
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Next: Glavine Mulls Braves' Offer


Chico, I'm drooling. This stuff is great.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 8, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the story/souvenir and the cutting board material.

Re. the iceberg, you may be thinking of Claude-Jean Bertrand:

Dachshunds, eh? They were represented among a series of family pets in the household of my youth.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the cutting board material. I especially loved the concussion part about the catcher. Also, will the Nats rep at every game be rotated to get different perspectives, or will it be the same each game? It will be interesting to see whether or not (if signed) he might be at Potomac for a game or two, or would they ship him to AA or AAA before the proposed September call up. Good work Chico. See you in Viera.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 8, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

In other news, thank goodness it's almost time for pitchers and catchers. MLB Network doesn't seem to be rebroadcasting the final Caribbean Series game from last night, the only one that I didn't watch much of. So great to be watching live baseball at this time of year! I started out rooting for Licey to repeat (as they had the biggest Nats connection going), but they couldn't get it done.

I'd also grown to like Eduardo Perez' young Puerto Rican team, and was rooting for them to come away with at least one win after they'd been eliminated from the series. They hadn't had a Series win in 17 years, I think it was, and weren't represented there at all last year because of financial issues.

In fact, I surprised myself in the 9th inning of their game against Licey the other night. Ponce (0-4) was ahead and trying to close out their first win when Licey got a couple of runners on - and I started yelling at the TV - Noooo! They're so close!! My husband was like: "What's up with that?" The Ponce players still seemed so much into the game, leaning on the railing and evidently enjoying just being there. I was happy when they won, although it meant a Licey loss (sorry, Tigres). It was also fun to see Ponce light up the Venezuelan starter and come away with another win yesterday evening. I so love baseball!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

hey chico, that is what i like about your reporting of baseball, everything is relevant! keep up the good work! i look forward to every article you write.

Posted by: bsballu5 | February 8, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Strasburg is a great building block. Let's have some others, too. Naturally, it would have been great to have last year's #1 pick, the college pitcher of the year, to give the Nats TWO significant September call-ups. It would have been great to have some signings of international kids (the only big one was Smiley Gonzalez a few years ago), to add to the mix. It would have been great if the Nats had targeted talented young players in trades WHO MAKE DECENT SALARIES, not just the bargain contracts. That way you double your talent pool. It would be great to lock Zimm up long term. And it would be great if the Nats could dip into the free agent market for younger players. As it stands now, Austin Kearns holds the biggest contract handed out by the Lerners, and it's not all that much by MLB standards.

So Strasburg is important, but he can't produce winners by himself. Walter johnson was great for the Senators years ago, mostly pitching for bottom-dwelling teams until 1924-25. The Nats need depth in their team-building strategy. But Strasburg would be a great start, for sure, leading a reform effort where ownership begins to invest in the team.

Posted by: EdDC | February 8, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Yada Yada Yada. They'll never sign him so what does it matter. More importantly how can The Post have absolutely no columns on A-Roid today? Talk about not understanding what's news! WOW.

Posted by: dovelevine | February 8, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Sheinin had an A-Rod story in today's dead-tree edition.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

He also had an item on the Baseball Insider blog yesterday.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Sheinin had an A-Rod story in today's dead-tree edition.
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 10:42 AM

Not talking about a news story. Talking about a column--an opinion by say Wilbon or Boz or anyone. It's only The Top Story out today.

Posted by: dovelevine | February 8, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Self-correction: yesterday's blog item was by Cameron Smith rather than Sheinin.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Chico, the expression "iceberg journalism" is a derisive characterization, referring to the practice of only covering the most visible aspects of a story and ignoring the "real story," which is submerged -- like an iceberg. The most famous essay about the subject was written by Claude-Jean Bertrand.

Posted by: Wooden_U_Lykteneau | February 8, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

He definitely doesn't want to play for us so his contract demands are going to be hilarious. Definitely the highest in amateur draft history. Hopefully the Lerners break their trend and make it happen. I'd put it at about 50/50 at this point.

Posted by: RickFelt | February 8, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

To help with convincing Strasburg to sign with us, I suggest we replace Elwood with a rally wiener dog.

OTOH - Chico, is Grant Green on the radar screen? Could he be the Mauer to Strasburg's Prior? Had a go round on NFA about this, and "Tofu Dog" (perhaps a wiener dog himself) named another SS who could possibly rise to #9A. I'd like to see one high end middle infield prospect after just missing a Beckham (not the midfielder, the middle infielder) last year.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 8, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

A-Rod, Roid, Fraud....who cares? He's New Yorks problem child. blah blah blah...eneough already. This is Natstown.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 8, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I don't care about the Yankees, but on a larger scale, we can't really know who is clean anymore, IMO, and I'm not referring to players alone.

One Nats connection to the A-Rod story would be that Strasburg's adviser, Boras, is also A-Rod's agent.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Which is not to suggest that Strasburg isn't clean, but rather to ponder the culpability of agents, owners, the players union, and others in the whole steroids mess.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 8, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I like how not signing Crow = a "pattern", when Crow is really the only high profile Draft Pick the Lerners didn't sign, and most of their draft picks get signed for above slot value.

for example, they paid first-round money for Jack McGeary, even though they drafted him in the 6th round. and they paid for his college on top of that.

real "pattern" there.

Posted by: MrMadison | February 8, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

sorry, that should say "trend".

Posted by: MrMadison | February 8, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

This was very cool, Chico. Thanks! Obviously, let's hope Strasburg stays healthy and the Nats can sign him. Perhaps the experience with this winter's FA market will chasten Boros a bit.(We can always hope -- we're Nats fan, after all)

Posted by: nats24 | February 8, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Excellent article in the Post this morning Chico and then to read this post was icing on the cake. Thanks.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 8, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Probably worth noting that the agent that Kasten derisively points to as unwilling to make extensions for his arbitration players just pulled off a long-term deal for Ryan Howard.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | February 8, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

This is just awesome. I love waking up to articles and posts like this.

Great job Chico.

Posted by: NattyDelite | February 8, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Madison,

You say one failure does not make a trend.

The trend is not a string of failures to sign their top draft picks. You are correct, the Nats "only" failed once to do this. But it is a trend or pattern when you look at it in context of the other trends in not signing international kids, not locking up Zim so far long-term, not trading for guys with high contracts under the Lerners, not signing a significant free agent yet under the Lerners, stiffing DC on the rent, and having Austin Kearns as your largest contract guy in the Lerner years. Have you looked at the payrolls and other expenditures of MLB clubs?

You see? The pattern or trend is much larger than just the failure to sign your undefeated, college-pitcher-of-the-year.

Posted by: EdDC | February 8, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"Probably worth noting that the agent that Kasten derisively points to as unwilling to make extensions for his arbitration players just pulled off a long-term deal for Ryan Howard."

Were you there to hear Kasten's remark about the agent? Because I was, and it wasn't derisive in any way. Just a remark, more of an aside actually.

So it's good news that this agent has achieved a deal for his highest profile client, because now he can focus on negotiating for his clients with lesser profiles, and maybe get deals for them as well. Don't ever think these events aren't all linked.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 8, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

EdDC, I still don't see a "trend" based on what you've highlighted.

1. "Not locking up Zimmerman." Why do some fans see this as something urgent? After a memorable rookie season, he is coming off of two average seasons. Zimmerman wants superstar money and a long-term contract. The Nats have offered him something less than that, and I think they're right to be skeptical. If Zim plays 150 games and puts up 270/350/500, then we can complain if the Nats don't open the vaults. He hasn't earned it yet.

2. "Not trading for guys with large contracts." How would this team would benefit by trading inexepnsive players for expensive ones? You do that when you're already competitive and looking for a few missing pieces. You don't re-build that way.

3. "No significant free agents." Again, aside from Tex, I can't think of any free agents that would have been worth big bucks for the Nats. Who were you thinking of: Soriano? Zito? Bradley? Andruw Jones? Torii Hunter? Gary Matthews Jr? Alex Rodriguez? Barry Bonds?

4. "Stiffing rent." No argument here. Cheap.

5. "Austin Kearns's Salary." Wait ... paying a player like Kearns a lot of money is a sign that the Lerners are NOT cheap. It's also a sign of a poor decision by a poor GM, but that's another problem.

I don't see any evidence that Strasburg won't be signed to a hefty contract when all is said and done. Let's have this discussion again in August instead of building strawmen of the Lerners in February.

Posted by: NattyFan | February 8, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"4. "Stiffing rent." No argument here. Cheap."

Mischaracterization of what took place. The Lerners withheld the rent payment in order to gain leverage and get the city to perform up to the terms of the contract and finish the stadium. The city eventually agreed to do this, to avoid going to court over it, and the Lerners paid the previously withheld rent immediately. That's not "stiffing rent" and it's not "cheap" either.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 8, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse


Thank you for at least considering those points, even though you disagree. My response to your comments:

1. Sign Zim BEFORE he plays his way out of a contract the Lerners can "afford." Wise business move.

2. If you only trade for guys who play for bargain salaries, as the Nats have done under the Lerners, you are limiting the talent pool from which you draw. A big or middle-size contract should not invalidate a player when you make a trade! If you follow the draft, you will notice that the Nats do not get supplemental "sandwich" picks. This is because they don't trade for guy that other teams will want to sign after their Nats' contracts run out.

3. OK, here's a free agent for you, in addition to Tex: Adam Dunn has more power than the Nats' leading power hitter of last year, Milledge (14 HR, 61 RBI). The biggest Nats' free agent signing over the last two years is Lo Duca at $5 million for one year. If you say no free agents, then fine. But just do the other stuff.

4. You forgot to say why the Nats are right not to sign international kids to $100K-plus bonuses. Makes no sense to me not to add them.

5. On Austin Kearns, the issue is not whether he is worth it. The issue is why he should be the Nats' LARGEST financial commitment in the Lerner era. Some guys pan out and others don't. But if you don't spend any significant money, then you know the results ahead of time.

The stadium was essentially free and the Nats did handsprings to deliver it unto the Lerners. Not exactly grateful to withhold token rent money.

If Nats' fans think the Lerners are on the right track, the Lerners will not reform. They are "enabled." I do feel that they will sign Strasburg. They have to; they won't go two years in a row losing their #1. Strasburg is not the issue. The Lerners need to use the whole package of tools to build their club.

Posted by: EdDC | February 8, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I am disappointed at the lack of progress internationally, but I am withholding judgment until this year. With the investigation into illegal/unethical practices in the DR, the Nats did not involve themselves there in 2008. To me that is more a condemnation of the alleged actions of Bowden and Rijo than the Lerners being cheap.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 8, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse


Zim won't sign a long term deal for exactly the reason you said the team should: He is worth less now than he will be later. Why would he sign a long term deal when he has confidence he'll be worth far more later? Doesn't make sense for him, and it takes two to sign a contract.

I'm still not real sure, after reading two of your posts, how trading prospects to end up with guys with large contracts, then having those guys leave in free agency to then get comp picks to replace the prospects the team had to trade to get those big contracts in the first place, actually gets the team anywhere. The team is looking for players who could potentially be here for a while...I'm relatively certain that if the Yanks decided they would take 4 prospects for Teixeira, the Nats would probably do it.

As has been reported, the Nats have a contract offer to Dunn on the table. Dunn hasn't bitten, nor will he, it appears, unless the team goes way above and beyond any of his other suitors. And poor financial decisions for the mere sake of doing SOMETHING will doom the team in the long run.

As to the stadium, from what I understand, it was contracted through the city. The Lerners rent it from the city. Work was not completed by the contractors. As mere tenants, the Lerners themselves had no standing to ensure the work was completed. The only way to get the work done was to put pressure on the people who contracted the work, or the landlords. Seems pretty logical to me.

I don't really know if the team is on the right track. I look at last season, and obviously I'm not pleased. However, I can look at the ridiculous number of injuries to key pieces, and I have to think that they would have been 10-15 games better without them. I think the biggest piece of the puzzle that the Nats need to address is the bullpen. And, in direct relation to that, finding some starters who can go more than 5 innings. Could be that the bullpen last year would have been better if they didn't have to throw 4 innings, or more, a game.

Let's see what happens this year. If the draft is a debacle (which I really don't think it was last year, despite the garbage with Crow), if they don't have injuries and still lose 100 games, if they don't do something to address the bullpen situation and if they don't convert the glut of corner outfielders into something (centerfielder, bullpen arms, starter, whatever), then I will start to be more critical.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 8, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse


Thanks much for your thoughtful comments.

On the stadium, DC was on the hook for $610.8 million. This is the free part for MLB, but of course DC taxes pay for much of it. The stadium cost more than that so there is a small amount from the Lerners, who pay $5.5 million per year in rent.
To put it into our levels of money: I build you a brand new house for $610,800. I ask you to pay me rent of $5500 a year, or $458 a month. This rent will not go up for 30 years, and you pay no property taxes. Would you like this deal, or insist that a couple ceiling fans should be re-installed at my expense (essentially).

This would be easier to take if the suburbs helped with this, but as you can see from the above site, the overwhelming cost comes from DC, which pays $21-24 million a year in taxes (while $11-14 million comes from ticket and concession taxes from game attendees from any state). Of course the Lerners could hold out and reach a settlement, which they did. As a DC resident I don't like it, but I can understand the non-DC point of view also that the Lerners are entitled.

On Zim, why not sign him now at above what he is worth? It will still be less than what he is going to be worth after a nice year. Worth a try--be aggressive.

On trades, all I'm saying is don't ONLY trade for bargain contracts. Too restrictive! If you trade for a couple guys with contract vlue once in a while you can get draft picks when they leave (like Soriano) or trade them to a contender for propspects in the summer. It is not the only thing to do. It is just one strategy that is worth pursuing. Just takes a little money, that's all.

To get Dunn, you probably do need to pay well above and beyond what contenders are willing to pay. Safest thing is not to do it, of course.

Posted by: EdDC | February 8, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Chico -

Nice article but per what a number of folks talked about here, what's the situation with signing him? I read something a couple weeks ago that said he's a SoCal kid and really wants to be around home. Maybe that's a smokescreen for him really not wanting to work for the Nats. In any event, can you do some digging on it? I don't want to go crazy over someone we're not going to get into "Natstown" (which I can't stand saying already).

Posted by: natslifer | February 8, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

I'd love some dirt on Strasburg's "signability" as much as the next guy, but it's still FEBRUARY, fer cryin out loud. The draft doesn't even take place for several months. Why on g-d's green earth would either side say anything significant, now? OK, besides Bowden on some radio talk show, which we don't need Chico to cover for us.

C'mon, Chico, get that Vulcan mindmeld out for the enquiring minds.

Posted by: CEvansJr | February 8, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Hemingway is the iceberg guy and thanks for the added info, it is very much appreciated seeing as how fans are clamoring for any news to look forward to and strasburg most certainly is a headliner on that bill. Having tony gywnn vouch for you and say he wasn't sure if he could handle him is priceless, not a small compliment. My buddy tried desperately to get me root for losses down the stretch last season because he'd been reading about strasburg, even after I became aware of the consensus overall #1 I still held out for the w because the last thing we'd need is bad karma coming along with a highly touted prospect. I can say I was happy when we were officially the worst, kinda sad but hey 101 ain't much prettier than 102 except maybe aesthetically, it being symmetrical and what not anyways, good looking out with the extra tidbits.
Am I the only one crazy enough to believe this team should improve dramatically with what's on board right now? I'm attributing this to the fact that we are scary, young pretty much across the board but I think last year's lumps are now our best friend.

Posted by: bford1kb | February 9, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Chico, that was one beautifully written article. It's stories like this that keep me a Post subscriber.

Posted by: Natsgal | February 9, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

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