Bobby Cox: Stephen Strasburg 'a Hall of Famer in the making'
Perhaps the most incredible thing about the beginning of Stephen Strasburg's career is simply that it's only a beginning. In four starts, Strasburg has 41 strikeouts compared to five walks, a 1.78 ERA and a .202 batting average against. He will presumably pitch for 10 or 15 more years. What's next?
"He can only get worse," said Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox, the longest-tenured manager in baseball. "It's amazing. Unhittable. He's got nowhere to go. He's already at Utopia. It's not supposed to work that way in this game. In his case, it has."
Cox first managed in 1978, and he said he has never seen a pitcher as polished as Strasburg at this point in his career. Cox was asked the closest he could think of, and his mind went back to 1984, when he was managing the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Clemens," Cox said. "When we saw him for the first time, he was reeeaaallly good. But I think this kid, just watching the games on TV, might be a little more polished at this stage. And Roger was as good as it could get.
"It's hard to imagine, but he is. Every game I've watched him pitch. He is. It's just a fact. Everybody's got to get their feet wet. But he's different."
When informed a few players, including former MVP Miguel Tejada, had asked for autographs from or pictures with Strasburg, Cox shrugged. "They can see a Hall of Famer in the making," he said.
Cox has only watched Strasburg on television, but he will get his first in-person look tonight. A reporter jokingly asked if teams would be using squeeze bunts in the first inning against Strasburg and Braves starter Tim Hudson.
"I don't know if we can get a bunt down off this guy," Cox joked.
Despite the challenge, Cox looked forward to the Braves facing Strasburg. "I want to see him," Cox said. "Heck yeah."
His excitement sits at the center of the debate Strasburg has sparked: Should be considered for the All-Star Game? Cox, who has managed several midsummer classics, had mixed feelings. The fan in him wants Strasburg in the showcase. The grizzled baseball man sees a potential injustice.
"I don't know," Cox said. "To me, I'd love to see him on there. But for the other guys that have had 15 starts, it's probably not fair to knock one of them off that actually, you know, have the stats. But he'd be a good one.
"I want to see him pitch in the All-Star Game. But to have five starts, it's probably not fair to the other guys that are on the border of making. Sometimes financially, there are bonuses in there. If they think it's going to happen, it wouldn't bother me. Somebody gets knocked out that really deserves it. Seems to me he's going to be on that All-Star team for the next 10, 12 years."
The sticky part about Strasburg making the team is the surplus of deserving starting pitchers. Last year, eight of the 13 pitchers on the National League team were starters. This year, 13 NL starters have ERAs under 3.00. That does not include reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, who leads the NL with 117 strikeouts and has a 3.13 ERA, or Carlos Silva and Jonathan Sanchez, who have ERA of 3.01 and 3.03, respectively.
That the talk even exists has likely mortified Strasburg, who shies from the avalanche of attention his talent and exploits have created.
"I don't give it a lot of thought, to it to tell you the truth," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "I think it's probably a long shot. He's only going to get six or seven starts total before the all-star break. And I think Stephen is embarrassed by it a little bit. He has such great respect not only for his teammates but the whole league, and he realizes there are a lot of worthy candidates to be on the all-star team. If he is that extraordinary between now and then and is on there, certainly we would support his effort to go help the National League."
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