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The Strasburg Effect

Remember Henry Rowengartner from Rookie of the Year? He threw around 100 mph, but had no off speed or breaking pitches. (Other than, of course, the floater.) Remember how he dominated hitters? Remember how he was the greatest pitcher ever?

Well now imagine if there was a junior at San Diego State with the same kind of fastball, no weird magically broken elbow, a mid-nineties slider, and a good changeup. Oh, and imagine he has impeccable control, having only walked 11 batters in 54.1 innings while striking 107. Yes, 107 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. Just imagine.

Now imagine if that player's agent was Scott Boras. Imagine if he were going to demand a 6 year $50 million contract before not only throwing a Major League pitch, but a professional pitch period. Just imagine.

Well guess what? That person exists. His name is Steven Strasburg, and he is being touted as one of, possibly the, greatest prospect of all time. The real life Henry Rowengartner. The next Cy Young. The man with the golden arm.

This is the man who could ruin baseball.

On the field, Strasburg is exactly what baseball needs to help distance the game from the steroid era - a dynamic young pitcher who could take the sport by storm. Financially, he could cripple the sport. Should he and Boras to make these ridiculous contract demands, or even worse, hold out by playing in an independent or Japanese league, it could set a damaging precedent. Future number one picks could say "If Strasburg held out for a mega-contract why shouldn't I?" This would mean the death of the small market franchise.

The economic outlook seemed to be turning with the Evan Longoria signing last season: a manageable contract for a young star player. Small market teams thrive on drafting players, developing those players, and signing them before their contract demands balloon out of control.

It is their only chance to establish a competitive club, and their means for establishing franchise continuity.

Small market clubs will go from not only being unable to afford top-notch established Major League talent, but the top notch prospects as well. They will be forced to pass over the best players in the draft, for fear they cannot sign them. Suddenly, teams like the Yankees will not only be stacked with veteran stars, but the most talented young players, as well. If you think the Yankees and Red Sox are loathsome now, just imagine if they are stealing away the few commodities small market teams can realistically acquire.

The natural order of baseball would be destroyed.

Moreover, in these economically precarious times, the last thing anybody needs is for an unproven, yet-to-be-drafted 21-year-old pitcher to make outrageous contract demands. If you think people are angry about fiscally irresponsible franchises now, just imagine the outcry if teams give into the Strasburg/Boras demands. People can only take so many of these absurd contracts before they finally snap.

But the fact is Strasburg has a choice. He can become one the most revered phenoms the game has ever seen; or he can become a reviled anti-hero.

The question is which will he be?

The man who accepts a reasonable contract because he loves the game of baseball? Or the man who demands an out of this world deal and sucks the life out of the game?

His payday will come regardless, but it should come only after he proves himself as a top-notch Major League talent; after he has established himself as an elite player. Not before he has even thrown a professional pitch.

The future of the game rests in Strasburg’s hands. Before deciding on that future, he should as himself one simple question: What would Henry Rowengartner do?

Written By: Eric Johnson
Look for his column every Thursday and check out his blog at


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