With Halley's Comet not entering our skies until mid-2061 and the next Twilight movie still three weeks away...something had to take our minds off of our collective disdain for British Petroleum.
Enter the most anticipated debut in our nation's capital since Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th president in January 2009.
At 7:06pm Tuesday night, last year's top pick threw his first pitch in a Major League uniform. Ladies and gentlemen...here are ten things you might not have known about Stephen Strasburg's epic debut for the Washington Nationals.
On August 17 of last year, with a mere 77 seconds left for ink to touch paper, Stephen Strasburg signed what became a record $15.1 million dollar contract with the Nationals. Prior to this deal, pitcher Mark Prior held the distinction of being the highest paid draft pick when he inked a $10.5 million dollar deal in 2001 for the Cubs. Curious how Strasburg's deal shakes out? The rookie was paid a prorated share of the minimum major league salary of $400,000 last season, is guaranteed $2 million this year, $2.5 million next year and in 2012...a cool $3 million.
According to FanSnap.com, the 40,315 patrons to Tuesday night's game at Nationals Park shelled out (on average) $132.72 to get a glimpse of Strasburg squaring off against the Pirates. The biggest crowd for a Washington-Pittsburgh matchup last season...18,579. But packing in the fans is nothing new to those following the much hyped righty. When Strasburg toed the rubber for his second start in Double-A Harrisburg...there was a record 7,895 fans at the park. A month later, when he made his debut in Triple-A Syracuse, a record 13,766 showed up.
Minutes after Strasburg emerged from the Nationals dugout and dug in on the mound, he unleashed a 97 mile per hour laser to Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen that just missed the inside corner. After his first two pitches being called balls, Strasburg hit his mark...getting the Pirates lead off hitter to line out to short. It would be the first of only seven outs to be recorded by those backing up Strasburg...the rest he would handle himself. More on that later.
In seven innings of work, Strasburg threw 94 pitches...65 strikes (22 of them called) and 29 balls. In his last three innings of work, Strasburg turned in what was probably his most impressive performance by striking out eight of the final nine batters he faced. In that stretch, the fireballer threw 38 pitches...31 of them for strikes. His last pitch of the night was a 99 mph strike to Pirates thirdbaseman Andy LaRoche.
If you've seen any Washington Nationals fans walking around, they're more than likely wearing a number 37 on their backs. In what is surely going to become one of baseball's top selling jerseys, Strasburg's 37 is a rarity. Throughout the Majors, only two teams have retired the number...the New York Mets and the New York Yankees. And who was the guy who donned the number? None other than Hall of Fame skipper Casey Stengel. As far as other popular number 37s...fans are hopeful that Strasburg is more Kenny Rogers or Dave Steib than Matt Albers or Todd Wellemeyer.
Stephen Strasburg is the 35th former San Diego State University Aztec to make his way to the Major Leagues with 16 of them being pitchers. Odds are he'll have a longer career than fellow Aztec Jim Campbell who pitched in just two games for the Kansas City Royals in 1990. But with any luck, the phenom will match the longevity of his former college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who made the cross country trip to watch Strasburg's debut.
A month from now, Strasburg will be all of 22 years-old. So for now, at 21 years, 10 months and 19 days old...the fireballer is the youngest member of the Washington Nationals. Also born in 1988...NBA hoopsters Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, NHL star Patrick Kane and actor Michael Cera. I'd include Brooke "Hulk Hogan's daughter" Hogan...but I'm not really sure how to classify her.
According to ESPN (those guys know everything!), Stephen Strasburg wears a size 15 shoe. Ladies.
By now you know that out of 21 possible outs, 14 of them came via the strikeout? Only twice since 1920, has a pitcher struck out more than Strasburg did Tuesday night. Former Houston Astro J.R. Richard struck out 15 during his pro debut in 1971. 17 years earlier, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Karl Spooner struck out 15 New York Giants...a roster that included future Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Monte Irvin. So yeah, 14 Ks is a league high so far this young season, but c'mon...Garrett Jones and Jason Jaramillo are no Mays or Irvin.
We've heard all about the 14 strikeouts...but no walks? In 135 years worth of Major League debuts, no pitcher has ever fanned 14 and walked zero. If you add that up...that's a ton of pitchers, people! And as Jayson Stark pointed out, there have only been five pitchers since 1900 that have had a 14 strikeout and zero walk performance in any game, at any point in their careers, in which they went seven innings or less. Those five...Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Mike Mussina and Brad Penny.
So Merry Strasmas, Nationals fans, Jesus has finally touched down in Washington...and he wears a face full of shaving cream and a silver Elvis wig.
Earlier in the season, two other big name rookies, Jason Heyward and Mike Leake got the "Ten Things" treatment...be sure to check them out as well.
Ten Things About Jason Heyward's First Home Run
Ten Things About Mike Leake and His Jump to the Majors