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13 years after electric MLB debut, what is Stephen Strasburg's legacy with the Nationals?

The right-hander has been shut down due to severe nerve damage and his career is now in question.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Thirteen years ago, on June 8, 2010, Stephen Strasburg made his Major League debut with the Washington Nationals. He was 21 years old. It was 364 days after the Nationals picked him first in the 2009 draft, and the expectations were high.

He exceeded those expectations with an incredible performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates, throwing seven innings, giving up two runs on four hits, striking out 14, and not surrendering a walk.

The last time Strasburg was on a Major League mound was June 2022, and since the Nationals' magical season of 2019 which ended with them being improbable winners of the World Series Championship—with Strasburg winning the World Series MVP—and was followed by Strasburg signing a seven-year/$245M contract, the right-hander has pitched a total of 31 and one-third innings.

Earlier this week, Strasburg was shut down from all physical activity with severe nerve damage, as Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported, and it’s unclear whether he’ll pitch again.

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Ryan Clary of the Locked On Nationals podcast had Matt Weyrich of NBC Sports Washington on the show's latest episode to discuss the latest Strasburg setback and his legacy as a National.

Clary and Weyrich talked about how the peak of Strasburg’s career was in 2019. He not only won a World Series ring but also had one of his best seasons as a Major Leaguer. He led the National League in wins (18) and innings pitched (209), had a 3.32 ERA, and made a career-high 33 starts.

Clary spoke about people’s expectations for Strasburg when he first debuted for the Nationals and said, “When I’m asked what I expected from Stephen Strasburg, it was to be a front of the rotation guy, someone who was in the Cy Young mix basically every single year and honestly thought that we got that.”

In his 13-year career, Strasburg is 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA in 1,470 innings. He’s been a solid pitcher when healthy but it’s been such a steep drop off since that extension was signed in 2019.

Weyrich said, “It’s sad how far the sky has fallen (for Strasburg). He was a Nationals icon.” He added that in the press conference announcing that seven-year deal, Strasburg took pride in the fact that he would be a National for life. He had Tony Gwynn as a mentor before he passed away and wanted to be Mr. National as Gwynn was Mr. Padres.

Strasburg has had a lot of bad injury luck throughout his career, but things seemed to ramp up in 2018. Since then, he’s had issues with his shoulders and neck; the latest injury, which is threatening the remainder of his career, is thoracic outlet syndrome. He had surgery in August 2021, returned to the field in 2022, then suffered a stress fracture in his ribs which limited him to only four and two-thirds innings in which he gave up seven runs on eight hits to the Marlins. Strasburg believed he’d be back after that injury but had another setback this spring when the TOS returned.

Then there’s the contract. Strasburg is owed $35M for the season (or the rest of the balance of that $35M) and then from 2024-2026, he’s owed $105M. Through no fault of his own, this might turn into one of the worst contracts in baseball history if Strasburg can’t make it back on the mound.

But as Clary said, Strasburg gave Nationals fans some magical moments, from his electric debut in 2010 to his World Series MVP performance in 201, and if Strasburg has pitched his last game for Washington, the fans have some cool moments to look back on.

BE SURE to listen and subscribe to the Locked On Nationals podcast wherever you get your podcasts! 

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