Stephen Strasburg Retires: After an Injury-plagued MLB Career
When MLB fans reminisce about Washington Nationals‘ premier starter, Stephen Strasburg, there’s an undeniable twinge of ‘what could have been’. News broke recently, as insiders shared whispers about Strasburg’s imminent retirement, setting the official announcement date for September 9.
From being a sensation as the top draft pick in 2009 to wearing the crown of the 2019 World Series MVP, Strasburg’s journey with the Nationals has been nothing short of roller-coaster-esque.
At 35, Strasburg last graced the mound in June 2022, marking his first appearance in over 12 months after recovering from a thoracic outlet syndrome surgery the previous year. Given the backdrop of Strasburg’s repetitive dance with injuries, it came as little surprise that the Nationals’ contract with him wasn’t under the safety net of medical insurance. Such a decision was less an oversight and more a pragmatic inevitability, considering the challenges of insuring an athlete with Strasburg’s medical rap sheet.
Diving Deep into Strasburg’s MLB Legacy
Any discussions regarding Strasburg invariably revolve around his juxtaposed existence: a prodigious talent, oftentimes hampered by bodily betrayals. Catapulting into the limelight in 2010 as a sprightly 21-year-old, Strasburg was a force of nature, consistently starting 28 or more games between 2012 to 2014. The peak of his prowess was unmistakably the 2019 season. He not only clocked a personal best with 209 innings over 33 starts but also clinched 18 wins, effectively etching his name as the Nationals’ World Series MVP. This stellar performance earned him a jaw-dropping seven-year deal worth $245 million in December. Washington fans had no idea what they had gotten into.
However, the fairytale had its share of shadows. Since that monumental 2019 season, Strasburg has made a mere eight appearances on the mound. Even as a three-time All-Star and an impressive fifth position in the 2019 Cy Young tally, it was his frequent brushes with injuries that cast a long shadow on his career. Off the field, Strasburg often shied away from the glare of media attention, exuding a reserved demeanor. Yet, in the confines of the team, especially in recent years, he was known to mentor budding pitchers, sharing his rich reservoir of experiences. His career curtain comes down with commendable statistics: a WAR of 32.3, a track record of 113-62, and a commendable ERA of 3.24 across 247 starts. If he had pitched 4 or 5 more seasons, he would have had a HOF case. He was the player that, when healthy, made MLB Odds unbelievable for the Nationals.
Unpacking the Past: Strasburg’s Battle Scars
Strasburg’s post-2019 trajectory was fraught with physical challenges. The year 2020 saw him on the field for a mere five innings across two starts, post which he had to bow out to undergo surgery for carpal tunnel neuritis. The subsequent year wasn’t much kinder, with a shoulder concern restricting him to 21 2/3 innings.
Revisiting the golden 2019 playoffs, Strasburg’s heroics were in full display, especially during games 2 and 6 against the formidable Houston Astros. Delivering a clinical performance, he conceded a mere two runs over six innings in Game 2 and replicated his magic with 8 1/3 innings in Game 6, once again restricting the Astros to two runs. MLB Lines really loved Strasburg.
A notable setback in Strasburg’s journey was the Tommy John surgery, which he had to undergo towards the close of his rookie season. Yet, his indomitable spirit saw him rebound, ensuring a spot in the top-10 of the National League Cy Young race on three separate occasions, with his best position being third in 2017.
In many ways, Strasburg epitomizes the narrative of brilliance occasionally eclipsed by external challenges. As the baseball community prepares for his official retirement announcement, one can’t help but celebrate a player who, despite the hurdles, left an indelible mark on the sport.