August 31, 2023
It's hard to imagine this tragedy ending any other way, but Stephen Strasburg has by all accounts begun the steps leading to an expected formal announcement of his retirement on September 11. This was disclosed in the Washington Post and other major media outlets one week ago. Ever since July 2020, when the baseball season belatedly got underway, almost every appearance by Strasburg has been accompanied by some news about pinched nerves or sore muscles. It has been a truly grim litany of physical woe, and few people doubted that his career as a pitcher was essentially over. As I noted on March 24 this year, "he could barely make it through one day of spring training before the pain in his side came back ..."
The thing is, Strasburg really doesn't have to do anything, since his contract is guaranteed -- whether he is able to play or not. The way this news was disclosed suggests that both Strasburg and the Nationals owners are maneuvering toward a mutually-acceptable settlement to void the rest of his contract. Presumably, the two sides will negotiate a split of the salary he is owed for the next three years -- at $35 million per year. (In December 2019 he signed a 7-year contract worth $245 million.)
I don't begrudge Strasburg for his bad misfortune, and I try to refrain from criticizing the Nats front office for the decision to extend his contract at a premium price. Given Strasburg's history of injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2010 (his first year), it seemed like a risky move to me, but few people could have foreseen that Strasburg's mega-contract would prove to be almost a complete bust. We'll learn more in the next two weeks, and I expect that Strasburg will reciprocate the trust that the Nationals owners put in him by accepting a big reduction in compensation in exchange for retiring early.
Even though they lost the final game of their 3-city road trip yesterday and lost in the opening game against the Marlins tonight, the Washington Nationals ended the month of August in sole possession of 4th place in the National League East Division. (One must admit that they were helped in this endeavor by the struggling New York Mets, who are a half game behind the Nats.) It was the first time they have finished a calendar month out of the proverbial cellar since August 2021, as you can see on the Washington Nationals page.
After taking two of three games from the Yankees in New York last week, the Nationals traveled to Miami and did the same thing there to the Marlins. That was a big psychological boost, since the Marlins swept the Nats in 3-game series both in Washington and Miami earlier this year. Last Friday Joan Adon had another superb night on the mound, while Carter Kieboom homered again and Joey Meneses batted in 3 more runs in the 7-4 victory. On Saturday Jake Irvin pitched well again, but his team's weak offense left him on the hook for a loss. Then with two outs in the top of the 9th inning, Jake Alu hit a clutch RBI single up the middle to tie the game, and then the Nats took the lead on a wild pitch. Final score: Nats 3, Marlins 2. The same situation materialized in the 9th inning on Sunday afternoon, but this time the Nats couldn't pull off another magic trick, so they lost, 2-1.
The next day the Nats flew all the way up to Toronto, without a rest day. For some reason Josiah Gray was totally ineffective on the mound, and was replaced after just two innings. Joey Meneses batted in 3 runs, which is all that the Nats scored that day. Blue Jays 6, Nats 3. On Tuesday Mackenzie Gore had a decent outing as pitcher, and thanks to home runs by Carter Kieboom (#3!) and Keibert Ruiz, he was credited with the win. The Nats bullpen buckled but didn't break. Closing pitcher Kyle Finnegan gave up singles to the first two batters, and then walked the bases loaded. Somehow he managed to hold the Blue Jays to just one run scored, and he got the save in the 5-4 victory. Nerves of steel!!! On Wednesday afternoon, Patrick Corbin had one of his frequent off days, as the Nats lost the rubber match game 7-0. Believe it or not, that was the first series loss by the Nationals since August 8-10 in Philadelphia! In any event, by racking up a 5-4 record during that road trip, the Nats finally took 4th place from the New York Mets.
The Nats began a long home stand against the Marlins tonight, but they must be tired from the lack of recent rest days, because almost everyone turned in a lackluster performance. Joan Adon took the loss in the 6-1 outcome. It's a shame, because the Nats were only 4 1/2 games behind the Marlins in the NL East, and had a chance to pull within a half game in this four-game series. Technically, the Nationals are on the outer fringes of the wild card race, but that is a far-fetched prospect. With a 62-73 record right now, it is highly unlikely that they can reach the .500 mark (81-81) by the end of the season, but 70 wins is easily doable. Maybe even 75!?
I finally updated the Oakland Coliseum page with several corrections to the text and some reformatting, as well as a big batch of gorgeous sunlit photos, including the following montage of scenes around the stadium. The Athletics are still moving ahead with plans to build a new stadium in Las Vegas, but it's not a done deal, and there is perhaps still a chance that a deal can be worked out with the city of Oakland and/or Alameda County.
Note on that page the new map of the San Francisco Bay area, which will soon replace the San Francisco map on the Oracle Park page as well.
Note also that the map indicates a distance of 25 miles (from the edge of the map) to Levi's Stadium, the semi-new home of the "San Francisco" 49ers," who should actually be renamed the "San Jose 49ers," inasmuch as it is located only 6 miles from downtown San Jose. In contrast, downtown San Francisco is about 35 miles away! That got me to thinking about how NFL stadiums compare to MLB stadiums in terms of their proximity to (or distance from) their respective city centers...
Both Kansas City and Chicago are involved in discussions about possible new stadiums, and after taking a closer look at the proposals I will try to set aside my deep skepticism and offer some thoughtful reflections...