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Stephen Strasburg, Baseball Phenom, May Be Out A Year Or Longer

Stephen Strasburg

Injured Washington National's pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg may be out for more than a year after likely Tommy John surgery.   Greg Fiume/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Every true baseball fan — and even casual ones — has heard the terrible news by now that Stephen Strasburg, the Washington National's 22-year old ace right-handed pitcher and rookie phenom, in short The Franchise, may be out for a year due to an arm injury.

In what was fairly devastating news not just for Washington but all of baseball, the Nationals announced Friday that diagnostic examination revealed that Strasburg has a torn ligament in his right elbow and will probably need Tommy John Surgery.

If he indeed has to have the operation, surgeons will take a ligament from elsewhere in Strasburg's body, likely his leg, to replace the torn one.

The recovery will be lengthy and strenuous but if it's successful, Strasburg could still have the sort of Hall of Fame career that led to his coming to Washington to be the most anticipated arrival of a sports figure in the nation's capital since Michael Jordan joined the Washington Wizards.

Of course, that didn't work out too well.

But Jordan was at the end of his stellar career while Strasburg looked to be at the start. He was all potential.

And an impressive start it was.

It would be fair to say, as Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated wrote, that:

Strasburg is the most hyped and closely watched pitching prospect in the history of baseball, courtesy of this age when information continues to flow faster, in greater volume and across more platforms.

After the Nats drafted Strasburg out of San Diego State University, signing him to a record $15.1 million, four-year contract, his stint in the minor leagues fed hopes that he was the real deal. He struck out 65 batters, walked 13, had a 7-2 record and an ERA of 1.30.

You would have thought the first game he pitched in the majors on June 8 of this year, was a presidential inauguration, there was so much excitement. It was actually called "Strasmus," like Christmas.

Nationals Park was sold out, just like many of the stadiums in the minors when he pitched. Strasburg struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates batters in the Nats 5-2 win. With a marketing operation to match the hype, the Strasburg era in baseball had begun with a bang even if the Nats season amounted to a whimper.

The Nats now reside in the basement of the National League East with a at 54-74 record. They were even swept by the hapless Chicago Cubs this week. And now this.

What makes Strasburg's injury so ironic, is that the Nationals' management handled Strasburg with extreme care, limiting his innings pitched to prevent exactly the kind of injury they're now forced to deal with.

Some sports writers questioned the strategy. Now it looks like the Nats were prescient. Maybe Strasburg wouldn't even have made it to the Nats opener if they hadn't restricted his use.

Again, it's bad news for Strasburg, the Nats and baseball. But many other ball players have come back from the surgery to have long, productive careers, including its first recipient, Tommy John himself.

The hope is that the hard-throwing Strasburg's name will be added to that list.

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