A summer wildfire : how the greatest debut in baseball history peaked and dwindled over the course of three months
The narrative itself is an ageless one, a fundamental Shakespearean tragedy in its progression. A young man is deemed invaluable and exalted by the public. The hero is cast into the spotlight and bestowed with insurmountable expectations. But the acclamations and pressures are burdensome and the invented savior fails to fulfill the prospects once imagined by the public. He is cast aside, disregarded as a symbol of failure or one deserving of pity. It’s the quintessential tragedy of a fallen hero.
The protagonist of this report is Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who enjoyed a phenomenal rookie season before it ended abruptly due to a severe elbow injury. But from a broader perspective, this report considers the current state of baseball in American society. The immense anticipation of Strasburg’s debut in early June of 2010 was unprecedented and his success sparked the public’s interest. But the 21-year-old failed to seize our adoration and his injury left many disappointed and disengaged. During a time when the casual baseball fan was disinterested and even the devoted felt disenchanted, Strasburg provided a brief reprieve from the controversies and allegations. Americans could connect with their beleaguered National Pastime once more.
Although Strasburg is the driving force, his role as “savior” could have been bestowed upon anyone. Nothing about his personality or looks or charisma garnered him such high esteem, but just his uncanny ability to throw a baseball. On the surface he is just a young prodigy in a long line of highly touted successes and failures – and he certainly won’t be the last. In essence, the star alone does not compose the story, but rather it’s the ideology surrounding him.
Lastly, Strasburg’s narrative is still unfinished. As in any tragic tale comes the hope of redemption. This unknown conclusion is fitting for a baseball narrative where every year begins afresh and endless possibilities emerge. As essayist Alexander Pope once noted, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” The same is true in baseball.