Monday, August 16, 2010

Strasburg Steps Up

In the 2010 MLB draft the Washington Nationals selected Bryce Harper 1st overall.  Harper is a 17 year old phenom that was being touted as one of the best hitting prospects in baseball history.  He has been getting national attention since he was 15 and should no doubt flourish once he reaches the majors.

The only question now is when will that be?  And will it be with the Nationals?

The deadline for singing draft picks is midnight tonight and as of right now Harper remains unsigned.  His agent Scott Boras is holding out for a deal that would make Harper the highest paid rookie in MLB history breaking the previous record for a position player set by another Boras client, Mark Teixeira. 

"There are few high school players in the draft history, since 1965, that have the extraordinary tool of power," Boras said to Sports Illustrated following the draft. "When it's evidenced, it's rare."

Players holding out like this is nothing new in baseball, especially for the Nationals, as just last year phenom pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg waited until just minutes before midnight to sign his record $15.1 million contract.  That is why the comment that Strasburg made yesterday to USA Today is so odd.  Not only did he wait until midnight to sign but he is also a Scott Boras client.

"If [Harper] wants to play here, he's going to play here he doesn't need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn't want to play here, then we don't want him here."

Some people might look at that comment and call Strasburg a hypocrite as he did the exact same thing only a year ago but I look at that comment and think that Strasburg has taken on his new role with the Nationals as the 'Savior of the Franchise.'  He stepped up for his team and that's something Nationals fans, players and the front office need to appreciate and respect.

Instead of pulling a Dwyane Wade and trying to recruit players to his team Straburg is letting it be known that the Washington Nationals aren't a charity and don't need Harper's help.  He isn't going to pander to Harper and I think that's a great sign going forward for a franchise that is often seen as an embarrassment.  Strasburg has put the team on his back and is letting everyone know that going forward the Nationals are no longer the joke of the league.

Harper has yet to make a public comment about what Strasburg said but I think it may have hit home with him.  Harper may see this as a challenge to his character as Strasburg's comments have made him look like a greedy young kid who sees baseball as more of a business than a game.  It makes Harper look like a hired gun and also like an arrogant ass who wants to ensure he gets more money than anyone before him.

Yes that is exactly how Strasburg looked last year when he waited until the stroke of midnight to sign but he has the benefit of the fact that sports fans have short memories and only care about 'what have you done for me lately?'  Nationals fans will overlook that fact because they are caught up in the 'Strasmus' hysteria.

This could also have been a huge mistake by Strasburg.  If Harper elects not to sign with the Nationals it would really hurt the team.  Harper would be a great help to Washington and would bring a power bat to the order and could provide some needed help behind plate all the while getting a chance to learn from one of the greats in Ivan Rodriguez.

What would the reaction of the fans be if Harper specifically mentions the comments made by Strasburg as a reason for his not signing?  What if instead of motivating Harper to sign he took it as an insult and gives says, 'fine if you don't want me eff you?'  This could turn nasty for Strasburg quickly.

I don't see that happening though.  The Nationals know they need Harper and can't afford to let another 1st round pick slip away (see Aaron Crow in 2008).  I think Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo will get Harper to sign and in the end this will all blow over.  But until Harper signs on the dotted line everything is up in the air.

If nothing else Nationals fan should look at this situation and be optimistic.  Strasburg has only been apart of the Nationals for a few months and already he is taking his position within the team seriously.  He is now the face of the franchise (sorry Ryan Zimmerman) and showing the kind of loyalty to a team that takes some players years to develop.  He is becoming the leader of a young team trying to build for the future.

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