Mandel’s Musings – Strasburg Makes Debut Tonight

Published on: 8th June, 2010

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New York – Stephen Strasburg makes his major league debut tonight for the Washington Nationals. Calm down, everyone. This is a young pitcher with very little experience at the minor league level. He may have a live arm, a good sinker, and according to most scouting reports, real good presence on the mound but there have been too many young pitchers with similar physical characteristics who couldn’t maintain a good level of performance either because of injury or the inability to conquer the mental game of adjusting to major league hitters. Anyone old enough to remember David Clyde, the #1 pick in the 1973 Major League Baseball Draft? The Texas Rangers thought they were getting the next Sandy Koufax. Instead, they got David Clyde, who retired at age 26 with a lifetime record of 18-33.

Let’s be honest. This kid probably should have started his major league career much later than now, learning how to pitch in the minors. However, cash is king more than ever before so instead of keeping the kid down on the farm, the Nationals will sell out their stadium, sell a ton of uniforms with Strasburg’s name on it, and put the kid on the mound tonight in front of a national television audience.

The kid does have a 97 mph, two-seam fastball that sinks, a knee-buckling curve and a major league-level changeup, according to all reports. He’s got the arsenal. It remains to be seen if he’s got the ability to put the whole package together, this early in his career.

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Doesn’t it feel like the baseball season is (finally) in full swing? Other than the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup tournament (will someone please tell me who’s playing for the Cup this year?), it’s now going to be baseball, baseball, and more baseball for a couple of months. Baseball is even trying to make its annual amateur draft as big a deal as the NBA and NFL drafts have become. Not a chance, though. Even in this, the YouTube age, very few of these baseball prospects get seen by the masses of fans. In the limited rounds of the two other major sport drafts, we get to see most of these kids play their games and get analyzed to death in the months leading up to draft day. The technological age still hasn’t reached down into the hinterlands of baseball fields, particularly at the high school level.

Of course, for those who need their football fix, NFL training camps start up at the end of July, almost eight long weeks away.

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This LeBron thing is already boring. The summit meeting Dwyane Wade talked about last week in which the top free agents, James, Wade, Bosh, Stoudemire, and yes, even playoff bust Joe Johnson, would get together to decide the future of the NBA showed just how much the NBA has become a player-dominated league. The power and control of the balance of power has moved out of the front offices of the teams straight into the waiting arms of the top players and their agents. I’m not sure if that’s such a bad thing, given the track records of many front offices in evaluating and signing talent. (See New York Knickerbockers, circa 1973 – 2010).

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Speaking of the Knicks, did you happen to catch the story of Isiah Thomas’ management style when he ran the Knicks, from 2003-2008? The former great point guard of the Detroit Pistons has proven through the years not to be a good judge of talent or possess the knowledge of how to spend his bosses money to pay for said talent. As it turned out, it’s been divulged that Thomas spent a total of $120 million to pay the salaries of seven players who he either signed or were dumped on the Knicks as part of other deals. These seven players combined to play a total of 82 games for the franchise.

Below is the list of players Thomas was responsible for acquiring, the number of games they played, and the salaries they were paid for those games:

Player                                      Years             Games               Salary

Steve Francis                          06-07               44                    15, 070,000

Stephon Marbury                     07-08             24                    19,012,500

Eddy Curry                               09-10                 7                    10,500,523

Anfernee Hardaway                05-06               4                    15,750,000

Eddy Curry                               08-09                 3                     9,723,983

Stephon Marbury                     08-09               0                      20,840,625

Jerome Williams                      07-08               0                      7,639,400

Jerome Williams                      06-07               0                      7.014,400

Jerome Williams                      05-06               0                      6,620,063

Maurice Taylor                         06-07               0                      7,500,000

Dan Dickau                             07-08                 0                      2,990,028


It remains incredible that Thomas kept his job as long as he did. Donnie Walsh, who succeeded Thomas with the Knicks has been forced to undo all of the mistakes he inherited. With free agency looming this summer, it remains to be seen if the Knicks’ sullied reputation will impact on players’ decisions to join a poor team, despite the money they could earn from Jim Dolan’s operation.

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