PUT STRASBURG AND DICKEY ON THE ALL-STAR TEAM – BUT ONLY IF THEY PITCH TO THE SAME GUYS

                                                                                        Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Once upon a time, the All-Star game was really important – to players, managers and fans. But that was then. This is now. Despite trying to give it phony importance – the league winner is the home team in the World Series (there’s no truth to the rumor that the NBA is giving home-court advantage in the 2011 NBA Finals to the conference of the winner of the Slam Dunk contest) — you can’t make a modern day exhibition game important (and with present day inter-league play, it’s not even novel as it once was).

STRASBURG A NO-BRAINER

It’s kind of bizarre to think that there are people who think this guy should not be on the All-Star team. Possibly a once-in-a-generation pitcher – how many “baseball” people have said this is the best pitcher ever? — it’s preposterous to think that he shouldn’t be on it. Is he that good? Well, while this writer thinks he has a chance to be an all-time great, it really doesn’t matter. Remember, part of the reason, in 2010, that Strasburg didn’t start the season in the majors is so the Nationals can keep him a little longer on the back end (for free agency). Had he started the season, would he have been Mark Fidrych or Fernando Valenzuela? We’ll never know, but clearly he has generated (almost) as much excitement.

Plus, this guy has received as little run support as one can possibly get. Yes, the Nationals got Strasburg four whole runs in his debut, but three came in the bottom of the sixth (i.e., a 1-0 game through five and a half innings).Yes, in his second game the Nationals got him six runs although he was leading only 2-1 after five.

Then, the Nationals offense fell off a cliff. In Strasburg’s third start, a no-decision on June 18 against the White Sox, the Nationals got one run in the seventh after Strasburg had given up only one run through seven. In his fourth start, a 1-0 loss on June 23 to the Royals, Strasburg gave up one run in six innings with the Nationals, obviously, not scoring at all.

In his fifth start, a 5-0 loss to the Braves on June 28, obviously, once again, the Nationals didn’t score. And if you watched that game, where the Braves scored five in the seventh (and Strasburg was charged with three runs, two earned), you know that Strasburg threw a double play ball with first and second, nobody out, which was booted by the shortstop. Since you can’t “assume” a double play (what a stupid rule but that’s for another time), Strasburg gave up two earned which should have been zero earned but for a simple play.

Finally, in his sixth start, a no-decision on July 3 against the Mets, the Nationals did not score while Strasburg was in the game (he gave up two earned in five innings). The Nationals came back to win the game (thanks to another K-Rod implosion).

So understand, if you are criticizing his record, Sandy Koufax only could have won one of those last four starts, since the Nationals scored all of ONE run in FOUR games when Stephen Strasburg was in the game.

You get the point.

LOOK AT HIS OTHER STATS

With arguably the best “stuff” in the game already, just watching this guy pitch is a treat. He now holds the all-time record for strikeouts, in the history of baseball, for his first three and four starts in the majors. He trails only the ill-fated Herb Score (52-50) in strikeouts after his first five starts in the majors (give this a little thought).

His strikeout to walk ratio (53-10) is over five to one. His ERA (bloated because of that missed DP ball) is 2.45 and his WHIP is slightly over 1. If you are keeping score at home, these are All-Star numbers.

And, never forget, this guy puts people in the stands as much or more than anybody since, well, Fidrych and Valenzuela.

R A DICKEY DESERVES TO GO AS WELL

The opposite end of the spectrum, pitching-wise, R A (it stands for Robert Allen) Dickey has been a life-saver for the Mets. He’s 6-1 (and should have won yesterday after giving up two unearned runs in seven innings and leaving with a lead against the Nationals – outdueling Strasburg) with a 2.62 earned run average.

An American League journeyman (at best) prior to this season, the 35-year-old Dickey has reinvented himself and is now a knuckleball pitcher. It’s his first year in the National League after seven non-descript (22-27) years in the American League. A more interesting story than even Strasburg, Dickey has a missing ligament in his pitching arm but has still managed to carve out a major league career.

He has helped to make the Mets relevant again in the National League – and in New York City.

BUT MAKE THEM PITCH TO THE SAME HITTERS IN THE ALL-STAR GAME

It will be fantastic if both Strasburg and Dickey make the All-Star team. But the real interesting thing will be if they can pitch to the same All-Star hitters. Once upon a time, that would have been easy as, decades ago, starters routinely played six or more innings. Today, with so many players (and, apparently, virtually everybody has to play – we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings) on each team, that will be hard to do.

But, if possible, the NL should try and get Strasburg in early (not start) for an inning and then bring Dickey in two or three innings later to face the same guys. Then you can ask the hitters after the game what it’s like to face a 100 mph fastball, an 88-90 mph “change-up” and, later, a 65-70 mph knuckleball.

Bizarre but entertaining, no? And, hey, it’s all about entertainment today, isn’t it (that’s what they tell me)?

WHO WILL BE LEFT OFF, THOUGH?

One of the biggest complaints, and it’s a good one, is, if you put these guys on, who do you leave off? Well, first of all, the rosters should be greatly expanded for the All-Star game. With so many players and with the appeal of having these two pitchers pitch in an All-Star game, nobody who deserves to go should be left off.

Second of all, both of these guys are very deserving. The future is now for Stephen Strasburg and baseball, still in need of stars and popularity, shouldn’t let an opportunity like this pass. Strasburg shouldn’t be penalized for the “system” that is baseball in 2010. Nor should he be penalized for anemic run support.

As for R A Dickey, if this isn’t the best story of the year, a 35-year-old knuckleball pitcher having an All-Star year, I don’t know what is.

So put them both on the All-Star team. Let them, if possible, pitch to the same hitters two or three innings apart.

It will be the most entertaining thing about the 2010 All-Star game.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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