Okay. Stephen Strasburg is officially a major league pitcher. This means it's okay to fawn over him.
While the hype-to-substance ratio may never be calculated with human utensils, actual useful real numbers before his start included attendance (40,000-plus), press credentials (over 200), and stories written about him in the last two days (fifty-twelve jillion). With a little patience (and a little broadcaster), some more real numbers formed when he hit the showers: seven innings, two runs, 14 strikeouts, and zero walks.
So there. The 21-year-old Washington Nationals rookie can dominate a major league lineup (even though, hahaha, it's the Pittsburgh Pirates so it's technically not true) but when you think about it, the numbers aren't necessarily relevant. Ubaldo Jimenez has great, great, GREAT numbers, but the buzz around him? That's just feedback from Coors Field's PA system.
The guy who really sold me on the Strasburg Effect was another Stephen: Steve Grilli. Yes, that Steve Grilli. The one who e-mailed me out of the blue five years ago because I said mean, vile things about his son Jason on the Internet. The color commentator for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs (one of Strasburg's minor league stops) was interviewed in a fantastic article about the Strasburg phenomenon. He also demonstrated street cred regarding larger-than-life pitchers, since he was teammates with Mark Fidrych back in the '70s.
Grilli told the story of a Tigers series in Minnesota in the summer of 1976. July 19 was 10-cent beer night, and attendance was 5,005. For cheap beer.
The next night, Fidrych started. And with beers back at full price, 30,425 showed up.
Grilli might be one of the only men qualified to serve as acolytes to both pitchers. And not wanting to get another stern e-mail from him, I'll err on the side of his judgment. Notice we're not talking about whether or not Strasburg will become the best pitcher of our generation. Fidrych wasn't, and neither was Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden, or Mark Prior. But they all captivated fanbases in dire need of a pick-me-up.