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Uncharted territory for Stephen Strasburg, and for baseball

I spent the summer of 1991, between my sophomore and junior years at the University of Michigan, working for the college. Looking ahead at my work schedule, I saw I had a Thursday off, and resolved to drive to Chicago to catch a ballgame. With my pal Brad riding shotgun, we took the remarkably easy trip from Ann Arbor to the new Comiskey Park, then in its first year of existence, to see the White Sox play host to the Rangers.

What I remember most about the game, honestly, is that we sat within shouting distance of the Rangers' bullpen, and that Brad - fearlessly obnoxious - joked around with Texas reliever Goose Gossge about whether he could reach us with a throw. Goose toyed with us, flashing a wide smile and then quickly switching it to the sort of menacing glare he displayed when entering the eighth inning with the bases jammed.

What history will remember from that game, however, is that it marked Ivan Rodriguez's major-league debut.

If any hype surrounded the game, I don't recall it. Pudge was under 20 when he got the call, so he must have been somewhat acclaimed.

To date, that's my personal favorite big-league debut I've witnessed. But I've never experienced anything quite like I think I will tonight, during Stephen Strasburg's debut . I don't think anyone has - including Pudge, who might catch Strasburg.

I was there for Ike Davis' first night in the majors, and Phil Hughes'.Those were interesting, within the New York cocoon. But Strasburg's debut is such a big deal that the Nationals are treating it, from a media-relations standpoint, as if this were a World Series game. Instructions and guidelines were e-mailed yesterday.

A buddy of mine, in Washington for other business matters, e-mailed me, writing: "Pretty amazing morning in DC. From 5:30 a.m., the Strasburg story is running non-stop on every local channel."

Is this good for baseball? I think it would be weird if this became a common, annual occasion, but just this once, why not? Strasburg seems mature enough to handle it.

Of course, it almost certainly won't become an annual occurrence, because how can Strasburg possibly live up to this sort of hype? If he wins the National League Cy Young Award this year, then I'll issue a mea culpa, but the reality is, he's bound to hit some sort of speed bump. And when he does - even if he goes onto have a Hall of Fame caliber career - then his story will stop dominating every local - and national channel.

In my medium-length memory bank, the only time I can remember a starting pitcher's every game being AN EVENT!!! was Dwight Gooden, in the second half of 1984 and all of 1985. Then he turned human. Eventually, Strasburg will have to turn human. But for now, let's enjoy his superhero's flight, and tonight's liftoff, especially.

--Here's a sobering take on Strasburg from Dayn Perry. Gracias, Twitter.

--The Nationals, drafting first overall just as they did last year with Strasburg, selected another Scott Boras client, Bryce Harper.

--The Mets also went with a Boras client, Matt Harvey, and in a way, Havey's pitching profile is almost secondary to his business plan. By selecting a Boras guy, the Mets sent a message to their fans that they're willing to pay above slot, something they largely refused to do in recent years _ and a reason their farm system is only mediocre. It also indicates that they're able to conduct business with Boras, despite the tensions earlier this year surrounding Carlos Beltran and just recently with Oliver Perez.

Here's what a scout who knows Harvey told me about him: "He was a guy who was better in high school. Real good arm action, explosive stuff. There was a debate in high school over who was better, Harvey or Porcello. Obviously, Porcello pulled away. Harvey wanted $2.1 million (when he was drafted out of high school, by the Angels in the third round). He went backwards in college, until this year. HIs fastball is up to 96.

"He's a great kid. His father was a long-time high school coach in Connecticut."

--We mentioned last week that Bud Selig wouldn't give the Mets too a hard time this year for going signigicantly over slot. The Mets have been very good citizens in this regard, as noted above, and MLB understands that occasionally, a team has to reach.

Also, once the Mets sign Harvey _ and it's hard to imagine they won't sign him _ they'll further dispel the notion that they're broke.

--Hisanori Takahashi has to be a Mets concern now, and another reason why the Mets will have to trade for a starting pitcher. I thought it was interesting that Takahashi gave up his two homers Sunday on 0-and-2 counts. Did he not execute the pitches? Or does he simply lack the overpowering stuff, which was most scouts' takes on him back when the Mets signed him?

--Funny story here about a young fan at Sunday's Mets game.

--The Yankees stunned the draftniks by choosing Cito Culver with their 32nd overall pick. I honestly hadn't heard of him until the Yankees selected him. Baseball America doesn't think to seem much of him, as Erik Boland noted in his story. I'll try to gather more intelligence on him in the coming days.

--Mark Teixeira is having a weird season, as Boland writes. He still deserves the benefit of the doubt, obviously, but this is why the Yankees assumed profound risk when they committed eight years to Teixeira.

Now, to do a passive-aggressive double axel, if you look at Teixeira's FanGraphs page, you can see that he has been outrageously unlucky this season, with a 19.7 percent line-drive rate (right in line with his career norms) and a .229 BABiP.

--The Hall of Fame will get some items from Armando Galarraga's imperfect perfect game. And speaking of that event, Selig said yesterday that he didn't foresee expanded replay getting instituted this season. Selig said that most people in the game were opposed to replay, but I don't know about that. Of course, many people in the game were opposed to the World Baseball Classic, but that didn't stop Selig from going forward on that.

--A Florida man who killed his wife, three other women and then himself is the half-brother of Orlando Hernandez.

--I'll check in tonight from Nationals Park.






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