Will Stephen Strasburg Report to Spring Training?

Although Stephen Strasburg announced his retirement from baseball at the end of last season, the Nationals seem to have other ideas. Mark Zuckerman reported last week that Mike Rizzo expects to see Stephen Strasburg in West Palm Beach by the end of the month. 

Jul 31, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher  Stephen Strasburg
Jul 31, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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I still remember when the Washington Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick back in 2009. I still remember driving up to Harrisonburg with my Dad to watch him pitch for the Senators as he ramped up for his major league debut in 2010. I still don’t know if we’ve seen a better debut than Strasburg’s electric first start against the Pirates where he recorded FOURTEEN strikeouts over seven innings. 

After an unbelievable career spending over a decade in the Nation’s Capital, Strasburg is finally calling it quits. He attempted to return last season after a lengthy battle with thoracic outlet syndrome, but he was not able to pitch through his severe nerve damage. Strasburg announced his retirement in late August, officially ending the former World Series MVP’s career. 

Although Strasburg announced his retirement from baseball at the end of last season, the Nationals seem to have other ideas. Mark Zuckerman (of MASNsports.com) reported last week that Mike Rizzo expects to see Stephen Strasburg in West Palm Beach by the end of the month. 

So, what is the disconnect here? If Strasburg already announced his retirement, why are the Nationals seemingly coming at the former three-time All Star? There is unfortunately more to this story than the general public is aware of. When Strasburg decided to hang up the cleats in August on last year, the team reportedly flew his family into town for what was expected to be his official retirement announcement. Well, that is not how it ended up playing out, and there is now reported toxicity between Strasburg’s camp and some Nationals executives.

We do not know for sure what is going on behind closed doors, but it is fair to assume that there is some disagreement between Strasburg and the Nationals on the remaining $100 million dollars on his contract. There have been rumors that Washington is refusing to pay out the entire remaining balance with three years remaining on his deal. That is not how you treat a former World Series MVP…

Major League Baseball is a business, and unfortunately that takes precedence over doing what’s right more often than not. You could make a fair argument backing both sides in this situation, but that is not what this article is about. Rather, I want to dive back into the Nationals’ future expectations for Strasburg in this organization.

If the Nationals are not going to pay out the remaining contract that is legally owed to Strasburg thanks to MLB’s guaranteed contracts, than why are they expecting him to show up for spring training and become a mentor for the younger guys? If they were willing to pay out the remaining contract for arguably the most important piece down the stretch during Washington’s 2019 World Series run, then I could see why they would expect him to report to camp and help mentor some of the younger arms in the organization. 

To me, it seems like the bridges have already been burned in this relationship. Let’s be realistic here - without Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals probably do not win a World Series a few years back. Any Nationals fan would agree that his career was filled with tremendous ups and downs, and the former flamethrower struggled to put up consistent innings every season. It is understandable why the organization is hesitant to pay out the former ace, but if that is the case, do they really expect him to show up everyday to help develop this organization? 

However this ends up playing out, I think I am speaking for all the Nationals fans when I say this: I hope the Nationals organization finds a way to make this right. When Washington drafted Strasburg back in 2009, they were one of the worst teams in baseball. Their attendance was down, and the fanbase simply had no hope. Strasburg changed this organization for the better arguably more than any other player in team history. Nobody wants to see this relationship end like this after more than a decade of greatness. Let’s just hope the Nationals organization finds a way to make this right, because I don’t see Strasburg showing up to West Palm Beach anytime soon.