Nats back home and here he comes!


It was a quiet bus trip to the Houston airport and a quiet flight home after Thursday’s hard-to-take loss at Minute Maid Park, where the Nats dropped 3 out of 4 to the Astros.

None of us expected a 3-7 road trip, so it’s great to be back home, possibly for the most important homestand in the Nationals’ brief history.

First order of business, win a series from a solid Cincinnati team that is giving St. Louis a good battle in the NL Central. GM Walt Jocketty, architect with Tony LaRussa of the good Cardinals teams of the last decade, has done a Mike Rizzo-type job of making over the Reds, and they look like they will contend on a regular basis for the next few years.

Monday will be a welcome off day, especially after the Nats have played 19 of their last 24 games (as I write this in the wee hours Friday morning) on the road, winning just six of those games.

The Pirates come in for three starting Tuesday, but the Bucs will be a footnote upon the major league debut of Stephen Strasburg.

I have some thoughts to share on his becoming a Nat, and some of it is based on personal experience.

I hope he does well, as we all do, but let’s not put the weight of the franchise on his right arm. He’s a big part of the puzzle that’s coming together, but let’s let him develop at his own pace and not expect dominance every time he takes the mound.

A player like this - doing amazing things - can become a sideshow, and I’ve seen it before.

In 1998 as Mark McGwire started chasing Babe Ruth’s and Roger Maris’s home run records, a strange thing started happening in St. Louis. People started coming to the ballpark just to see the homers, and weren’t concerned with the score of that game or where the Cardinals were in the standings. All they wanted was that moment of gratification, and if Mark hit a home run but the Cardinals lost the game, they were fine with that.

I wasn’t.

The arch-rival Cubs were in the process of winning the division, and that didn’t sit well with this baseball purist. As the team slipped farther out of the race, McGwire relentlessly chased history and it only took until September 7 until he became the most prolific single-season HR hitter of all time. He hit numbers 69 and 70 on the last day of the season while the Cubs were clinching, and I would have gladly traded places with them.

Strasburg is, I’m sure, going to do great things for the Nationals, and as a pitcher he should have more of an influence on his games than a hitter can. After all, if he does well, the team probably wins that night. But let’s never forget the team concept - that we’re Nationals fans first, and there will be four other days every time through the rotation that Strasburg doesn’t perform.

If fans in a place like St. Louis can forget about wins just to see a home run, it can happen anywhere. I hope we see Stephen lead the Nats to wins on the days and nights he pitches, but let’s come to the ballpark and support the guys every day, not just once every five.

Thanks for letting me get this off my shoulders - Now I’m ready to cheer his every pitch just like you are!