Strasburg makes a statement

Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg has made a statement with his pitching.

He also made a statement about Bryce Harper before the signing deadline last week that really defines where this team is at right now, how they feel about themselves, and what they expect people outside the organization to think about the Nats:

“If he wants to play here, then he is going to play here,” Strasburg said. “He doesn’t need any advice from anybody. You don’t need to convince him otherwise. If he doesn’t want to play here, then we don’t want him here - bottom line. We want guys who want to play on this team. It’s really important.”

That second to last line could be a mantra for the Nationals for the next 10 years and beyond. After 200 losses the last two seasons, many baseball pundits wondered who would ever want to play for the Nats, especially high-priced free agents looking for that winning team.

In one powerful statement, Strasburg has set the record straight and set the bar high for the Nats. Washington is a destination. It is a place to play. It can be the place to play.

“We want guys who want to play on this team.”

First of all, the ‘We’ jumps out at you, as Strasburg takes ownership of this team. The Nats have had Ryan Zimmerman as the quiet leader and face of the franchise. Now, they have a pitcher who can be the face of the franchise on the mound.

Secondly, Strasburg’s statement is so powerful because Bryce Harper and Strasburg are both represented by the same super agent, Scott Boras. You would think there would be some secret code or clandestine hand signal that would prevent them from ever rocking the boat when talking about the other. Strasburg demonstrated that he expects Harper to want to play for the Nats, not do so because he has to.

Nobody wants to be last in the league, but to get Strasburg, Harper and Drew Storen in a matter of 13 months certainly helps to prevent the Nationals from ever having to think about drafting No. 1 overall again.

Strasburg (5-3, 2.97) takes on Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick (8-5, 4.45) in Game 2 tonight. He bounced back from a rough outing against Florida to go five innings and allow just one earned run versus the Diamondbacks.

This will be his first chance to make a statement against the Phillies.

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