How close was Stephen Strasburg to being a Padre?

It was the close of a miserable 2008 campaign.

The Nationals were in the midst of losing 14 of their final 17 games en route to dismal 59-102 overall mark.

In late September 2008, the San Diego Padres traveled to D.C. for a three-game set against the Nationals.

The Padres swept the Nationals - winning 11-6 in 14 innings, 6-1 and 6-2 during a weekend series from Sept. 19-21, 2008.

Following that sweep, the Padres went 2-4 the rest if the way. The Nationals went 1-4. San Diego finished 63-99. The Nationals, of course, were 59-102. So even if you turn the tables and give the Nationals that sweep instead of San Diego, the Padres still won one more game down the stretch than the Nationals.

With the worst record in Major League Baseball, the Nationals received the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

With that selection, the Nationals picked a 6-foot-4, 220-lb., fire-throwing right-hander out of San Diego State, Stephen Strasburg.

San Diego still follows Strasburg's exploits, as they always have.

Dan Hayes, who covers the Padres for the North County Times, said San Diego fans lament that sweep as one reason they lost a chance at drafting their hometown hero.

"A lot of their fans are disappointed that the Padres swept the Nationals in that critical series down the stretch in 2008," Hayes said. "They basically gave up the first pick overall by doing so. And they ended up with Donovan Tate, third overall. He hasn't made it past Single-A.

"I think if Stephen Strasburg was the guy, they would be a lot happier. Obviously, he is a hometown kid. He really found his way under Tony Gwynn at San Diego State. He has a lot of allure with the big arm. There is definitely a big following for him."

So as you watch Strasburg take on his hometown team for the first time Tuesday, remember the 2008 Nationals, who were so bad, they were good. And Strasburg is a National instead of a Padre.

And then there are the 2008 Seattle Mariners, who swept the Oakland Athletics in the season's final three games to go from 58 to 61 victories and essentially lost out to the Nationals for Strasburg, as well.

But that's another story for another day.

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