It's much bigger than I thought. So big, in fact, it's destined for the big screen.
"The Strasburg Effect."
I mentioned the other day that I was in Tennessee for a few days, to speak to students at my alma mater, Austin Peay State University, America's Greatest Institution of Higher Learning. Knowing it would be chilly down there - actually, it's been unseasonably cold in that part of the state - I knew I needed some kind of very warm jacket.
I don't own an overcoat, and my regular shoveling snow jacket was too bulky to carry on the airplane, so I took a Nationals' jacket that had been worn by Livan Hernandez in his first go-round with the club. It's lined, it's warm, and it fits.
Anyway, I was amazed when I got off the plane in Nashville as to how many perfect strangers in the airport stopped me to talk about the Nats - and ask about Strasburg. It happened about 6 times on my way to baggage claim and while waiting on my rental car.
I had lunch Thursday with my old college Strat-O-Matic pal Robert Stigall at Nero's Grill off Hillsboro Pike (if you're at all familiar with Nashville) and the waiter was vitally interested in Strasburg first and the Nationals second.
It happened several more times when I returned to Nashville International Airport for my flight home last night. I was in line with a young man from Minnesota wearing a Twins' jacket and cap, and he was full of questions about the Nationals, and when Strasburg might be called up. The security guy who checked my ID asked about Strasburg and also mentioned he'd be rooting for the Nationals now because Pudge Rodriguez was his favorite player.
I'm still of the mindset that Strasburg doesn't need coddling, an opinion I base on the things I've heard from Tony Gwynn, his college coach. Absolutely, start him in the minors, maybe even in high A ball. But move him along at, say, the same pace they moved John Lannan up the chain in 2007.
Strasburg's bullpen sessions in Florida are drawing rave raviews, and admittedly, I thought it was too much, too soon. Those spring training exhibition starts will be rockin' affairs, I'm quite sure. Hopefully, at least one of the MASN broadcasts will feature him as the starter.
Speaking of Livo, I agree with what every other baseball scribe seeems to be saying regarding his return on a minor league deal: He's a placeholder until the youngsters are ready, and his presence on the ballclub has a lot of upside to it - for now.