This is starting to seem a little silly, what with the strikeouts and the unhittability and whatnot. It's reached the point where we can start looking at schedules to figure out when Stephen Strasburg will finally arrive in the majors. Ben Nicholson-Smith:
- If the Nationals keep him in the minors for three more May starts, they can call him to the majors on June 1st. That would almost certainly be late enough to prevent Strasburg from becoming a Super Two player and earning millions more through arbitration. However, calling Strasburg up in May would give him a chance at Super Two status.
In theory, the Nationals could make money by calling their phenom up. As USA Today's Mel Antonen reported this week, attendance figures and merchandise sales have spiked wherever Strasburg has pitched. This could happen in Washington, too, but the Nationals have just five home dates remaining in May, and they would only be able to start Strasburg once on their upcoming homestand.
It seems much more likely that the Nationals will keep Strasburg in the minors for three more starts, save themselves a few million and call on the phenom to face the Astros in Houston June 1st.
Makes sense to me. In the old days (i.e. the 1970s), the club would have made sure its phenom debuted at home, the better to hype the big event. But these days the practice is to break the kid in gently, give him a (relatively, supposedly) low-pressure debut on the road. Which is fine. The Nationals will sell out his first appearance in Washington whether it's his first start or his second.
Meanwhile, the "attendance figures and merchandise sales" argument -- the argument for bringing Strasburg up now and grabbing all the cash you can -- doesn't really hold water. Sure, you'll sell a bunch of t-shirts and jerseys and stuff, but you'll sell those eventually anyway. The real boost would be to the attendance, but we're talking about maybe two extra starts here. There's just no way the additional ticket sales could approach the amount of money the Nationals might save by delaying Strasburg's arbitration eligibility for one year.
A thought just occurred to me, though. The Nationals probably won't let Strasburg throw more than 150 to 160 innings this season. What would happen if they brought him up right now ... but, when he's hit his innings limit in August or early September, they demoted him to the minors. It would be a paper move, of course; but wouldn't that stop the service clock from running, and thus keep him from reaching Super Two status?
Probably not. That seems too huge a loophole. I just wanna see this kid in the majors.