Stephen Strasburg has been better than expected, even if he's not playing in the All-Star Game.
Had he been given even modest run support, Strasburg could be 6-0 right now. He draws an extra 20,000 fans to ballparks on the nights he throws. Strasburg makes people notice a team that was invisible the last two seasons.
The Nats are compelling every five days. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only time worth watching them. The team's batting slump makes the Dow Jones drop appear modest. The Nats are fading, but at least they nearly reached the All-Star break before everyone started counting down to the opening of Redskins training camp July 29.
Strasburg makes his seventh and final start before the All-Star break on Friday against San Francisco. Nats officials must surely be grateful Strasburg gets a vacation so he can still pitch into September when the team's playoff chances end and the Redskins season begins.
While he's undeserving of an invite to the Midsummer Classic, Strasburg has clearly shown to be the superstar everyone hoped he'd be. If only politicians fulfilled their promises as much as Strasburg.
Overall, Strasburg has been great twice and pretty good four times. He has looked like a rookie occasionally, walking five against Cleveland and allowing too many scattered hits against Kansas City and Atlanta.
Still, give Strasburg an A-minus for his first five weeks. He loses focus occasionally and allowed a couple cheap homers, but that's being picky. Strasburg has been a flamethrower, routinely hitting the upper 90s with his fastball. He mixes four pitches well and throws off-speed stuff when he's behind in the count. That shows confidence. It won't be long before Strasburg truly starts dominating lineups.
The Atlanta loss actually provided a glimpse of Strasburg's growth. He struggled the first time through the lineup, allowing four hits. Strasburg then mowed down 12 of 13 batters -- striking out five -- before a blown double-play ball led to three runs. He learned hitters' weaknesses with each at bat.
There have been better rookie debuts than Strasburg. Fernando Valenzuela opened with eight straight wins. Mark Fidrych was 19-9 and created "The Bird" personality -- a contrast to Strasburg's quiet, measured demeanor. Dwight Gooden won 17 games at age 19 in New York, where legends always stand taller.
Yet, which of them would you trade for Strasburg? So far, none. He has done everything expected and more. If only everyone did.
Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more at TheRickSniderReport.com and Twitter @Snide_Remarks or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.