This here is the image that led Wednesday’s sports section. It’s a photo illustration by Chris Rukan, using a photo of Stephen Strasburg taken by Jonathan Newton. (It accompanied Kilgore’s story on the amazing heat thrown by this staff.)
And it will lead me nicely into a question posed to ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian Wednesday morning, during an appearance on 106.7 The Fan. He was asked which Nats starter is the most impressive.
“I think Strasburg’s always the most impressive,” Kurkjian said. “I can’t stress enough: This guy’s gonna be the best pitcher in the game before long. He’s close to that now.
“I had dinner this spring with John Kruk and Mike Schmidt, and these guys were talking about the pitching today. And Mike Schmidt looked right at me and said ‘How does anyone ever get a hit off of Stephen Strasburg?’ That’s what he said. That’s Mike Schmidt. That’s not me saying that. That’s as ultimate a tribute as you can get. . . . We’re starting to see him develop into even more of a pitcher, so I think he’s always the most impressive.”
And then Kurkjian was asked if the Nats have the most impressive staff in the majors.
“So far, absolutely,” he said. “In the end I’m not sure they’re going to have the best pitching in the league, but right now they do.”
Kurkjian went on to predict that the Nats will make their playoff debut in 2013, which seems a bit late. He also was asked if their middling attendance thus far marks Washington as a bad sports town.
“I’m not going that far, but I agree, the attendance has been disappointing,” he said. “I though the Nationals at this point would be a little bit more of a factor, especially when Strasburg makes his season home debut. And the way Gio Gonzalez threw last night, you’d think there might be 20,000 in the park, but there weren’t.
“I think it proves again: you’ve got to win, and this is not enough of a sample for Washington fans,” he continued. “ I’m also gonna give them credit: there were 24,000 in Miami last night in this brand new ballpark. School’s not out yet, and things will pick up for sure, but it’s still disappointing to be under 20,000 when a team is playing as well as it has.”
For the record, the Nats are 21st in home attendance, just a few hundred fans per game behind Baltimore. They’re 18th in home attendance by percentage of capacity.