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First of all, apologies for that wholly inadequate greeting. We know a simple "Dear Stephen" falls as short as an Antawn Jamison jump shot (but it's OK! We got rid of him!). You're Stephen Strasburg, the pitching machine with the 103 mph fastball, the 12-to-6 breaking ball, and the steely-eyed glint of a true ballplayer. You're Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, Walter Johnson, and Jesus (as your teammates call you) rolled into one perfect package. You're He-Who-Must-Be-Named, the savior of Washington, D.C. sports, set to make your major league pitching debut for the Nationals tonight and begin taking over the baseball world.
At least, we really really hope so. Because the recent "saviors of Washington sports" didn't turn out so well.
Remember Gilbert Arenas? Yeah, Agent Zero, the Wizards' superstar who for the briefest of moments stood toe-to-toe with LeBron James. But we lost that epic playoff series in 2006, and LeBron bounced us from the postseason again in 2007 and 2008. Since then, we've gone 45-119 in two seasons. Only lucking into the No. 1 overall pick in the draft later this month has kept the Wiz interesting (and we're sure to mess that up by picking John Wall over Evan Turner. Trust me, that's going to look really bad in 10 years).
As for Arenas, he thought it would be funny to place unloaded guns next to teammate Javaris Crittenton's locker during a dispute over a gambling debt (insert obligatory "Washington Bullets" joke here). That got him 30 days in a halfway house and an indefinite suspension from the NBA. Oh, and the Wizards are still on the hook for the last four years of Arenas' six-year, $111 million contract. So they've got that going for them. Which is nice.
Then there's the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, who manages to be more maddeningly disappointing than Arenas because he's so damn good. Ovie is the best thing on skates since Katarina Witt, a winner of the Hart Trophy (the NHL's MVP award) two years running and a near lock to win it this year. Not only is he an offensive juggernaut, he's also a badass who throws himself into the boards after scoring goals and laid possibly the most beautiful check in hockey history on Jaromir Jagr in the Winter Olympics.
Come playoff time, though, Ovie turns into No-Vie—at least when it comes to living up to the 'C' on his jersey and captaining his team to victory. In their last two playoff series, the Caps were 0-4 in closeout games, including three straight gut-wrenching losses to the Canadiens this spring. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Ovechkin rival Sidney Crosby all have Stanley Cups championships on their resume. We're still waiting for Ovie's first appearance in the finals.
The Redskins? Well, it's hard to cultivate a D.C. sports savior when Daniel Snyder is your owner. We can think of six coaches in the last 10 years who would agree.
No athletic Messiah means no championships, which unfortunately we're pretty used to by now. Quick, name the last Washington pro team to win it all. No? We were looking for the 1991 Redskins, with Mark Rypien and Art Monk and the first iteration of Joe Gibbs as coach. Since then, we've only had one team in the finals—the 1998 Capitals, who were promptly swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Of the other 12 American cities with all four major sports, only Minneapolis-St. Paul has a longer drought. And at least they have Brett Favre (since everyone with a pulse knows he's coming back).
But that's all going to change now. Because you're here. You're finally here. We drafted you last year, taking about a nanosecond to select you with the No. 1 overall pick. Then, while we salivated, you went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA and threw a no-hitter (complete with 17 strikeouts) in your last home start at San Diego State. The Washington Post had a daily "Strasburg Watch" during spring training, complete with one quote per day from a teammate or coach on the Nationals describing how awesome you are.
We've waited with baited breath while you toyed with hitters in Double A. We've seen an overachieving young Nationals team contend in the NL East and another wunderkind (Bryce Harper, he of the 570-foot home run) drafted No. 1 overall by the Nats. Now you're taking the hill tonight at Nationals Park, ready to turn Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, and the best the National League has to offer into mush.
So embrace your destiny as our sports savior, Stephen. Take the Nats to a championship, and you can move into the West Wing. We promise.
P.S. For the love of God, please don't be another Mark Prior.
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