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By Mark F. Gray

It could only happen to the Washington Nationals that they would make every “by the book” move in developing Steven Strasburg only for him to blowout his elbow in his rookie year. The pop he heard in his elbow in Philadelphia could be more damaging to the franchise than it is to his career.

Strasburg has energized a franchise that was nothing more than a national punch line as it lost over 200 games the last two seasons. He was a reason to watch a team that still finds itself in last place despite changes on the bench and in the lineup. The Strasburg phenomenon was the light at the end of the tunnel that there were meaningful games in September on the horizon.

Now its back to hurry up and wait for the Nationals to contend. This is a devastating setback because he was suppose to be the tangible – every fifth day – ray of hope. Instead, that light at the end of the tunnel looks more like an oncoming train wreck.

The face of the franchise is now has the fate of the franchise on his right elbow. Strasburg was supposed the legendary pitcher that you could bank on for between 150 – 200 innings. He was suppose to be penciled in for at least 15 wins per season for the next 10 – 12 years. It would be a drastic setback to the organization that if he’s not able to remake himself and becomes a .500 pitcher remembered more for potential than for performance.

For baseball – the next generation – to survive in D.C. the organization has to get bold and daring right now. They keep trying to sell us on patience as they continue to build the minor leagues and replenish the talent pool while the major league product languishes at the bottom of the National League east. However, to sustain any momentum they gained from the promise they showed earlier in the year they’ve got to give the fans an immediate transfusion.

Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, or Derek Jeter aren’t walking through into the Nationals clubhouse. But there are proven economical veterans who can come in and immediately bring a different accountability and performance and give them a chance to contend for the wildcard at least. Fans no longer want to travel to Nationals Park for a “great fan experience” they want to see a winner. That’s the best experience for anyone who buys a ticket.

With all due respect to Gilbert Arenas, Strasburg’s injury is the most significant injury in D.C. professional sports since Joe Theismann. But while the Burgundy and Gold had Jay Schroeder waiting in the wings to assume the reigns and keep a contender rolling, the Nationals rotation has nothing on the roster that resembles a true number one franchise stabilizing starter.

There is no guarantee he will ever be the same pitcher or reach his potential as a power pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery. If he can’t you wonder if baseball ever will its potential this time in the Nation’s Capital.