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Stephen Strasburg, MVP of the 2019 World Series, retires from baseball

Stephen Strasburg, MVP of the 2019 World Series, retires from baseball

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the MVP of the 2019 World Series who spent his entire career with the franchise, retired from baseball. News of his retirement has not been announced by the Nationals or Strasburg’s agent but was posted on MLB’s transactions log Saturday.

The decision by Strasburg, 35, to walk away caps a 13-year career that, in many ways, mirrored the rise of the franchise, from National League East bottom-dweller to World Series champion — and to its current state in the midst of a rebuild.

The retirement, long expected, also brings some clarity on his contract — a seven-year, $245 million deal inked in December 2019, after the team’s World Series triumph. Strasburg, who pitched just 4⅔ innings since undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021, is expected to be paid the entirety of his contract. He agreed to defer some of his remaining salary, according to a person familiar with the matter. The extent of those deferrals is not known.

The Nationals didn’t respond to a message seeking comment Saturday night. Strasburg declined to comment.

The No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, Strasburg began his career with tremendous fanfare but was ultimately derailed by injury. The highs were baseball brilliance; the lows were defined by frequent medical updates, missed starts and trips to the injured list. A three-time all-star, Strasburg leaves with a career record of 113-62 in 247 starts with a 3.24 ERA. He struck out 1,723 hitters over 1,470 innings.

His 2010 MLB debut was the stuff of legend. At 21, he arrived amid considerable hype and met the occasion on a June night at Nationals Park, striking out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates before a sold-out crowd. “It was just a great night for baseball in Washington,” then-manager Jim Riggleman said.

His starts became an unofficial holiday, dubbed “Strasmas,” celebrated by believers across the District. There were 12 of them that first summer, then came the first of many injuries — the right-hander needed Tommy John surgery and went under the knife that August, a procedure that cost him almost the entire 2011 season.

His presence in the rotation, however, was central to the Nationals becoming a perennial contender. From 2012 to 2019, when Strasburg averaged nearly 28 starts per season, the team averaged 93 wins and made five trips to the playoffs, where the ace shined brightest. His postseason numbers: a 1.46 ERA in 55⅓ innings, including six appearances during the team’s World Series run in 2019.

That October belonged to the 6-foot-5 righty. There were the three scoreless innings of relief in the National League wild-card game and the 12-strikeout performance in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series. Strasburg went 8⅓ innings in his final start of the 2019 postseason, Game 6 of the World Series. He didn’t allow a run after the first inning. The Nationals took Game 7 the next night.

When Strasburg was healthy, he lived up to the hype. He struck out 242 hitters in 2014, a season in which he made 34 starts. He earned his first all-star nod in 2012 and was an all-star again in 2016 and 2017.

But his health was always fragile.

Strasburg, who last pitched in a game in June 2022, pitched just 31⅓ innings after the 2019 World Series.

The final setback arrived when Strasburg underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021 — a procedure that included the removal of a rib and two neck muscles. He attempted to return afterward but without success. He experienced pain and tingling in his shoulder and neck after the final start of his career and was subsequently shut down.

He experienced discomfort again ahead of the 2023 season and didn’t report to spring training. By August 2023, his plans to retire were known, but neither the team nor Strasburg made an official announcement. Mark Lerner, the club’s managing principal owner, said in a statement in September that Strasburg would get the money he was owed but added that he looked forward to seeing him at spring training. Months went by, and through it all fans waited and wondered as details grew murky.

Now the questions about his health will follow him into retirement and whether he will be able to manage the routine tasks of everyday life, such as lifting up his young children.

And there are questions about how the franchise will honor the player whose right arm delivered it to its greatest heights. Strasburg’s retirement has been expected for months, and the delay between when his plans became known and an announcement on the matter seemed to signal a possible rift between the pitcher and the only club he had ever known.

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