'Mount Rushmore of the Nationals': Nats react to Strasburg retirement

April 7th, 2024

WASHINGTON -- 's name is forever synonymous with the Nationals and Washington, D.C.

After a 13-year career, the Nationals announced Strasburg’s retirement in a statement prior to Sunday's 3-2 win over the Phillies at Nationals Park. Support for the right-handed pitcher poured in from everywhere: The clubhouse, the front office and fans.

Mike Rizzo, the club's general manager and president of baseball operations, stressed that now is the opportunity to celebrate Strasburg’s legacy with the organization.

“He’s one of the Mount Rushmore of the Nationals,” Rizzo said. “He was the guy that put us on the map.”

Strasburg's contributions are engraved throughout the ballpark.

“You walk around here, you walk around the clubhouse and we have photos, not just from the 2019 run, but throughout the Nats’ time in D.C. since they came back -- and he’s everywhere,” former teammate and current pitching strategist Sean Doolittle said. “There’s a visible reminder of what he did.”

The 35-year-old Strasburg was a 2019 World Series champion (and World Series MVP), amassed three All-Star selections and a Silver Slugger honor. He retires as Washington’s all-time leader in wins (113) and strikeouts (1,723). He was the fastest pitcher in Major League history to record 1,500 career strikeouts at the time, and he was the first pitcher in AL/NL history to go 5-0 in a single postseason.

Strasburg was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2009 Draft out of San Diego State University. His legend began to grow in college, with a wicked fastball and a 23-strikeout game against Utah on April 11, 2008. He was the recipient of both the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy in his final collegiate season.

“I hope he recognizes and appreciates what he meant to this franchise,” Doolittle said. “I think his debut in 2010, you can put your finger on it as one of the turning points for the franchise -- and he helped.”

Strasburg finished with a 113-62 record and a 3.42 ERA in 247 starts.

He cemented his legacy with the Nats in 2019. He became the epicenter of the team’s World Series championship run when he agreed to pitch in relief in the 2019 National League Wild Card win against the Braves. Nationals manager Dave Martinez said it was not hard to convince Strasburg.

“I asked him to come out of the bullpen in the Wild Card Game, and he threw 34 or 35 pitches -- [if] he doesn’t do that, I don’t think we even have a chance,” Martinez said. “He set the tone for everybody else here.”

Strasburg's willingness to do whatever was needed to help the team win is what drew Patrick Corbin to join the Nats in 2018.

“He’s a huge part of why I decided to come here, and hopefully, he and his family are happy.” Corbin said. “[I] enjoyed being his teammate for the years that I played with him.”

Strasburg's energy and desire to give his all radiated throughout the clubhouse. He not only pushed himself to get better, but also helped his teammates by asking questions and giving advice.

He concluded that unforgettable 2019 postseason run with a 5-0 record, a 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings over six games. He was rewarded with a seven-year, $245 million contract (a then-record) in the ensuing offseason.

What also made Strasburg special during his tenure with the Nationals was his intensity, which never let up. He was a fierce competitor who did everything he could to beat his opponent -- from devising a plan against batters to talking about pitching with his teammates.

“He’s a bulldog,” catcher Riley Adams said. “His hard-working nature -- you can tell how much this means to him and how much he cares. Every outing, he goes out there and he’s giving it his all.”

Strasburg was a player Adams looked up to, having attended the University of San Diego -- just 10 miles west of SDSU -- and hearing about Strasburg's pitching prowess on the news “every single day.”

Ultimately, Strasburg’s career was cut short due to injury. He was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2023, but he did not let that stop him from pushing to make his return. He pitched his final Major League game on June 9, 2022 -- his lone MLB appearance over the past three seasons.

In 2022, Strasburg made two rehab starts with Double-A Fredericksburg and one with Triple-A Rochester. He was able to return to the Majors for that one outing against the Marlins, but those outings caused stress in his ribs that led to him being shut down.

“He was really trying out there, and it was just the constant pain the next day,” Martinez said.

While the circumstances were not ideal, the legacy Strasburg leaves behind is one of grit and determination.