Stephen Strasburg Was a Hall-of-Fame Talent Who Won’t Get In

After a 13-year career, the 35-year-old World Series MVP has retired from baseball

Stephen Strasburg being taken out of a game in 2022.
Stephen Strasburg, 35, had the ability but not the availability.
Michael Reaves/Getty

After sending household name and all-time slugger David Ortiz to Cooperstown in 2022 (along with Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva and Buck O’Neil), the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has sent a less-than-inspired collection of retired players to the Hall of Fame in ’23 and ’24, including Scott Rolen and Todd Helton. Although Rolen and Helton were certainly accomplished MLB players and put up numbers over the course of their careers that arguably make them Hall of Famers, they were never the best player at their position, unlike Ortiz, nor did they have the star power that made Big Papi pop (and helped him earn World Series MVP honors in 2013).

The same cannot be said about Stephen Strasburg, who called it quits over the weekend following a 13-year career that saw him earn a World Series MVP Award (like Ortiz), three All-Star selections and one Silver Slugger honor while going 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA over the course of 247 starts. Like Ortiz, Strasburg was a star who dominated his position like no one else for a period of time. Unlike Ortiz, Strasburg is no Hall of Famer.

Bound for Cooperstown, David Ortiz Reflects on 20 Years of Repping Boston
We spoke with the all-time Red Sox slugger ahead of his Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday

As it’s often said in pro sports, the best ability is availability, and Strasburg just simply was not available to take the mound for the Washington Nationals enough over the course of his career to gain serious Cooperstown consideration.

Selected No. 1 overall in the 2009 MLB Draft out of San Diego State University, Strasburg made his MLB debut about a year later in June of 2010 and became the fastest pitcher in history to record 1,500 career strikeouts, doing so in 1,272 1/3 innings pitched. Dominant but rarely able to handle a full workload, Strasburg peaked in 2019 when he won 18 games and struck out 251 batters over 209 innings in the regular season before becoming the first pitcher in history to go 5-0 in a single postseason while helping the Nationals capture their first World Series. Following the championship run, that saw opponents go a jaw-dropping 0-for-22 with runners in scoring position, Strasburg signed a then-record seven-year, $245 million contract.

“As a young kid, all I dreamt about was winning a World Series. Thanks to the many coaches, teammates and medical staff, my boyhood dream came true in 2019,” Strasburg said in his retirement statement.

Clearly on the Hall-of-Fame track, Strasburg’s train severely derailed after the World Series win in 2019. Since that time, he has thrown just 31 1/3 innings across eight starts due to ailments including carpal tunnel syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome. Sadly, the last time he took the mound in the majors was 2022.

For Strasburg, it’s the time he didn’t spend on the mound due to injury as opposed to what he was able to accomplish while he was toeing the rubber that is going to keep him out of Cooperstown. He had the right stuff, but he didn’t get to use it nearly enough to be an all-time great. That’s a shame, because one could certainly argue that players like Rolen and Helton were elected into the Hall for numbers they were able to put up at least partially due to the longevity of their careers as opposed to their talent.

“It’s clear Strasburg simply didn’t accomplish enough to warrant a plaque in the hallowed gallery in Upstate New York, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be held up as the historically dominant righty he was,” per FanNation. “Strasburg was the best pitching prospect of his generation and he largely lived up to the hype.”

He did, and that will have to be enough as Strasburg is not headed to the Hall of Fame.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!