WASHINGTON — Relaxation is on Stephen Strasburg’s agenda for the summer. History, apparently, is not.
Asked about the spotty success rate of No. 1 draft picks over the years, the latest to claim that mantle said Wednesday he’s not inclined to learn from other people’s mistakes.
“I’m sorry, but what would I learn from other top picks?” Strasburg said in a conference call with reporters. “Obviously, I watch guys that have made it to the big leagues. I don’t plan on being the top pick and then not being successful in the big leagues.
“I obviously want to take my game to the next level and I believe that I’ve learned how to work hard in college and I hope to carry that over.”
The mega-hyped right-hander from San Diego State was selected Tuesday by the mega-bad Washington Nationals. Now comes a summer of negotiation and relaxation. The player will be the one doing the relaxing, while agent Scott Boras and the Nationals work out what is expected to be a record-setting contract.
“There’s obviously a few places I’d like to go, and just relax this summer and have fun,” said Strasburg, who spent last summer playing in the Olympics and just completed his college season with the Aztecs. “It’ll be good to have a little rest time, especially after the big workload I had the previous year. It’ll be a good summer to be able to lift and get stronger and have the summer I haven’t had in a while.”
Strasburg said he hasn’t followed the Nationals and hasn’t visited the nation’s capital since he was a kid. That might be for the best, given the team’s worst-in-majors 15-41 record headed into Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Boras, meanwhile, made it clear he feels where his client stands headed into the contract talks. The agent put Strasburg in the category of “a different breed of cat,” belonging in the one per cent of the draft class that is low risk and worthy of big payoffs.
“An extraordinary player receiving a substantial bonus far above other draft picks has happened before . . . Obviously Stephen falls into that class of players,” Boras said. “They just happen to have that extraordinary ability.”
Boras wouldn’t give numbers, but he’s expected to ask for a package worth several times the value of the current high-water mark of US$10.5 million that Mark Prior received in 2001. The Nationals have already started their counteroffensive, saying they’re not going to throw baseball’s salary structure out of whack for one player and that the expectations surrounding Strasburg have reached unrealistic proportions.
The Nationals, however, are hardly in a good bargaining position. They need talent in the worst way, and they forfeited the pitcher they chose No. 9 overall a year ago — Aaron Crow — when they couldn’t get him signed by the Aug. 15 deadline.
Both sides say they want to get a deal done, but say they have contingency plans if it doesn’t.
“If that does not happen,” Boras said, “you then would look to all the available resources one would have to evaluate what the next step is.”