Few would argue that Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ most important player, if only for the amount of pressure riding on the pitching ace’s $15 million right arm.
But when Post columnist Jason Reid went a step further Sunday night, writing that Strasburg, 23, is “the District’s No. 1 sports star,” capable of “captivating D.C. sports fans” unlike anyone else — including two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin — he ruffled the feathers of more than a few Capitals fans.
Capitals fans would argue Alex Ovechkin is second to none in production and style. The Wizards believe they have a rising superstar in John Wall and the Redskins have popular Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo.
None of them, though, are capable of captivating D.C. sports fans as much as Strasburg. Ovechkin, Wall and Orakpo don’t possess the potential to do as much as Strasburg could for the Nationals 30-plus times a season.
Both Ovechkin and Strasburg were highly-touted, first overall draft picks; generational talents expected to lift their bottom-feeder teams to prominence (or at least the playoffs). Of course, Ovechkin has six seasons — and four postseasons, short as they may have been — under his belt, while Strasburg only pitched 12 games in 2010 before he blew out his arm and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He just had his first rehab start Sunday.
The other difference, writes Box Seats blogger Ryan Cooper — one of several passionate Capitals fans to tweet, blog or email to disagree with Reid’s assertion — is that Ovechkin has done more for his sport in Washington:
The very fact that Ovechkin is mentioned among Redskins and Strasburg tells me how popular he has become. Ten or twenty years ago, would any Cap have made the top 5 on a theoretical “D.C. Superstars” list? D.C. kids want to be hockey players because of Alex Ovechkin. They’ve taken an interest in the game, and the stands are full of them. Tons of locals drive up to Hershey to watch AHL games. The Caps are doing boffo ratings in the Baltimore area. None of this happens without Ovechkin.
The debate continued on Post Sports Live on Tuesday, and Reid agreed, to some extent: Strasburg is more of a star because, while he and Ovechkin could feasibly have the same amount of talent, baseball is a sport that has historically captivated Americans, and arguably Washingtonians, more than hockey.
But Ovechkin is a transcendent figure, regardless of sport, The Post’s Dan Steinberg argued. His body of work — “for now” — makes Ovechkin the No. 1 star, LaVar Arrington added. Watch the debate in the clip below:
Of course, there’s no real purpose of crowning Strasburg, Ovechkin, John Wall, or even John Beck as the District’s top sports star. They will never compete against each other for anything of value, and not one has delivered D.C. a championship. But just for the fun of it, let’s do a tiebreaker in the form of an unofficial poll: If the Nationals win a World Series behind Stephen Strasburg’s pitching and the Capitals win a Stanley Cup with Alex Ovechkin, who’s the bigger star in Washington?