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Nats, Wizards offer contrasting styles in handling top draft picks
So why is Strasburg being sheltered while Wall is being thrown at Washington like an inside fastball? In part, because the Wizards need the buzz. Ted Leonsis has had a front row seat for the bump Strasburg has given the Nationals, and he wants a piece of that. Who can blame him? He has waited years to get control over the Wizards, only to find them fourth among the Big Four of the Redskins, Caps and Nats. Buying "WALL" T-shirts for the entire Verizon Center staff probably seemed a small price to pay.
And if you're going to market a guy, market one who doesn't seem fazed by it all. Unlike Strasburg, who sometimes wears a "get me out of here" look when the spotlight finds him off the mound, Wall seemed not at all disconcerted by Friday's lovefest.
"I can't wait to get on the court," Wall said. "I can't wait to show everyone what I can do."
But first come the spoils of being the No. 1 pick. There's the ZigSlash signature Reeboks and the new clothes and the television interviews and magazine covers and the thrill of giving his hardworking mother a brand-new house in Raleigh, N.C. It's all fun right now, and it should be fun. Being 19 years old with money and talent and charisma is practically the dictionary definition of fun.
These days will pass, of course, for both No. 1 picks. There will be adjustment issues and bad games and injuries. Will it be harder for Wall to negotiate those hurdles than it will be for Strasburg, who wasn't labeled the "Game Changer" before he even belonged to Washington? Perhaps.
During the question-and-answer session, Grunfeld said, "We're not going to put too much pressure on him." He really meant that statement, which came in between the tribute video and the mayoral proclamation. In other words, too late. But perhaps it doesn't matter. Wall is setting his own bar very high.
"If they need me to take over a game," he said, "I can do that."
The Wizards clearly need him to do that, and a whole lot more.