Steven Strasburg, collegiate pitching phenom and brief MLB phenom for the Nats (I remember watching this guys debut and literally saying, “Oh, my God” about a half a dozen times. He has some of the most vicious moving pitches I’ve ever seen), announced this week that he is quitting chewing tobacco.
This is an excellent article from the Washington Post, a stridently anti-tobacco newspaper, about Strasburg’s chew habit.
Strasburg said he took up chew in high school because — quell shock — he wanted to emulate Major League ballplayers he was watching on TV. He decided to try and quit chew — and he admitted he is addicted to tobacco — after learning that his college coach at San Diego State, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, is battling a malignant parotid cancer (cancer of the saliva glands. Yuck. Sounds awful.), which he blames on his longstanding chew habit. Gwynn has had several bouts of gland and mouth cancer over the last 15 years.
Smokeless tobacco has been banned in Minor League Baseball, and there is talk of banning it in Major League Baseball (meaning players couldn’t dip while on the field or in the dugout).
Strasburg had a 2.91 ERA and had a staggering 92 strikeouts in only 68 innings. Even though the Nats tried to baby him — 68 innings in 12 starts — he still hurt his elbow, which everyone was afraid of, and required Tommy John surgery last year. I don’t know if he’s expected to pitch in 2011.