If Stephen Strasburg is going to save baseball in Washington, he'll have to wait until 2012 to do it. That's the takeaway from Friday's announcement that the 22-year-old Nationals ace will need Tommy John surgery to repair a "significant" tear in his right elbow, a procedure that typically takes 12-18 months to recover from.  If his rehab goes according to plan, Strasburg could be back by the end of the 2012 season. Any setbacks and Strasburg's next start might be in a game where President Newt Gingrich throws out the first pitch. Here's a sampling of responses:

  • Crack Up Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll says there is no way to spin Friday's news. "The fact is," writes Carroll, "this couldn't be any worse—or more surprising." It's this lack of explanation that is most unsettling to Carroll. "All the protections and conservative buildup to his career did not work, but we're not sure why," he writes. "Strasburg's elbow is damaged enough that we have to wonder if he had any chance, if there was any methodology to keep him healthy. The likely answer is no."
  • What Could Have Been  The entire course of baseball history was altered Friday, argues ESPN's Jayson Stark. Even if Strasburg returns and pitches well, fans will always wonder what could have been. Explains Stark:
If Stephen Strasburg isn't going to throw a pitch for another year -- or even more -- the entire sport of baseball isn't going to be quite the same.

There aren't many pitchers -- there aren't many players, period -- who can cause you to interrupt your regularly scheduled life because you just have to watch them do their thing. But Stephen Strasburg was one of them.

And now we can't be sure he'll ever be one of those players again.
  • Beyond Baseball  The "terribly sad" nature of Strasburg's injury transcends the sports page, writes Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg. Strasburg was an artist and the fastball was his canvass. Watching Strasburg break down after just 12 big league starts is like seeing "an artist is no longer able to paint, or a musician who suddenly can't play a chord." Knowing Strasburg can still return and pitch effectively does little to soften the blow. "What is lost," observes Rosenberg, "is not just a game or a part of a career, but something on the outer edges of human achievement."
  • Occupational Hazard  When it comes to major league pitchers and arm trouble, you just never know, writes CBS Sports' Scott Miller. "Pitchers essentially cross open fields dodging heavy sniper fire every day of their careers, especially the hard throwers," writes Miller. Strasburg's injury was bracing, but "we've heard it all before: Pitching is an unnatural motion, pitchers with violent deliveries are operating in the danger zone, the lit fuse on the dynamite gets shorter and shorter each day."