posted on Aug.22, 2012
It’s been a hot topic lately. Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit. And as the hammer of GM Mike Rizzo approaches, I weigh my opinion on the matter.
My thoughts on the matter are plain and simple: let the kid pitch. I have heard many MLB analysts make their point on the subject, and I agree with ALL their viewpoints. But my take on the matter is you can NEVER guarantee that a team will be back in the position the Nationals are in now. One can feel that there is a chance that the team will be back in a similar position, but there is no guarantee. Some good modern examples are the 2006 Mets, who were a base hit away from the World Series when Carlos Beltran took a wicked Adam Wainwright curveball for strike three; oh and by the way they have had 2 consecutive horrific collapses in 2007 and 2008, and have not been close to the playoffs in the other years. Another example right now is the Phillies. While their chapter has not been closed, since winning the World Series in 2008, they have lost in a round earlier each subsequent year, (WS in ’09, NLCS in ’10, NLDS in ’11, most likely no playoffs in ’12). Nobody in their right mind thought the Phillies would be fighting for the bottom 3 spots in the division this year, and while they may contend again next year, the Phillies have certainly dominated in the regular season for a few years but may have missed opportunities in the years following the ’09 World Series, the most obvious being in 2011 losing 1-0 in Game 5. The Florida Marlins following both their World Series wins broke down the teams and became basement dwellers. I could even use the Mets of the late 80s. The Mets were supposed to dominate the league for years to come after 1986, but were broken up by GM Frank Cashen because of the teams’ “bad boy” image and behavior. As a Yankee fan, some could laugh when I say the 2001 World Series was a missed opportunity when they missed out on winning 4 titles in a row, and that was also the closest the Yanks actually came to winning it all again until 2009.
Anyway, I say this all because the Nationals currently own the best record in baseball. They are one of the best, if not THE best team, in baseball. One of the reasons for their dominance has been their starting rotation, and the loss of Strasburg would take away one of the major factors in the rotation’s success. The Nationals insist they have depth in the minors with John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang, and others that can pick up the slack, but those two are not number ones in a rotation, and the rest of the Nats rotation does not have a true 1 after Strasburg.
More importantly, what is the message management is sending to the team? In New York, the Mets just had a situation where the team over-achieved in the first half, and when they needed bullpen help, management sat on their hands. While the players would not admit it, I am sure this basically told them “Nice job fellas, but we weren’t supposed to be good this year and now it’s your problem.” Some of the other Nats have said it hurts that management is taking their horse away when they have done better than expected this year and are not being rewarded for it. Davey Johnson has seemed bothered by it, and rightly so, and Strasburg himself has even said the ball will have to be ripped from his hand.
Something else that has irked me through this is Rizzo’s incessant repetition of how he promised Strasburg’s family he would protect their son. Well if he is trying to save from surgery, he’s failed at that already, Strasburg already had Tommy John, the reason for this innings limit. And, from a financial perspective, if Strasburg never set foot on a mound again, he is financially set for life with the massive contract he signed as the Number 1 draft pick in the country.
Watching the Nationals’ broadcast last night on MLB Network, the Nats announcers have been brainwashed by Rizzo about how good this is for Strasburg!? They are saying “Let’s hope for winning percentages this good for years” and things like that, well you never know!! Take a good year when you get it! David Cone of the YES Network, who was a great postseason pitcher himself, was talking about how detrimental it would be to Strasburg’s psyche if his team gets demolished in the postseason and he is sitting on the bench because some Monday Morning Quarterback is sitting in his office and thinks he is protecting his team and his stud pitcher. Even worse, they win, and he’s sitting on the bench. Scouts have put a ticking clock on Strasburg’s arm, saying that his motion will only allow him to last a few years but that he will blow it all out and will never be the same after a few years. If that’s the case, the Nationals need to take advantage of his good years, like this one, before his arm is dead for good.