Well, since other baseball experts have waded into the Strasburg shutdown decision that Nationals have already made, the Mancave might as well too. It’s been a great summer for us here, with a great NBA Playoffs, the Olympics, and with an unbelievably fun team to watch in the Nationals. The Nationals went from a scrappy young team with great pitching early in the season, to the potential juggernaut that the world saw on Monday Night with a 14-2 win in San Francisco. Through this team transformation has been the looming subplot; Stephen Strasburg will not finish the season. He will be shutdown. Even when we were in 1st place by a string in May and June, we in the Mancave agreed this was the right thing to do. Why force Strasburg to pitch past fatigue and hurt himself all over again? Why mortgage the future for a shot in 2012? But as June has dragged into August and the Nats have gotten better, I have come to this conclusion:
I think the Nationals are doing the wrong thing.
I completely understand the thinking. In fact I wouldn’t even argue with you if you believe the Nats are right. The guys running the team have more knowledge in their dirty socks than I have in my whole body. They say they have the studies to prove that their decision is right (which this article and this article state otherwise). The Nats think if they get Strasburg fully healthy, they can make runs at a title for a long time. And really, there are 24 other guys who have excelled on this team right along with Strasburg. In fact, you can argue that Strasburg is the 3rd best pitcher on the staff. This team is built to win for the long haul, like Oklahoma City in basketball.
But baseball is not basketball. The best team talent-wise may not make the playoffs, like they do easily in the NBA. One season all your hits go in to the gaps, next year they are sharp liners to the outfielders. One year your pitchers are Cy Young award winners. The next year they can’t get out the 5th. Baseball is a game where you make your own luck, but the gods affect things in many ways.
Take the case of the Phillies. I moved to Philadelphia in 2009, the year after their World Series run. I moved up when they were planning another one on Broad Street for that year. They had just traded for Cliff Lee, partially because 2008 World Series MVP was awful. They made the World Series that year but lost to a better Yankees team. No biggie, in 2010 they reloaded with Roy Halladay and Placido Polanco and traded for Roy Oswalt. What happens? They don’t even make the World Series, losing to the inferior Giants. Certainly, 2011 would be their year with Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt. They don’t even get out the first round. The Phillies were suppose to contend this year. They are currently 10 games back – of the wild card. That 2008 Phillies squad was supposed to win multiple championships too. 4 years and no rings later, they are in rebuilding mode. You just never know what next year will bring.
Right now Strasburg is at 133 innings going into his start tonight vs the Giants. He probably has 6 or 7 more starts left in him which would take him to late September then he’s done. The Nationals won’t have a full arsenal going into October and that’s fine by management. There’s no use arguing. There’s no use debating. As Jayson Stark said, we’ll never know if it was the right move, whether Strasburg gets hurt or not, whether the Nationals win or not. It’s just amazing that a team has a chance to win and they will not go all out to win. It’s amazing that what Strasburg has trained his whole life for – October baseball, is going to be torn from his fingers. I feel this is supposed to be a Chris Rock standup; I’m not saying that I condone this decision – but I understand.