Nationals Baseball: The easy tough decision

Monday, August 23, 2010

The easy tough decision

Steven Strasburg in injured again and the Nats front office has a decision to make. Or does it? In a completely logical world they wouldn't. If Strasburg is deemed healthy post-MRI, he would pitch. End of story. That's what healthy pitchers do.

However, this isn't a logical world and the guys in charge know they will be slow-roasted over chunks of hickory wood if Strasburg goes out to pitch again this year and injures himself for the third time. Whether he can pitch or not is irrelevant. This is the most important piece of the Nats' future. You treat him differently. This is a lost year. It doesn't matter if he pitches now or not. The team thought he was fine twice before and twice before he's tweaked himself. Why wait for that 3rd time?

Are these valid arguments? Yes, Strasburg is a huge piece of the Nats future but he's going to have to pitch through pain sooner or later. At some point you do have to treat him like everyone else so I don't like starting out with different rules for him. I think it sets a bad precedent. Now, if you combine "most important Nat" with "completely unimportant games" the argument for shutting down does get pretty enticing. But again, I feel like it would be the sign of an extreme bunker mentality to try to put Strasburg back in his original wrapping if he was deemed healthy enough to go. If he can pitch, he should.

However, I can see the Nats feeling like their doctors have not answered the question of "can he pitch?" with enough conviction to send him back out there. Or in other words - I can see the Nats not trusting the team doctors. There has been several injury situations with the Nats where things seemingly got much worse in the face of the doctor's diagnosis. Let's not forget that Jesus Flores was originally scheduled to be back from injury and playing full time in mid May... of 2009. So, I can see a situation where Strasburg gets the green light from the docs but the front office holds him back anyway, leery based on the mixed results of such "OK"s in the past. That would be fine. Of course then they would have to fire the entire medical staff, because if you don't trust their opinions then they shouldn't be working for you.

The easiest thing for the Nats would be if there is something slightly wrong with Strasburg. Mild inflammation or something where he'd have to miss a few starts and they can say there's no real point to rehab him on a normal schedule just so he can pitch 2 or 3 more times. I think everyone would agree a conservative rehab would be best. However, if he is ready to go right now the Nats face a decision. It's not a difficult one. Fans, media members, and most importantly the fate of their jobs, all say shut Strasburg down. Only cold robot logic and possibly Jim Bunning say keep pitching him. That's not much of a choice at all.


bdrube said...

Not necessarily disagreeing (especially since I've been lucky enough to have seen him pitch five times already), but at what point does he begin to build up his stamina so he can handle the 200+ innings per year he'll need to handle as the staff ace if the Nats are going to be a playoff team?

The plan was for him to go 160IP this year and then I would assume to around 200IP next year. If he craps out at the around 120IP he's at right now, I don't see them letting him go all the way to 200IP next year, which will be a real controversy if they should find themsleves lucky enough to be in the playoff hunt in September but shut him down for reaching his innings limit.

cass said...

"If he can pitch, he should."

Agreed. If he's healthy, he needs to go back out there.

Harper said...

bdrube/cass - I agree and if it was up to me - he would pitch if he gets to green light. Of course that's if it was up to me as a no-account blogger. If it was up to me as GM of the Nats I would use any excuse to shut him down. There's only a downside for them to putting him back on the mound this year.

Anonymous said...

It's like buying an expensive painting and keeping it in a vault. Why have it? If he's well, he learns nothing sitting in the dugout.

Harper said...

Are there "prints" of Strasburg the Nats can send to the mound instead?

Seriously though - if he's healthy he should pitch, but he might not because the risk/reward for the front office is all risk, no reward.

Anonymous said...


I understand your logic regarding prepping him for 200+innings, but there are many examples and studies that show when a pitcher goes 50 more innings than they did the previous season, they open themselves up to injuring. Its happened to countless pitchers, including great ones, 160 innings is still a good jump over what he did last year in College. His body has probably hit a wall. Rushing it could be a horrible decision...shut him down.

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