Nationals Baseball: Fitting the story

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fitting the story

As much as we like to believe a nice conspiracy theory - of either some random LA Times reporter or Dr. Yocum being big liars or that everything said was true until the Nats "got to him" and made him reverse his story - they are rarely true.  The first two make no sense and the latter seems a little bit too far fetched.  So what's the reality?  I don't know.  But here's a way you can fit in everything that was said.

Report 
Clarification

Dr. Yocum talked to the Nationals medical staff about Strasburg's recovery.  It wasn't about how long to pitch him, just about how he was looking, his arm movement & strength, what they saw in this pitch movement, etc. etc. Yocum gave his opinion (likely a lengthy version of "Yep, seems like he's recovering just fine") and that was all. Using that information, Rizzo decides to shut Strasburg down, just like they did ZNN who was recovering fine last year. When hearing about the shutdown, Yocum understands there is no clinical proof to do it this way, but can get behind the decision because the whole area of TJ recovery is still ill-defined.

You have a story that makes sense and almost nothing in the first story out and out contradicts anything in the clarification. Usually the simple answer is the case and here we have a simple answer.

So what is contradictory? Just one thing.
Report: "Yocum said he had not talked with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo since last year."
Clarification:  "I have been contacted repeatedly and have had numerous discussions with the Nationals GM Mike Rizzo... as recently as mid-August"

There is a possible explanation. Yocum could have been saying that he hadn't talked to Rizzo about the shutdown since last year, and miscommunication between the doctor and Shakin led to the insinuation that Rizzo and Yocum hadn't spoken at all. I guess that's possible. My feeling leans more toward him never really having discussions with Rizzo, and the inclusion of Rizzo in the clarification being one of those half-truths. Like if the Nats told him Rizzo was on a couple of the conference calls about Strasburg's recovery but was just not talking, or if in the passing of other information Rizzo mentioned to Yocum that the Nats medical staff told him that Yocum thought Strasburg was coming along ok and Yocum said "yeah, looks fine".  Did Yocum talk to Rizzo about Strasburg's recovery?  Yes. Is it in the way they insinuate? Not really. Does it matter? Not really.

Rizzo gathered all the info he wanted, from various doctors, medical personnel, and yes, perhaps from Scott Boras, and made the call.  That's the truth. Nothing said from Yocum contradicts that.  The question of how much influence Boras played in the decision is the most interesting and relevant part of this whole thing, but nothing said from Yocum gives us any insight into that.

Now back to baseball and a series that will either put away the Braves or will drag out the Nationals NL East coronation for a extra week.

18 comments:

calindc said...

Most likely scenario: Dr. Yocum spoke "Doctor talk" to the Nats medical staff and it was passed to Rizzo. This is a non-story. Are the Times writers bored and trying to stir up shit again?

calindc said...

Oh, and one more thing. This "Scott Boras is the co-GM" crap can be put to rest as well. Yes, Boras represents alot of the major players for the Nats, but do you really think that Rizzo is going to let anyone (not named Lerner) to tell him how to run his business. Not a chance in hell.

calindc said...

I apologize for my colorful language, but it's bored writers trying to stir the pot that really irk me. It's not a story, not an issue, it doesn't exist. Are they that insecure with their jobs that they have to make something up?

Harper said...

I wouldn't be too hard on the LA Times guy. He probably went to the Dr. for a simple "Strasburg shutdown" story, which is still a story people are interested in and the doc is in LA so it's slightly more relevant to him, and the doctor gave him the "I was never asked" line. While it didn't necessarily contradict what was said before (I don't think) what people had thought was that Dr. Yocum was actively, rather than passively, behind the shutdown. So that made it newsworthy. The problem was the whole "never talked to them" line which DID contradict the Nats party line. So that had to be cleared up.

calindc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
calindc said...

Aren't doctors restricted about talking openly with this kind of confidential stuff? I doubt a respectable physician would disclose this to a reporter.

...Edited because my spellering was no gud

Harper said...

That's a court testify thing, not a legal "you can't do it". It's frowned upon but he's not talking about Strasburg condition OR conversations he's had with Strasburg, so I don't see any issue with talking about it.

calindc said...

Is he that much better of a doctor than everyone else, that he can have the "Blabs to the media" moniker and still rake in huge clients?

(not saying Dr. Yocum did blab, just "if")

blovy8 said...

Boras doesn't represent Zimmermann, does he? The plan kind of precedes Strasburg's treatment.

nattydread said...

So Boswell didn't have any input to the Shut Down? Thought Rizzo actively consulted him.

[please note ironic tone]

DezoPenguin said...

This, frankly, just looks like more of the same from a national media that I am frankly getting utterly sick of. The shutdown plan was announced, without any hemming or hawing, at the beginning of the season. First, the national media refused to believe that the Nationals would go through with it. Second, the Nats demonstrated that they were going to be in the race all year and the national media determined that it would be completely impossible that the Nationals would go through with it. Third, it sank in as the All-Star break passed and the Nats never moved off the party line that they really would do it, and the national media became obsessed with demonstrating that it was either (a) the dumbest idea in the history of baseball or (b) the dumbest possible WAY to execute the shutdown even if the shutdown itself was not completely foolish. Fourth, the shutdown actually happened and the national media went into a renewed frenzy over how the "controversy" (which existed only in their own minds, since neither Nationals management, Nationals fans, nor Nationals media have been at all up in arms over any of it) would ruin Strasburg forever, and the howling got wilder and wilder as the Boras conspiracy theory and similar insanity came about, while statistically-minded columnists dedicated thousands of words to carefully cherry-picked statistical comparisons to "prove" that Nationals management is stone crazy.

I simply don't understand what is so difficult to comprehend about the concept. Sure, it's true that there is no "magic bullet" answer to either Tommy John recovery or managing the workload of young pitchers. But the Nationals chose to err on the side of caution instead of the side of risk, drew up what they felt would be the best plan of action for the team and Strasburg, and implemented it.

There have been no new medical or statistical breakthroughs in the past five months that would somehow demand that Rizzo throw out the plan and do something else. Exactly one thing is different than it was in April: The Nationals have the best record in baseball. A fact which, rather than lending any credibility to management's decision-making skills, is taken as proof that they're even more crazy for passing up the chance to pitch Strasburg's arm off to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

(And as for those who wonder why Nationals fans and media have NOT been up in arms over the perceived horrors of the Worst Baseball Decision Ever, I can't help but think that when virtually every NON-Nationals voice in the country is screaming and howling about how awful it is, it inspires the Nats faithful to rally 'round the flag more than a bit. (Not to mention the fact that it's completely drowning out every non-Bryce story about the team: Desmond somehow putting up the best SS numbers in the NL, LaRoche's resurgence, the amazing performance of the pitching staff from top to bottom, 'pen included, the works. I mean, a howling reporter could walk up to a Nats fan, ask about Strasburg, and the fan could easily reply with a straight face, "Why are you so uptight about our #3* starter?")

*Pre-Znn's recent slump (though arguably Stras's own recent slump has brought that back together)

Dave B said...

DezoPenguin, as a Nats fan, thank you, I've been thinking and saying the same things.

One other point, I've heard a lot of arguments about starting him later in the season, etc. And while I'm not necessarily against it in theory, every time I think about it I keep coming back to the idea that you'd rather have more recovery time and strength training and all the other physical training you can get between now and next season's start.

The only thing that matters in my mind at all in this discussion is Strasburg's mental state. I can't imagine how it feels to him right now to be sitting down.

So, as a fan of this team, let me say something to Stephen directly.

Stephen,
Please know that most of us, if not all of us, are glad you're being taken care of in this way. As much as I'd like to see a championship this year, and as much as I'd love to see you dominate the playoff run this year, I'd much prefer to see you do all of the amazing things you are capable of for years to come. (Obviously I hope it's with the Nats..., but that's neither here nor there for now...)

If anything happened to you and the Nationals organization had gone against the good advice they'd received from doctors and the conclusions they'd come to from their research, this fanbase would be livid, and rightly so.

We know that nothing's guaranteed, and there are no promises for the future. We are ok, this town has been mired in 2+ decades of mediocrity from our sports teams (except for the soccer team.) We want a championship, but you don't owe it to us. Bring back what you have next year. Have a hall of fame career. Show the baseball world just how great you can be, but calmly and confidently take a seat and know you're doing the right thing by us, and that we know it and embrace it.

Thanks for what you gave us, you need and deserve and have earned the rest and recovery. Your teammates have your back, and we'll be there to support you next year!

Froggy said...

Totally agree with DezoPenguin and Dave B, even though I have been one of the most vocal about how Rizzo mismanaged the innings use. At the end of the day the team did the right thing for the health of its pitcher. But one point, the 160 innings limit is a Rizzo generated thing that has no basis in medical or rehabilitation precedence. Since we were mediocre last year during the 160 innings shutdown of Zmnn, it wasn't a controversy when he pulled the plug = Rizzo genius. Why wouldn't he do it again this year with STRSB.

That said, I think what you will see going forward with teams who have Tommy John recovering pitchers and that ARE, or COULD be in playoff contention will be later starts to their seasons next year, in order to avoid NOT being able to ride their horse all the way to the finish line.

Mythical Monkey said...

You know, when local fans complain that the Nats-in-a-pennant-race don't get as much coverage as the Redskins-in-training-camp, they should be careful what they wish for -- because more coverage won't equal better coverage, just more noise, like the did-Yocum-or-didn't-he kind of stories we've been seeing the past couple of days, or junk controversies like Tim McCarver's comments about "the Strasburg rumor" during the All-Star game.

That, and more Johnny-come-lately fans who decide a 3-2 count with the bases loaded in a tie game in the seventh inning is the perfect time blunder through the aisle in search of a beer (which happened with Derek Jeter at the plate during the Nats-Yankees game earlier this year.) (And I'm thinking, dude, what's wrong with you, are you even a man?!)

Froggy said...

Swept by the Braves.

I want to say someone with the initials HG is a Jinx real bad right now...

blovy8 said...

My feeling was a combination of handling the guy like a regular pitcher (albeit with a pitch limit in starts) as much as possible. Normal spring training, normal rest, no skipping starts, no extended spring training. You then know you are going to get the most innings this year from Stras. If you wait until some point in May, if he has a minor injury, you don't get 160 innings in if you're not a playoff team. That might affect how much he can pitch in 2013. The team was very lucky in the health of their best six starters, and evaluated Wang's diminished capacity fairly quickly. There's a chance this would be a different scenerio right now had Strasburg not pitched from beginning. I can't help thinking the Braves wish they were in first with Medlen nearing his limit rather than the other way around, regardless of the sweep this weekend. Unless the Braves get to the World Series, Medlen is not going to pitch as much as Strasburg did, and the media could care less about that apparently.

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