Nationals Baseball: 0:06

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

0:06

The Nats are now 6 games from the inevitable elimination. The Braves beat the Mets keeping the number from going down 2 but the Nats couldn't win their game. The O's pitched around Bryce and the team got 3 hits around him. TICK

Tonight Tanner Roark goes for the Nats and it reminds me that with all the talk of Matt Harvey and shutdowns the Nats are in the midst of their second shutdown. Joe Ross, who had been vital to keeping the Nats in contention while Strasburg battled injuries and Fister battled the harsh inevitabilities of age that will come for us all, was pulled from the rotation a couple weeks ago. It made some sense. The Nats had moved from long shot to miracle. No sense to burn out an arm on a quixotic dream.  

And yet, Roark hasn't pitched all that well. The Nats lost both games he pitched and the latest one was definitely on him. If the Nats had won that game and currently sat 5.5 out... 

It's easy to say that shutdowns are never the answer, but really shutdowns are almost always the answer for the player. The only reason we don't simply let it pass is SPORTS. 

A player has trained all his life to do one thing. If he's lucky he can do it and get paid well to do it, for about a decade. Fifteen years if he's really lucky. If someone presents to him the scenario where being conservative could extend those years and increase those payments substantially, he'd be foolish not to strongly consider it, even with that scenario being backed up with little to no evidence. It would be different if the other side, being risky, had the support of the science, but it doesn't either. A player is taking a coin flip chance on his career when he is presented with this. All for a very slightly better chance, nothing close to a guarantee, of ending up a champion. The choice should be crystal clear.

This is normally where the story would end if it were any other business but since this is sports, there are wrinkles added.  There is an ultimate goal that one team, and only one, will reach every year. Most players see this as a goal of theirs. What if shutting down conflicts with that goal? We've said for the player the choice is easy, but that's a vacuum scenario, where the player only effects himself. In reality a player is part of a team and his choices effect that team. If he chooses to shutdown he's not only slighty effecting his chances, he's slightly effecting the chances of other players who want to achieve the same goal, of people in management who have spent millions to achieve that goal, of fans who have also spent millions collectively in support of the team. What is a simple choice is now clouded. To make it Star Treky, do the wishes of many, outweigh the wishes of one? 

This at least in part* why, in the end, some players do try to play through injury. Should Matt Harvey? That's up to him. What is his ultimate goal? 

What made the Strasburg shutdown so curious is that the management, who should normally be against it**, was for it. We've talked about how that was a very special case. Strasburg being seen as a generational talent. The Nationals stocked with young good players in control for years and minimal holes to fill. Even with all that you could probably fall on either side of the fence on the decision. 

Ross isn't the same as Strasburg. Ross is not generational. He's a good prospect who is projected to contribute probably closer to a 2-3 now, but still not special.  The team is not stocked with good young players in control for years. They have a set of them, but they also have older players like Werth, Zimm, Scherzer and guys who will be gone soon like Strasburg and Storen. They aren't without holes. Relief remains a big issue. The rotation, infield and catcher will likely need an influx from FA in the next couple of years. But with Ross you effected a very small chance of winning the division, not an small chance at winning a pennant. The ultimate goal was so far off that this might be a reasonable move. But still I linger on the "might" 

I'm not really saying anything here. Just ruminating. It's clear that if a player's goal is solely to make the most money / have the longest career, they might as well be conservative. That's Harvey's situation. I'm sure he wants to win, he just wants to be paid a lot of money to play baseball for as long as possible more. A conservative team is really no different. The goal is win consistently, with cheaper players, to maximize revenue and minimize costs. The goal is to make as much money as long as possible. 

This isn't unique to the Nats but given the Nats haven't been bad since 2010 I think we might have forgotten about it, or assume that the Lerners will make sure years like that are the exception, not the norm. But I worry about that sometimes, with the Nats. What happens if Turner doesn't pan out? If Giolito hurts his arm again or Rendon goes down? What if the Nats find themselves in the next couple years at a point where they aren't a good bet to challenge for the playoffs? Does management strip it all down again? Being in contention means bigger crowds during the year, later in the year. It means more sales and more interest and more revenue. It means potential playoffs shares, and merchandise sales. That why you put money into a good team. It's a good investment. An 80 win team? That means none of that. 


*Why "in part"? Well some who do this could have plenty of money and don't care about an extra 10 mill when they've made 120. Some might be fringe players who view playing through injury as a gamble to show that they are worth keeping. Etc. Etc. Very few things ever boil down to just one reason. 

**Player health is so fungible, success is so fleeting, that valuing one player's health over any increase in odds of winning it all is questionable to say the least. 

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

With the stras shutdown, management was terrified that if they had forced the issue and Stras had blown his arm out, that Scott Boras would never allow another client to even talk to the Nats.

Harper said...

That can't be true.. Boras wants his players to make the most money. If the Nats offer the most money he will tell them to sign here. No one's health is secure enough, used heavily or babied, to go with a lower contract because they treated that one guy ok and it worked out for him. You go with the money. If Boras didn't tell his clients that then he'd be a terrible agent.

Bilbo said...

I agree with both points. I think Boras will have players sign where they get the most money. I also think Rizzo was trying to show Boras and others that they "take care" of players. It lead to Giolito coming here IMO. Of course, it will be very ironic if/when Strasburg signs with the highest bidder and gives Rizzo a dime for caring about his career on his way out the door. I think the Nats did the right thing. In an ideal world, Strasburg takes a small hometown discount and stays in DC and everyone can hang their hat on "doing the right thing". There was an article that mentions that Rizzo has a framed picture of Strasburg on his desk or on his wall with Stras' signature and a note that reads - "thanks for thinking of my career" or something to that affect. It's a shame he won't likely stay.

I think the Mets will pay a small price when it comes to this whole Harvey mess. They have pretty much placed all of the blame on him. I think any player will think twice before going to the Mets knowing the front office will have no problem throwing them under the bus. Of course if the Mets win the World Series this year they won't much care.

The only other thing to keep in mind about shutdowns - Strasburg and Ross were running out of gas when they were shut down. There is no telling how they would have done. Strasburg had gotten shelled by the Marlins his last two times out before being shut down and Ross the same.

Nattydread said...

There is such a thing as medical ethics and liability. Doctors have an obligation to render an opinion about injury risks and long term damage. Ex-NFL players may also have something to say. It's clear that long term brain damage is a big risk for football players --- and big money will be in play in the courts because people's health was put at risk. A pitching arm is not brain tissue but there are parallels in the logic. Players have a right to protect their health and ultimately they should not be put in positions where they have to risk their long term health or careers so teams can get hardware. We never had discussions like these before Curt Flood.

SM said...

It would be interesting to trace the history of shutting down pitchers late in a season.

Is it a post-Tommy John phenomenon? Only young pitchers? Or perhaps it happened in previous decades, except it was called "sitting down" a pitcher because he'd lost his effectiveness (whether sore arm, dead arm, running out of gas, gaudy night life, whatever)?

Now there's a winter project that beats chopping wood and snowshoeing.

BornInDC said...

The key management decision that I worry about is the Lerners locking up Bryce with a long-term contract. The fans may forgive the Nats never making the World Series if the team is a contender periodically. But a large segment of fans will never forgive the Nats if they let Bryce go to NY, Boston or LA.

Just look at how well the Caps draw in a relatively southern city. I think that has a lot to do with the Caps locking up Ovechkin long-term. With Ovechkin, the Caps are always relevant. By signing Ovechkin long-term, the Caps showed they were willing to compete with anyone in the NHL and the fans have rewarded Caps management for this.

In comparison, the Wizards were run on the cheap for decades and have had trouble drawing for years.

Let Bryce go and watch attendance plummet.

Anonymous said...

As far as the Lerners caring about the fans, just remember, Adam Dunn and Michael Morse were fan favorites and they were shown the door. Granted, they didn't have the year that Bryce is having. Also, just because Harper is having an incredible year does not mean he will be able to replicate it (hopefully he does). His numbers the previous year were not anywhere near his numbers this year but he was hurt for much of last year. The Lerners will base their decision on money and not what the fans want.

Harper said...

ND - What about the idea that sports are inherently threatening to long term health and by playing the sport, the players accept the risk? Not every job is cushy and ones that are inherently dangerous often scale salary to match the risk. Is sport no different? There can be something said for not wanting to be part in players becoming vegetables, but a player risking his arm being useless for millions? Isn't that his own call?

Anonymous said...

When Strasberg first came up, Riggleman was the manager. In the back of Riggleman's mind had to be the handling of Mark prior and Kerry Wood when he managed the Cubs. They were over used and Prior blew out his arm and was never the same. Prior and Wood are heroes to Cub fans, however, I can see how Harvey might consider himself over the organization. When a player is let go, he always says at his news conference that he understands that baseball is a business. The days of a player playing his entire career for one team are past. If a team isn't going to be loyal to a player, why should the player be loyal to the team to the point where he may be risking his future with a career ending injury.

Sammy Kent said...

@ Harper: You said, "We've said for the player the choice is easy, but that's a vacuum scenario, where the player only effects himself. In reality a player is part of a team and his choices effect that team. If he chooses to shutdown he's not only slighty effecting his chances, he's slightly effecting the chances of other players who want to achieve the same goal,"

Really just trying to be helpful more than a grammar nazi, but it's "affect," not "effect."

Anonymous said...

Bryce. Harper. Is. Going. To. The. YANKEES. Stop talking about locking him up. It's not happening.

Froggy said...

Rest in peace Yogi Berra.

Rob Evans said...

At the risk of really going down a rabbit hole...

Regarding grammar "Nazis"…
In my opinion, the whole point of written and spoken language is to communicate an idea/thought to someone else. As long as that job is done, then does it really matter so much about the grammar? Language evolves. Just look at how different English is now than it was in medieval times.

Anonymous said...

Get out of that rabbit hole. Now. Please.

Rob Evans said...

lol...apologies

BornInDC said...

Harper, although sports may be inherently threatening to long-term health, you also have to consider the factor that younger players also are underpaid, because they are still under team control.

It's one thing for someone like Curt Schilling to risk further injury in his thirties to win a World Series, because Schilling had already had his free agent payday. It's something else to put your career on the line before you have the free agent payday.

One possible solution to this issue could be the Players Association negotiate with MLB to have younger players insured by the clubs for potential future earnings in case of energy, since the cost of the insurance premiums might be prohibitive for the younger players. This could potentially better align the interests of the players and the clubs. For example, if you want to have a player exceed an innings limit recommended by a doctor, the insurance premium on that player might rise.

Anonymous said...

@ Rob Evans

Thank you.

Harper said...

Sammy Kent / Rob - I saw it. I let it go. Generally these things are roughly revised first drafts. I'll correct effect/affect, they're/their/there, it's/its, etc when I see it but I'm not going for an A in English here so... well so you can keep letting me know, but it's probably not going to get any better. it's the effort, not the knowledge.

BorninDC - that's a fair explanation. It's one thing to risk health from millions. For several hundred thousand... well maybe you do it but there is a monetary limit somewhere that most won't pass

VI said...

Players are entertainers, with teams competing for a portion of the fans' entertainment budget. They're no different than actors, musicians or Disney World. Of course they have every right to measure near term obligations against long term prosperity, but sitting down in the middle of a pennant race is no different than Springsteen not showing up for a concert because his throat is feeling itchy.

Matt Harvey has already earned as much playing baseball as a lot of ticket buyers will earn in their lifetime. There is zero medical evidence that supports an arbitrary innings limit. If there was, we'd be examining the critical variables in every pitcher's arm after every outing. We know when a pitcher needs reconstructive surgery after the fact. There's a risk every time an athlete takes the field in every sport, it's part of what they sign up for when they agree to perform for the fans. The goal of all team sports is to win their respective championships. Once buy into that goal, and the extraordinary compensation that's part of the pact, you owe the fans a certain retun on their investment. Otherwise, why would MAT ever run into an outfield wall?

I just finished a NYT article about Yogi growing up on "The Hill" in St. Louis. It mentions how Yogi's older brother was the better ball player, but wasn't allowed to play. The oldest boys in the families went to work in the factories to bring home a paycheck. Most of the players from that era volunteered for WWII, and left 4 or 5 years of baseball to defend the U.S. (Yogi fought in the D-Day invasion).

Some of what could have been the greatest baseball players ever never were. Those that are do have an obligation that extends beyond conserving themselves for a 9 figure contract. I don't know where the line is between competing responsibilities, but i's certainly not a healthy 26 year old phenom complaining that he can't pitch enough, while his agent works the media into a frenzy to shut him down. That the guy in the dugout screaming at the other team he wants to fight, while telling his teammates the better hold him back.

VI said...

Apologies in advance for the typos; typing with my thumbs will never be my forte.

Anonymous said...

Springsteen would refund your money.

W. Patterson said...

I listened to a discussion specific to Harvey the other day and point I came away with is that it's Harvey's decision to play/not play. He signed a contract to play 162 games plus whatever post-season play necessary. So the Mets in general and the manager in particular are out of the equation.

Boras works for Harvey. He can recommend, suggest, cajole, whatever, but it's Harvey's decision to play/not play if he's penciled in on the roster.

So like Harper says, the decision is easy - in a vacuum. We don't live in a vacuum, unfortunately.

...and the grammar nazi just made a comment folks. Like the pro-Mets comments over the last few weeks, ignore it unless you can do something about it.

And for Rob Evans, words have meaning. If you try to change that by implying that "you know what he means" then you'll just screw up the system.

John C. said...

Just because they are dealing with gray areas and multiple possible outcomes doesn't mean that putting limitations on pitchers recovering from surgery has "no evidence." Don't confuse "I haven't read the evidence/don't know the evidence/etc." with (essentially) "there is no reason to believe that it is anything more than mumbo-jumbo."

Nor should anyone confuse an inability to provide precise markings or even odds for outcomes with having no basis whatsoever. In most areas medical science is not that precise. To a lot of people that means that it can be ignored. If it's in an area they don't want to take the advice (be that weight loss, pitching limits, what have you) they frequently demand a level of proof that's unreasonable.

I have no problem whatsoever with a player, acting on the advice of the most qualified physicians in an area, taking steps to protect his health and well being. Whether the player is Matt Harvey or Chris Borland. As fans we just want to be entertained, we don't give a tinker's damn about the player. Oh, when Medlen has to go back under the knife for a second TJ, we do pause a moment to say "oh, that sucks." Then it's "who's in the lineup tonight?" - and the page is turned just like that. We'll occasionally say "whatever happened to ... ?" but that's it.

Oh, and by the way Harper - Scherzer is pitching tonight. The Nats wanted to shift Jordan Zimmermann up to tomorrow's game, but Zimmermann reportedly asked for an extra day of rest. Are we now going to pillory JZim?

VI said...

@John C

I'm not sure of your point. You seem to suggest that there is evidence that impacts this particular situation. If so, it would be helpful if you could enlighten us, or me. If your taking a round about tact to question whether I can claim the expertise to unequivocally claim zero evidence, well I'm not a physician (although I do come from a family loaded with them, and employed a number of them prior to retiring; but that's roughly the equivalent of claiming expertise by having slept at a Holiday Inn Express).

There is nothing in the literature I can find that suggests, beyond limited anecdotal examples, that 180 innings is somewhere around the knee of the curve for recovering Tommy John surgery patients. Dr. Andrews freely states the same. No innings, or pitches, would be better than 1, 1 would be better than 10, and so on if you're sole goal is to prevent another injury. What I've gathered from very limited research is the medical community has no idea what 180 innings means vice 150, 160, 190, or 200, especially concerning the marginal increases to additional injury risk with each innings increment. In fact, what is there suggests that innings pitched is a wholly inappropriate metric on which to gather data and conduct analysis. If one wants to cite anecdotal data points, the best is that Tommy John pitched 209 innings following Tommy John surgery. At least that one is memorable.

A lot of the Harvey situation (and potentially the previous Strassburg situation)is an agent with an inflated ego exerting pressure on a team, while protecting his brand and future earnings, without considering the effects on the sources of that income. Maybe he's making the right play. However, there are an increasing number of owners who consider Having to deal with Boros as part of the calculus when deciding whether to negotiate for free agent services. The Orioles are probably the most up front in their aversion to Boros, but he's gotten less than predicted, and fewer total offers for several of is non-superstar clients the last couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Good science, the NL East is awful. The Mets apparently aren't interested in winning the division, but the Nats are insisting.

David said...

so awful, if the Nats didn't blow donkey balls they could be 2-4 games out right now.

JE34 said...

Is it my imagination, or do Scherzer's 2nd half results look like the Struggling Strasburg results of recent seasons? (I say "Struggling Strasburg" to distinguish from the version we've seen lately.) Problematic first inning, too many long balls, but still generating lots of Ks. It's funny how Scherzer's extrovert demeanor makes us react differently to his rough stretch, compared to how people viewed Strasburg when he struggled similarly.

blovy8 said...

John C. makes an excellent point - regardless of not having a published study regarding the best practices for recovery for him to peruse, you also can't expect Harvey to do what he wants, he is an employee and not a surgical expert. I think this 180 inning number has always been kind of red herring that is somehow accepted rather than what teams will actually be doing. Strasburg's situation was different because he'd never even pitched a full season, and the Nats had the cover of the previous plan for Zimmermann's recovery having worked fairly well at the beginning of 2012. Maybe you also can't find documented evidence for the reason(s) why clubs put limits on minor leaguers as they develop VI, but it's become pretty normal for a prospect not to go from 120 innings to no innings limit the next season, even setting aside recovery from major surgery. The Mets are skipping starts for DeGrom even though he pitched 178 innings last year and is only at 181 so far this season. Seems like they wouldn't do that if the number of innings didn't matter at all.

In 2012, as I remember it, when pinned down, Rizzo pretty much said we're not getting a full season of pitches out of this guy, but it'll be up to he, the coaches, and other members of the brain trust to tell when to shut him down and not an arbitrary innings number. I took that to mean when there was evidence of factors to worry them such as fatigue, loss of velocity, bad mechanics, poor command, etc., and it's why he didn't even get to 170. I did read that over a third of TJ guys have to get a second surgery within a pretty short time - some (Boswell?) have cited that as a reason why the Zimmermann extension talks didn't get too far. Now pitching at all pretty much just hurts you, but ultimately this stuff is probably about getting the most "good" innings out of an ace as they can while he's under team control. Would there be a point of getting 20 extra mediocre innings out him now, at the expense of a greater risk of losing a lot of innings from another injury before he becomes a free agent?

Anonymous said...

a couple of thoughts about Max Scherzer-he was supposed to be a Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke type pitcher meaning that every 5th day he not only could be expected to go 8-9 innings but also to dominate the opposing team. He came from the AL where one would have thought he would have an easier time in the NL due to the pitcher hitting. In the first half of the season, he performed to expectations but why the drop off in performance in the second half. Was it because the teams had not created a book on him or is he just gassed. He has a contract for 7 more years and if this is what can be expected with probably an ever increasing drop off as he ages, I worry that the Lerners will be extremely leery to sign a high price free agent again. Scherzer is currently 12-12 with an era of 2.98. The era is more a result of his pre all star break than the second half. A pitcher that wins half of his games could probably be had for a pittance of what the Nats shelled out for Scherzer.