The Washington Nationals have the best record in the Major Leagues and one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues in Stephen Strasburg. But if a World Series champtionship is a possibility, they plan to do so without their ace. The issue at hand is a 160-inning pitch limit imposed on Strasburg before the season again. In how they have proceeded with this, they have embarrassed themselves. Today is no different, as Mike Rizzo told the D.C. sports station that carries Nationals games that doctors have prepared a 50-page report on how to manage Strasburg's innings.
If the Nationals really planned to make this a partial season for Strasburg, why start the season with Strasburg as opening day starter? If the true intention of the Nationals was to get Strasburg to pitch 160-innings, why start the season giving him the first innings? Why not start him fifth in the rotation?
Pitching Strasburg as a fifth starter would have extended him much further. If there's an off-day or two during the week? Skip his turn now and then. But the Nationals said they would not do that. All-Star break and he makes the team? Give him a breather before and after while you can. But, the Nationals enjoyed selling tickets and enjoyed the success and just pitched him like they would any other number-one starter. Now they look stupid.
So, this 50-page report, which Rizzo will not let radio host Holden Kushner see, will be his attempt to go back on everything he said all season long.
People have strong opinions on both sides, most in favor of letting Strasburg pitch. Take this column from Ken Rosenthal, who demands that Strasburg be shut down immediately.
On the other side is former big-leaguer Moran Ensberg says they would be "risking his career" for a World Series. But winning the World Series is the whole point of playing the game, and the Nationals have a real chance. They may not get it again. Now what's the worst-case scenario?
If Strasburg needed another Tommy-John surgery but had his World Series trophy, do you think fans would really mind? I don't think that San Francisco Giants fans would trade the 2010 World Series championship in exchange having Brian Wilson right now. Cardinals fans would not trade the 2011 World Series championship in exchange for having Chris Carpenter right now.
What if tomorrow never comes for the Nationals? Their young players will get paid more and more, causing them to make choices about letting certain players go that are helping the team right now. The supply of top first-round draft picks is ending. Win while you can. The departure of Strasburg from the Nationals heading into the playoffs would be demoralizing to their players. Destroying the Nationals' confidence by removing their ace combined with the loss of talent would totally end the Nationals' chances in 2012.
Mike Rizzo has embarrassed himself plenty. And now he's conceding his much with this mysterious "50-page report" that will justify going back on his word all season.
PS- Strasburg has thrown about 400 fewer pitches than Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, the equivalent of four additional starts. Strasburg is ranked 30th in the league in pitches thrown. His magical limit of innings would place him behind many with the same innings thrown. Just sayin…