September 5, 2012

What Exactly Are the Nationals Thinking?

By - Andy Garcia

What is the point in buying an expensive luxury vehicle if you're not going to drive it every day?

If I'm going to spend large amounts of dough on a car made to be driven, you better believe I'm going to want to actually drive it. It does not make sense to try and save it to prolong its usefulness, especially when it's possible that there will be a new model within a few years that will be just as great.

Apparently, the Washington Nationals think they've driven their Mercedes-Benz enough this year.

Ace Stephen Strasburg is 2 starts away from being shut down for the season, and it has been greatly debated over the last few weeks whether or not this is the best decision for Strasburg and the Nationals organization.

Photo by: Larry Downing
There are far better reasons why the Nationals should not shut down Strasburg after 160-180 innings pitched.

Injuries are unpredictable. A pitcher can blow his arm out at any given moment. There is no set number of pitches someone can throw before getting into a danger zone. To think that there is a limit to prevent an injury is absurd.

If Strasburg were to re-injure himself before his innings limit, the Nationals would look like total dummies, and if he ends up finishing the rest of his career unscathed -- people will wonder if the decision to minimize his innings pitched was the real reason why he never injured his elbow again. The problem is, we will never know. It cannot be proven either way.

So why not just let the man pitch and let fate handle its job?

It is known that Tommy John surgery isn't something to be taken lightly at all. Many pitchers are never the same following the procedure. Those who are able to come back just as good, if not better, should consider themselves blessed. That is why they should proceed to live by the carpe diem motto.

Strasburg is one of those lucky pitchers, and has been very effective since coming back from the surgery. He is 16-7 since his return in late 2011.

Also, Strasburg has made it known that he would like to continue pitching and finish the year out. But of course, the final decision isn't up to him. The front office gets to choose what they want to do with their phenom.

It's understood that the Nationals have major money invested in the 24-year-old right hander, and they want to protect one of their most valuable assets at all costs. For now, Washington is fine with paying $19,218 per inning pitched by Strasburg. They would rather pay more for each inning, as long as they get to pay more for a longer period of time.

That sounds backwards, but it's exactly what the situation is.

It may not seem like the morally correct thing to do, but Washington should milk Strasburg for whatever they can get while he's under a cheap contract (compared to other elite pitchers). They're trying to help his longevity with the team, when in a few years, they will have to pay him at least 6 times his 2012 salary.

Not to mention, it is September, Washington has the best record in the majors, and are one of the favorites to win the World Series this season. Since relocating from Montreal and renaming the team from Expos to Nationals in 2005, the organization has never made the playoffs, let alone had a winning season.

This will be the first time the Nationals do both, and they might even win it all in their first attempt.

Nothing is guaranteed in sports, especially winning. It is strongly advised that when a team has a chance to win now, they should fully go for it -- no holds barred.

By not utilizing their best pitcher, the Nationals are holding themselves back from completely going for it. Sure, they might be able to win without Strasburg, but they definitely have a better chance with him. A 3-man rotation of Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmermann would be very hard to top in the playoffs.

But it seems like Washington's management is set on following through with their decision to cut off their NL Cy Young candidate after 2 more starts, and there is probably nothing anyone can say or do to steer them in the other direction.

They want to "reduce" Strasburg's chances of suffering another injury. Okay, that's fine. So what could they have done differently to do so, yet still put themselves in the best position to compete for a title?

An intriguing scenario was one that was used by the Atlanta Braves this year with their young pitcher, Kris Medlen. The Braves purposely started the season with Medlen in the bullpen. They also assigned him to their Triple-A affiliate for a few starts in the middle of the season just to not over exert his arm.

At the very end of July, Medlen received his first start -- and has since compiled a 6-0 record with a microscopic 0.54 ERA in 7 starts.

To this point, Atlanta's plan has worked to perfection. More importantly, they will have their young gun in the postseason (barring injury, of course). That is when it matters most.

Another idea could have been to let Strasburg skip some scheduled starts every couple of weeks. That would have allowed Washington to still keep his innings down, and at the same time save him for the playoffs.

If it was that serious to the Nationals, they could have even placed him on the 60-day DL midway through the season to conserve him, and then let him work his way back into form before the postseason.

That is probably the worst idea of the three, but the point is, there were other ways to go about this that may have boded well for both Strasburg and the organization.

Instead, it appears that Washington's Mercedes-Benz will indeed get the car cover and be assigned to the garage come October.

Let's hope that with the lesser transportation, they don't break down on the road to the promise land.


  1. Nationals are insane to do this. Like you said, he could hurt his arm at ANY POINT. They've got a chance to win it all if he's in the rotation. No way I'd sit him.

  2. I can see them wanting to be cautious, but they could have went about this way differently. Just to shut him down end of story is ridiculous.

  3. I agree Mr Garcia but I kind of like the fact the nats are thinking about Strasbergs future, they don't want to do the same thing the Cubs did to Mark Priors career.