I’ve never been in favor of shutting Stephen Strasburg down.
When you have the best team in the league (at least record wise) and one of the game’s best power-pitchers…you have a real shot at winning the World Series.
That opportunity doesn’t come around often, and when it does, I want my team to be all-in–not playing it safe as Washington is chosing to do.
If you think the Nats haven’t missed Strasburg this series, you’re kidding yourself. St. Louis embarrassed Washington in Games 2 & 3 outscoring them 20-4 while going 27-for-72 at the plate, including 8 doubles, 5 homers and a triple. Nats starters Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson were roughed up for a combined 9 earned runs on 15 hits.
Game 4 was a different story, if for one day, with the Cards managing just 1-run on 3-hits. But it was nearly good enough to knock off the Nats, who won by the slimmest of margins–2-1 on Jason Werth’s walkoff HR.
Strasburg, of course, may not have changed the series with a Game 1 start, but he easily could’ve given a second opportunity the likes of Matt Cain’s stellar outing vs. Cincinnati in Game 5, which was the difference maker in the Giants advancing to the NLCS…or Justin Verlander’s terrific outing vs. Oakland in Game 5, sending the Tigers to the ALCS.
Now, I’m not naive to the other side of the Strasburg discussion, or even suggesting it doesn’t make sense long-term. But if we’ve learned anything this October it’s that there are no guarantees in the postseason.
So while the Nationals starved off elimination for a day, there’s still no question they would be better positioned to win Game 5 with Strasburg on the bump facing the team who finished second in the NL in runs scored this season, and eager to bounce back after a lackluster performance yesterday.
Gio Gonzalez, who will start Game 5, is no pushover, but in fact, a formidable starter who won 21-games this season–but one who also walked 7 batters in 5 rather unimpressive innings in Game 1 of this series.
The bottom line is this: if the Nationals not only fail to advance later this evening, but also fail to win the World Series, they’ll forever have to live with the decision to shut down their best pitcher before the postseason.
Maybe sitting Strasburg pays off in the long run…maybe not. But that’s not a decision I’d be as comfortable with as Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo appears to be. And I say this simply because who’s to say you’ll ever be in this strong of a position to win the World Series again?
Great achievement is reached by taking great risks…and shutting down Strasburg could quickly become the Nationals’ greatest mistake.
The Nationals have the best record in the major leagues (84-52) and a Magic Number of (19). They ‘re 7.5 games up on Atlanta with four weeks remaining in the regular season–the division crown is all but a formality.
More importantly, Washington is fit to win the NL pennant, unless of course, they were to shut down their best pitcher for the rest of the season.
I understand Steven Strasburg is a huge investment. I understand the Nationals want to protect that investment. But if the decision is left up to me, he pitches the remainder of the season, including the playoffs.
That doesn’t mean I throw caution to the wind with Strasburg. Instead, I’d limit his workload; less innings and fewer games started down the stretch (as suggested by Tom Glavine).
There’s no question postseason pitching is a different animal than the regular season. Every pitch matters, and nearly every pitch is thrown with maxed-out effort. Is that a risk worth taking with Strasburg? I think it is, and here’s why.
A chance to win the World Series should be cherished. So much has to go right to reach such heights and so much cannot be controlled. There’s no guarantee the Nationals find themselves in the same position next year, or even in the coming seasons–with or without Strasburg.
Power-pitching is gold in October. It’s the difference-maker. It’s exactly what Strasburg should be for the Nationals. Shutting him down greatly limits that often fleeting opportunity to win now on a team poised to reach the Fall Classic.
“I’m not sure any of us understand, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Nats manager Davey Johnson.
I don’t think it’s the right move, and judging by Davey’s comment, he doesn’t think so, either.
Johnson himself is a fantastic manager. In fact, I’d consider him a saving grace if Washington sticks to its guns about shelving Strasburg. But good managing is hardly a replacement for a power-pitching ace like Strasburg in any postseason series.
Not to mention, if the Nationals don’t win the NL Pennant the thoughts of ‘what might have been’ could haunt this club for a long, long time. And that’s the last thing I want on my mind if I’m a member of the Nats organization.
When the time’s right to win, you go for it. You don’t play for next year and you don’t play scared. That’s how championships are won.
I had the wonderful privilege of joining staff sergeant Josh Helms as his honorary guest for Opening Day.
He’s a proud father of two, loving husband and member of our armed forces, including having served three tours of duty in the Middle East.
Of course, I’d be remised not to point out Josh’s faithful commitment to Cubdom, of which we discussed at length while eating hot dogs, drinking Old Style and shivering our way through the Cubs lid-lifter–despite the outcome, as Pat Foley would say.
The tickets, behind home plate in section 120, came courtesy of Cubs left-hander Paul Maholm, who raffled them off through Twitter last Thursday.
Maholm was also kind enough to speak with Josh & I beforehand this afternoon near the Cubs dugout. A class move from the southpaw, indeed.
As Bill Murray whipped the fans into a frenzy with his ceremonial first pitch sprint around the bases, I knew we were in for an unforgettable day at Wrigley.