Fantastic column from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports on the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg next month:
And for what it is worth, here is my take-away quote from the piece:
The most fascinating part of the Nationals plan to shut down Strasburg is that in spite of not knowing, they don’t care, either. The Nationals are potentially jeopardizing their fantastic 2012 season to do something that they have absolutely no idea will protect his arm from further damage. Rizzo has cited advice from medical experts, but in reality he’s hearing what’s convenient for him to hear, unless the Nationals know something the rest of the baseball world doesn’t.
I understand Mike Rizzo and the Nationals are in the position they are in because of the wrapped in a nappy environment pitchers have been raised in the last 20 years. But perhaps even more dangerous than the assumption that shutting Strasburg down will protect him from future injury is the foolish belief that today’s wonderful success will necessarily translate to tomorrow and beyond. A typical comment on the Strasburg dilemma I have come across scanning the blogs and message boards:
nats242:06 AM EDT
Nats fans have to get used to this: Stras will not be pitching in playoffs that, it looks increasingly likely the team will be in.
I look at it this way: If the Nats win it all without him, look out in ’14. A Washington dynasty? I like it.
Dynasty? I would be as happy as a fat kid in a candy store if that were to be the case. But we live in a dynamic world, where the game of baseball is played by fallible humans, and not widgets which can produce just the same tomorrow as they do today. Sure, the lineup could continue to surge, and Jordan, Gio, Edwin (if he returns), Ross, and yes, Stephen, could pitch just as well next year and heck, maybe even better. But maybe they won’t. And I don’t want the Nationals to look back in 2017 without a World Series ring saying, “2012. What might have been.”
It’s raining cats and dogs* this afternoon in Tallahassee, so what better excuse to stay indoors and bang out another edition of Quick Hits.
- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the Nationals are exploring pitching options to potentially replace Stephen Strasburg, with Ryan Dempster among the names being mentioned. And, according to Rosenthal, the Nats are also looking for an everyday catcher, with Ramon Hernandez of the Colorado Rockies being considered. Let’s start with the latter possibility first. If it’s Ramon Hernandez the Nats are looking at, put me down in the “move along” column. I know Jesus Flores has had his struggles at the plate (.621 OPS) and I’m guessing Washington isn’t inclined to roll more with the rookie Jhonatan Solano. But Hernandez, even with the help of the thin rocky mountain air, has a slightly lowers OPS (.620) and fielding metrics indicate that Flores is the superior defender to Hernandez. You might rightly point out that Hernandez has been banged up this season with a wrist injury, which has masked his offensive superiority. It’s true that Hernandez’s career .747 OPS is better than Flores’ .682 mark. However, did I mention that Hernandez is coming off a wrist injury that typically saps offensive output? Move along.
- Since this is “Quick Hits”, I figured I should bump the whole Stephen Strasburg shutdown watch to a second bullet. And actually, the topic probably deserves a whole column. But that wouldn’t necessarily be quick, now would it? Stop wasting words smarty pants. By almost all media accounts, it is just a matter of when and not if the Nats will shut down Strasburg this season. Whether it is at 160 innings or some other point, it appears that at least publicly, Nats management is saying that health will come before everything else and Strasburg will be told his season is over before the season is actually over. Now, I don’t know what will actually happen come September, with the possibility of a World Series run on Washington’s horizon. It is very easy to say in mid-July that you will put down one of your bayonets when the other side comes charging in September for fear of breaking it. But for the life of me, I still cannot understand baseball’s obsession with protecting pitchers with artificial innings limits and pitch counts, the value of which is based on dubious or non-existent evidence. For all the limits and restrictions put in place by teams the last 20 or 30 years, has there been an appreciable decline in pitching injuries? Maybe shutting Strasburg down is the right thing to do to ensure that he is there to take the mound for the next 10-12 years. But wasn’t management saying the very same thing in 2010 when he wasn’t allowed to throw more than 100 pitches in a game? How did that work out?
- One final thing on the whole Strasburg shutdown. If the Nats do decide to park him in September, I’m not sure they are, or should be, in the position to mortgage even more of their farm system on getting someone like Dempster, who isn’t controlled beyond this season. GM Mike Rizzo has been adamant that any moves made would be done with an eye towards upgrading for the long-haul, and not just this season. I hope he sticks with this philosophy, because if they want to make a move that gives the team the greatest possibility of winning this season, it would be to find a way to keep Strasburg pitching while not further depleting their farm.
- Finally, in addition to being a rabid Nats fan, I’m even a more die-hard Washington Redskins fan. I know. Counseling helps some. And so it is that even the Redskins can find a way to screw up the start of RG III’s career: Griffin III again misses Redskins rookie camp. Thank you Nats for winning. It eases some of the pain.
*Cooley the dog would like to note for the record that it is not literally raining dogs, though he is intrigued at the possibility of a rain shower of cats. Manna from heaven.
Cole Hamels intentionally hits Bryce Harper merely because he is a rookie and essentially, gets his next start pushed back a day.* Mike Rizzo tells the truth and gets fined. Apparently, absurdity in MLB punishment is another unwritten rule.
*MLB New Math, where a five-game suspension only costs you a day. They much smart. Me just a fan.
When last we crossed paths, Wilson Ramos had just singled in the winning-run in the series opener against Filthadelphia late Friday night. It’s a shame nothing much of interest transpired over the next forty-eight hours. Oh, huh. You say all this happened:
Channeling my inner Larry King, a few quick comments about the weekend that was:
- First, as much as I love to rag on Werth, losing him for 12 weeks is only going to exacerbate the problem an already downtrodden lineup has scoring runs.
- Third, Mike Rizzo nailed it. Hamels had no business hitter Harper other than to be a punk. I know he wants a new contract from Filthadelphia, but I had no idea he wanted to fit in that badly with the Santa-pelters.
- I wonder if CNN wants me back. At least people watched Jack Hanna, his monkeys, and me. Who watches Piers Morgan? Oh, I hope he is not listening in on me.
- Second, that Bryce Harper kids is a keeper. Sweet stroke, tremendous hustle, cannon for an arm. I haven’t been this excited since I found a mini-toy microphone in my Cracker Jack box in 1966.
- Finally, as much as I love the guy, I can’t help but think that without an increased strikeout rate, Jordan Zimmermann is not poised to vault into elite status this year. Although his ground ball/fly ball ratio is over one for the first time in his career, his strikeout percentage is also down from 18.7% to 14.7%.
Good night from Tallahassee. Now here’s Anderson Cooper to keep them honest about how unwatchable he really is.
Guess I’m going to have to re-name the third award category because just a short while ago, the Nationals announced that Bryce Harper will be called up tomorrow and make his Major League debut. Didn’t see that one coming.
I didn’t think my heart would re-start after seeing this beautiful scene last night:
It seems all I had to do was wait a day for a jolt from the Nationals. It is funny that just yesterday, I took a look at how Harper was doing down in Triple-A. And while I’m excited to see what he can do, what I wrote yesterday I still probably foresee being the case. Harper will most likely represent an upgrade in left field (hard not to when Nats’ left fielders are a combined 7-72, or half a Mendoza), but his numbers in Syracuse don’t scream out “Impending Rookie of the Year.” It seems that with the Nationals already struggling to score runs, and now down two of their best bats (Ryan Zimmerman will join Michael Morse on the DL tomorrow), GM Mike Rizzo is looking to a catch lightning in a bottle. While every Nats fan hopes that happens, let’s also hope that the Nationals remember that Harper is just 19 and act accordingly if he is not a mega-hit right away.