The Nationals have taken the league by storm this year, surprising many analysts with 7.5-game lead with an overall record of 83-52, at this late stage in the season. The Nationals seem to be well on their way to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 1981 and their first appearance as Washington’s team. Many say that the enormous success of the team can be attributed to their amazing starting pitching and in particular their third year phenomenon, Stephen Strasburg.
Pitchers like Gio Gonzalo and Jordan Zimmerman have had career years, but we should not forget the 15.1-million-dollar-a year man, Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has pitched phenomenally, claiming a 15-6 season, an ERA of 3.16, and a lead in the National League of 195 strikeouts. However, Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery last year and is scheduled to be shut down after his September 12 start in New York. But even this scheduled shut down was bypassed as Strasburg was shut down last weekend after his start against the Miami Marlins, in which he threw only three innings and gave up six hits and five earned runs.
The Nationals are in a position to not only make a playoff appearance, but also a possible World Series appearance, if Strasburg were to pitch. Without him, their future seems less certain. Everyone has an opinion on what the Nationals should do, or should have done. Many people feel he should have started the season later or skipped some starts so that he could have pitch in the playoffs.
Others think that the Nationals are making the economically smart decision and are protecting their 200 million dollar investment. This is an unprecedented situation, but the Nationals manager, Davey Johnson, and General Manager, Mike Rizzo, have already dealt with one pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery, Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman pitched his sophomore season just like Strasburg, and then had to undergo Tommy John surgery, cutting his sophomore season short. Zimmerman came back the next year with a 160-inning limit, and he was shut down promptly at 161 1/3 innings. Johnson alludes to this situation as a trial run for what to do with Strasburg, but remarks that the Nationals were not in this position year ago, and that there was no talk of World Series.
Former players have also spoken up, such as Curt Schilling, former pitching-giant for the Boston Red Sox, who has been adamant that the decision on whether Strasburg should be shut down should be Strasburg’s alone. Schilling once pitched 200 innings in a season, and while he understands the idea of protecting the investment, he thinks that pitchers should pitch until they think they are done. In this, I am in agreement with Schilling. I think the final decision should lay with Strasburg.
Davey Johnson has addressed this issue saying: “It’s no secret
that Stras is an intense competitor, that he wants to be here, wants to be contributing, wants to be helping and I’m sure it’s probably eating him up more than anybody involved in this whole thing because he wants to be here and helping his teammates. He’s worked harder than anybody coming back from that surgery, and this is what you dream about being a part of. I know how he feels.” However, General Manager Mike Rizzo has stressed that he is “taking the decision out of Davey Johnson’s hands and out of Stephen Strasburg’s hands.” After being shut down, Strasburg was quoted saying, “I don’t know if I’m ever going to accept it, to be honest. It’s something that I’m not happy about at all. That’s not why I play the game. I play the game to be a good teammate and win. You don’t grow up dreaming about playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.”
There are definitely many sides to this issue, but I think it comes down to how Strasburg feels. He obviously wants to play and is only doing what his team wants. Other B-CC students agree with me that Strasburg should make his own decision. For example, Connor Byrne, who is a starting Varsity pitcher at B-CC, says: “I think that a pitcher is the one who knows his body the best. I know that when I’m pitching, I don’t like to be told I’m done. I like to have control over how long I pitch for. I know when I’m done.” A playoff bid is never guaranteed, and Strasburg could be the missing link to an enormously successful season. But the decision has been made, and we won’t know if it is the right one until next season, when the Nationals make a push using their pitcher’s full potential.