Like many baseball fans, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson doesn’t understand why the powers at be are shutting down his ace before the end of the season. Stephen Strasburg - who has been one of the best pitchers the National League has to offer this season – will make his last start on September 12, well before the team’s fate is even decided. And even though Johnson doesn’t understand why they are doing it, he believes it’s the right thing to do:
“I’m not sure any of us understand,” Johnson said. “But it’s the right thing to do.”
This is kind of like the classic parents defense of “because I said so”. Logic, understanding, and reasoning are thrown out the window when “because I said so” is used. Why is it the right thing to do? How do the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo know it’s the right thing to do? There are basically two arguments to the decision.
The benefits of shutting Strasburg down are his surgically repaired right arm won’t be strained. Apparently, the Nationals talked to tens of professionals in the medical industry before this season, concluding the 160 inning limit is the tipping point where pitcher stays healthy or turns into Mark Prior. However, all that mumbo jumbo doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the skipper.
“I’ve listened to all the gurus. I’ve had all the advice. None of it made much sense.”
Me too, Davey. Me too.
I’m not a doctor – nor have I ever recovered from Tommy John surgery – but I just can’t get behind this idea. Who knows if the Nationals will ever have this chance again? Also, it’s good to know the Nationals are interested in Strasburg’s long-term health even though he will probably test free agency when his clock runs out, so the Nationals are doing the big budget teams favors in about five years.
Strasburg isn’t necessarily getting special treatment considering they did the same with Jordan Zimmermann last season. Washington shut down Zimmermann after he reached 160 innings last season, and he has been fully healthy this year, going 9-8 with a 3.01 ERA in 164 innings.
No one knows for an absolute certainity if the shutdown tactic will work. But I, like Davey Johnson, will never understand it, no matter what the experts say.
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