With the first pick of the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, the Washington Nationals made a pick that will have forever changed the team’s rotation. The team selected San Diego State fire baller Stephen Strasburg. Upon being drafted first, Strasburg signed a four-year, $15.4 million deal with a $7.5 million signing bonus.
Now the Nationals are sitting on the brink of the playoffs for the first time since 1981 when the team was in Montreal and its multi-million dollar man is nowhere to be found. Why is that? Because the team decides to “play it safe” and put an innings limit on a pitcher that was picked to lead the team to the MLB Playoffs and a World Series. The Nationals organization have the tools to be a serious contender in the playoffs irregardless of how old or how experienced they are in the postseason.
This season, Strasburg has a 15-6 record with a 3.16 ERA with an 11.1 K/9 ratio. The best K/9 ratio in the majors. He is currently shut down for the rest of the season after hitting the innings limit that the franchise placed on him. That limit and keeping him from potential postseason play could damage his morale for seasons to come.
Being scared of Strasburg being the next Mark Prior-type pitcher is something that the team did not draft him for. The team drafted him to be part of a championship squad.
Why is it that the Nationals are so concerned with Strasburg’s innings limit when the Detroit Tigers have an even greater talent in Justin Verlander and he has pitched over 200 innings in six straight seasons? Verlander consistently has pitch counts over 95 and has not pitched under that mark since June 22 against the New York Mets. What’s the difference between the two?
If you are a Nationals’ fan you have to be outraged. Since Sept. 7, the Nationals have gone 4-4 and have let division rival Atlanta Braves creep back into contention for the NL East title. The Braves are only 5.5 games behind the Nats.
A 4-4 record is not terrible but you got to think that if Strasburg pitched one or two of those games after he was shut down, he would have won at least one.
The only thing you can blame nowadays is technology and money. If a pitcher has a little strain the shoulder or soreness in his elbow then you automatically suspect that Tommy John surgery will be needed and with Strasburg already undergone the procedure once, it is unlikely he will pitch in October for the rest of his career at this rate.
Back in the early days of the game pitchers like Cy Young started 43 games per season. Now, pitchers barely start 35 games per season.
However, Strasburg’s leave of absence will cost the Nationals big in the playoffs. I’m sorry that fans of the team will have to watch as one of the players that changed the franchise around is sitting on his bum because upper management fears the worst instead of wanting a championship.
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