At this point, the story is well documented, to the point where even the most apathetic of baseball fans knows the tale. The Washington Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg prior to the 2012 postseason, and melted down in the National League Division Series.
It’s no secret that Strasburg being out of the mix played a heavy hand in the Nationals’ failing to make it beyond the NLDS. It was far from the only reason, but it was a primary cause nonetheless. As the 2013 season comes to a close, with the Nats failing to make the playoffs, it still looms large over their heads.
After a season in which the Nationals failed to make the playoffs after a miserable first half of the year, it was proven what many had claimed when the Nationals announced they’d shut down their young ace last year. A situation where you could contend for a title is no guarantee. Even the heavily favored Nats couldn’t pull off at least a Wild Card this year.
Which means that of course many fans in our nation’s capitol are going to point back to the shutdown with their frustration over missing out on the playoffs. Regardless of what else happened in last year’s NLDS, the reason for the Nationals not progressing deeper into the playoffs is always going to go back to Strasburg.
This isn’t going to be something that will be easy to shake, as we can see even a year later. Regardless of whether or not you agree that Strasburg not being in the rotation was the primary reason that they were eliminated, it was a large factor. With a team that looked as primed for a title run as the Nats did last year, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, even now.
The best way to get rid of that dark cloud that hangs over the collective heads of the Nationals organization? Make some minor tweaks this winter, go into the 2014 season as one of the top contenders in the National League, and back up that hype with a strong campaign that ends in a deep playoff run, at the very least.