One of the dumbest front office decisions in baseball history is occurring in D.C. that reminds me we are in the new, but not better, specialized baseball world of money and statistics. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson have informed ace starter Stephen Strasburg that he will be shelved for the year for reaching their limit of 160 innings pitched.
This would be okay if we were talking about a different season in Nationals history since they’ve finished fifth in their division in five of their seven years of existence. But we’re not, and it’s not okay.
The Nationals had a 5½ game lead in the NL East with 22 to go through Monday. They have their first chance to bring a title to our Capital city in 88 years, and now they’re telling the city and the team that their best player – not just the best pitcher – won’t play as a cautionary move?
For some strange reason I thought the idea in baseball was to win the World Series and do anything you can to do so. A World Series ring is within their reach, but the front office is thinking about the future. What? The future is now. It’s here. Everything has come to fruition. This is why Strasburg was drafted with hopes of getting to this juncture, or at least I thought that was the point.
This may all sound insensitive because I’m disregarding their care and safety of the player’s well-being, but he’s not hurt and hasn’t shown any signs of soreness, stiffness or velocity decreases.
One of problems with the game of baseball now is that so much money is invested into these players that they are forsaking winning to be cautious. Sure, they could still win it all without him, but it’s not as probable.
We have a maximum of a 100-pitch count in games managers follow religiously that many times puts a team in a worse situation by bringing in a cheap rube long-reliever who always seems to blow the lead. “Yeah, but we don’t want to blow his $6 million arm out.”
Where is the proof that 100 pitches blows an arm out? Or where does it say that after Tommy John surgery, 160 pitches is the limit of stress to be put on the arm two years after the surgery takes place? John himself said there is no reason to limit pitch counts after the surgery. The arm is stronger than ever, like a rebuilt bionic man.
Some pitchers get hurt and some don’t. That’s been the case forever whether you’re a super freak of nature like Nolan Ryan pushing 400 innings every year for 27 years or Mike Norris, who couldn’t get one long season. Every human is different in their DNA and some are just better suited to pitch, whether they’re coddled or not.
Part of the cautionary measures occur due to the blame game the new and improved sports tabloid media promotes after someone gets hurt, but it’s magnified even more when one of those pitchers gets paid a high price. So as player money gets larger, the four-man rotation has turned into a five-man and now we have the max-inning season pitch limit.
The Nationals are currently 13-to-5 co-favorites with the Reds to win the NL Pennant, but in this case, the sports books have to be cautious as well. If Strasburg is definitely shelved for the year, then why wasn’t he placed on the disabled list?
This is what makes it seem like a ploy by Nationals. They’re standing by their original statement from when the season opened regarding the 160-pitch limit, and publicly showing their concern for the Strasburg’s future, but also giving themselves an out to possibly bring in into the post-season.
When the Nationals get to postseason, I won’t be surprised If we see Strasburg playing in some capacity. Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
Micah Roberts is a former race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].