Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Are we going to have to go through this every time he stubs his toe??


Strained Oblique is not the same as torn UCL. Photo credit unknown.

It didn’t take the holier-than-thou Jon Paul Morosi 10 minutes after Stephen Strasburg‘s early exit on 5/31/13 to post this “I told you so” missive to remind everyone that he thinks the Nationals 2012 Shutdown decision was stupid (oh, and just to make sure everyone knows how smart he was, he also conveniently posted a link to his own opinion posted at the time).

Of course, the fact that a “Strained Oblique” isn’t the same thing as an “Ulnar Collateral Ligament” didn’t stop him from his highly hypocritical post.  Why hypocritical?  Because teams shut down pitchers on innings limits ALL THE TIME.  When the Cubs shut down Jeff Samardzija at the end of last season, did anyone bat an eye?  No?  Why was that?  Was it because the Nats were in first place and the Cubs in last?  Is that so?  Well if you’re going to have a national debate about one guy and not a word about the other solely based on the team’s position in the standings, then something is wrong.  Because both decisions were made to protect the player, not advance the team’s best short-term interest.

I’m not going to re-hash the whole argument again.  It isn’t worth it.  Nobody’s going to listen, everyone has their opinion already formed and hardened again and again.  The reason the Nats lost the NLCS wasn’t because our bullpen leaked run after run or because our closer coughed up a 2 run lead in the 9th; it was because Mike Rizzo arrogantly shut down Strasburg!  Of course!  Never mind that Strasburg’s replacement on the roster (Ross Detwiler) gave the team its best post season start.  Never mind that the St. Louis Cardinals were a heck of a hitting team and never mind that our offense only really showed up in Game 5 (when, as it turned out, scoring SEVEN runes wasn’t enough to win).

Ok, maybe I did just rehash the issue again.

But to the point of this post; are we going to have to live with this stupid argument every time Strasburg stubs his toe or has any sort of routine strain or injury for the rest of his frigging career?  Pitchers, as a rule of course, get injured.  Throwing a baseball at max effort is hard on the body.  Guys get injured all the time.  Some guys are incredibly durable (think Justin Verlander) and other guys are just not (think about what this franchise went through with John Patterson and Shawn Hill).  Just because Strasburg had a minor injury (and by all accounts it seems to be minor at this point) doesn’t mean Rizzo’s 2012 shutdown decision is to blame.

Are we going to have this discussion every time?  I hope not.

6/3/13 update: found this Tweet from Jon Heyman who acts as the voice of reason, not only shooting down Morosi’s article by pointing out that Oblique/Lat is not the same as Arm, but shouting down Twitter followers who questioned the shutdown.  He had a very, very good point about last year’s shutdown; is it worth a 25-yr old’s career for “1 or 2 more starts?”  A sage question that few people seemed to be asking, even if it was going to probably be 4-5 more starts.  There needs to be more people coming back to the middle on this (as Will Carroll seemed to be doing), saying that we just don’t know if a shutdown helps or not, as opposed to people who vehimently and rudely state that the Nats and Rizzo were so stupid for shutting him down.  It just gets old.

6/10/13: A little late to the game but Thom Loverro of the Washington Examiner calls out specifically Morosi and an Atlanta reporter for their “gutless” criticism of the Strasburg shutdown.  He makes very good points.

9 Responses to 'Are we going to have to go through this every time he stubs his toe??'

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  1. Great post! I love that Rizzo put the health of a human being over the minuscule increase in chances his team would win a trophy. I admire him for putting people first. Way to little of that in today’s world where sports are the nation’s god.


    1 Jun 13 at 12:45 pm

  2. Unfortunately I think the answer to my question is probably “Yes, we are going to go through this every time.” That’s because there’s 100s of know-it-all columnists and thousands of even more know-it-all bloggers who believe the Nats should have just pushed Strasburg to 200+ innings a year removed from major surgery. Like they were involved with the talks with the medical staff, like they’re experts on the recovery process for this particular player.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jun 13 at 12:55 pm

  3. Here is a different scenario for you. What if it wasn’t Stephen Strasburg, “overall number one and best pitching prospect in a generation?” Say the Nats’ ace last year had instead been a coming-off-TJ-surgery, former fifth rounder and previously completely unheralded Samardzija. Would the scrutiny and criticism have been nearly as intense? I think not.

    It’s just like all of the inane media blather about Harper running into the scoreboard. This is the downside of having two uber prospects who were (baseball) household names before they ever played a professional game.


    1 Jun 13 at 1:09 pm

  4. I agree with you, Todd, that the answer is almost certainly yes. Stras was too hyped and the judgmental nature of this decision is perfect for second guessing for anything else (meaning that no one will ever be certain whether it did or didn’t have an impact). I imagine that exec producers are frothing every time he shakes his arm, saying ‘ talk about the shutdown!’


    1 Jun 13 at 3:54 pm

  5. Probably not, but only, I’m afraid, because he will bolt this team the first chance he gets.

    Sec 3 My Sofa

    1 Jun 13 at 4:44 pm

  6. My favorite part about Morosi’s ignorant articles are that he thinks they should have held him back to start the season. Ok Jon, you want to hold him back and give the starts to someone else? What if that someone else puts up a 5.00 ERA and costs the Nats 4 or 5 games. Oh, right. Try wouldn’t have won the division then. Moron.


    1 Jun 13 at 6:25 pm

  7. Yeah. The Braves limited Medlen’s innings, and he was available for the playoffs. GEENYUS! So of course they won the WS …

    John C.

    1 Jun 13 at 8:50 pm

  8. Notariety of Bryce and Strasburg; yeah unfortunately you’re right. I do agree. Not only were they both incredibly heralded, but then in basically their first full pro seasons the Nats shock everyone, win 98 games and bullrush the NL. Good point.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jun 13 at 8:50 am

  9. Great point on Medlen. Makes me laugh how every one has this genius “hindsight is 20/20” moment about how the Braves magically knew he’d be so awesome in the 2nd half last year. Meanwhile, had they had Medlen’s starts the entire season they may very well have won the division instead of Washington instead of getting knocked out in the coin-flip game. Nobody talks about that point.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jun 13 at 6:19 pm

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