By Jon Ali
The Washington Nationals have certainly gained a lot of attention this season with their play on the field but it’s a recent front office decision that has created a great deal of debate. The Nationals have declared on several occasions that
they will cap the number of innings thrown by their all-star pitcher Steven Strasburg because he is coming off a season ending surgery in 2011. In previous seasons this would be an easy decision, but the Nationals are having the best season in franchise history and are right in the thick of a playoff hunt. A great deal of their success comes from a dominant starting rotation led by Steven Strasburg who has an era of 2.91 and has 173 strikeouts in 139 innings pitched. He is not only the most talented pitcher in the National League he is also the most exciting. Every time he toes the rubber there is a chance something historic may happen.
The speculation is that Strasburg will be capped at 160 innings this season and will be removed from the rotation no matter the impact on this year’s post season race. It’s understandable that the organization wants to protect their youngest and most talented pitcher, but it is a hard pill to swallow for fans who have stood by a team that has done nothing but lose since moving to Washington.
The World of sports offers no guarantees and with baseball being arguably the hardest sport to make post season play, it seems foolish to willingly shutdown your ace, when there is no guarantee the organization will ever make the playoffs again.
Washington has a tremendously talented group led by Ryan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Michael Morse, all veteran players who have yet to make a postseason appearance. It begs the question of what kind of impact this decision will have in the clubhouse especially with those who have limited time in their playing career? For those like Ryan Zimmerman who has been with Washington from the beginning and finally has a chance to play meaningful games in September it seems anticlimactic to know losing Strasburg will all but take them out of contention.
The St Louis Cardinals proved last year that anything can happen in the postseason and that is the mindset Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo needs to take. As much as they have depth in their starting rotation, you don’t win games in September and October by removing your best pitcher and replacing him with John Lannan. If you are thinking “who is John Lannan”? my point is proven. The future is uncertain in sports and that’s why it is so exciting, because it is not planned or scripted. If Strasburg is healthy Mike Rizzo and the rest of Washington Nationals front office need to give this some serious thought and know that they may be giving up something special this season, for a future that may not exist.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts on what the Nationals should do with their ace.
— Jon Ali