Coaches and management get blamed for all sorts of things, from poor lineup changes to terrible trades to moronic publicity stunts. What Davey Johnson and his staff announced this morning might be the biggest blunder in recent memory. After the season long speculation over whether or not the Nationals would bench their Ace, Stephen Strasburg, Johnson announced this morning that his star played his last game of the season yesterday. Initially, the plan was that Wednesday’s start against the Mets would have been his last game of the season, but Johnson and his staff discussed that they felt he needed to stop now. They made claims and accusations saying that Strasburg was in his own head and that the innings limit they announced at the beginning of the season was getting to him. He might have been in his own head and the doctor’s ordered limit might have been reached, but does that make Strasburg’s benching the correct decision?…No!
Stephen Strasburg was one of the best pitchers in all of college baseball when he was playing for the San Diego State Aztecs. Then, ESPN described him as the “most-hyped pick in draft history.” Strasburg recorded a franchise best 14 strikeouts in his debut with the Nationals and proved to the world why he was so coveted. When he entered the league as the Ace for Nationals, he was thought to be their new savior. After suffering a terrible shoulder injury in his sophomore year with the Nats, Strasburg was out for the season and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. After a full year of rehab and practice, Strasburg had his cleats on and was ready to go on opening day. The only problem for Strasburg was that his coaching and medical staff placed a 160 inning pitching limit on him just for precaution. Little did the Nationals know how their season would turn out.
The Washington Nationals are one of only two teams whom have never made the World Series, the Seattle Mariners being the other. The Nats had consistently found themselves at the bottom of the NL East year after year. But with draft picks like Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the Nats were building a team to be proud of. No one expected the Nats to be a playoff team this year but they have emerged as one of the best teams in all of baseball. The main reason behind their emergence is the fact that they have the best pitching staff in all of baseball. And who was at the forefront of said pitching staff? That’s right, Strasburg. So how can a team with its first ever real chance to make it to the World Series dig their own grave and bench their star? I don’t know.
I completely understand that they are just being cautious with their franchise player, but how can you justify potentially ruining your most successful season ever just on speculation. For all we know Strasburg will be just fine and his shoulder is perfect. He hasn’t shown any signs of his injury re-emerging and he is in the midst of a Cy Young caliber season (15-6 3.16 ERA 197 K’s 1.15 WHIP). Strasburg made his first ever All Star team this year and is currently ranked in the top 5 in strikeouts in all of baseball…but not for long. I mean call me crazy but don’t you build your team around these young phenoms just so you can get to the point that the Nationals are currently poised to get to? Who says that the Nationals will ever been in position to win the NL East again let alone even make the playoffs? What if benching Strasburg only infuriates him and makes him sign with someone like the Yankees when he is a Free Agent? In my mind, when you have a chance to win you do everything in your power to make it happen.
I can’t help but think this is one of the biggest mistakes ever made from a front office perspective. I mean they are the God damn Washington Nationals, probably the most irrelevant team in American sports up until last season. This was their opportunity to shine and show the world that they are a team to recon with. They have one of the weaker batting lineups in Baseball and the worst offense of any of the potential playoff teams. The only thing that was going to prevent them from being swept in the Divisional Series was the fact that they had a stellar starting rotation. Well now their starting rotation is no longer stellar and you can expect the Nats to be swept in the first round by either of the NL wildcard teams because without Strasburg the Nationals are just another average team. Great job to Davey Johnson and the Nationals front office because you have just done enough to ruin your chance for relevancy.