Okay, Nats fans, get over it. Stephen Strasburg isn’t coming back this year and the decision is final. All the whining and complaining won’t do any good; shutting Strasburg down is the right decision for the Nats’ long-term future.
In baseball, a good risk is laying down a squeeze bunt to score a runner from third, or calling for a hit-and-run play to advance the runner from first to third. A bad risk is jeopardizing the health of your franchise player in the hope that he will lead the team to a World Series it can still win without him.
Instead of pushing Strasburg, we should be happy with his contribution this year. As of his last start on Sept. 8, he leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings and is second in overall strikeouts. But most importantly, he’s led the team to the best record in baseball. Despite Strasburg’s success, the best medical advice points to shutting him down.
Pitchers who’ve had Tommy John elbow surgery, which Strasburg had in 2010, are cautioned to go slow their first year back. A pitcher who throws too many innings after surgery often puts too much stress on the elbow and jeopardizes full recovery.
Scott Boras, Strasburg’s agent, compiled a list of 12 pitchers who threw at least 600 innings by the age of 23 –– legends Greg Maddux and Dwight Gooden among them. He found 11 didn’t exceed 700 innings after their 30th birthday. All these pitchers’ arms gave out early, and bright careers were prematurely burned out.
Serious elbow surgery can’t be taken lightly, and reinjuring his elbow could cause irreparable damage not only to Strasburg’s arm, but to the Nationals organization as a whole. Moreover, the Nationals have already proven their plan for Strasburg to be effective through their handling of another young and talented pitcher: Jordan Zimmermann. He had the same surgery in 2009 and also had an innings limit placed on him. Now, Zimmermann has one of the lowest earned run averages in the National League.
That is why Strasburg should be shut down even in the midst of a pennant race. Especially considering that the Nats can be successful without Strasburg, shutting him down is a no-brainer.
Zimmermann, all-star Gio Gonzalez and the rest of the Nats’ rotation have proven that while Strasburg is a special talent, one player does not constitute a team. The Nats have allowed the fewest runs in the majors and are second in ERA. At the plate, their lineup has been equally effective: Nats hitters are in the top half of the league for all major batting statistics, including hits and homeruns.
For the Nationals, losing Strasburg isn’t a fatal blow; the team can and will win without him. As the team moves towards the playoffs, fans should stop worrying about losing Strasburg and focus instead on rooting for their team. Yes, Stephen Strasburg has been shut down, but World Series aspirations in the nation’s capital haven’t been.