Yesterday, the Nationals finally decided to pull the plug on Stephen Strasburg‘s 2012 season. This is coming just after what would’ve been his last home start of the season on Friday night in which he struggled and was pulled after only three innings. The Nationals have been saying that they were going to do this from March on, and many believed that because they are inn the playoff hunt, they wouldn’t actually shut him down. Looking back, they had the right intentions, but they handled the situation horribly.
I completely understand wanting to have some kind of innings limit for Strasburg. It may not be the best decision to win this year, but for someone with Strasburg’s talent, he has to be protected. Maybe if he was just a fourth or fifth starter, the Nationals would risk it, but no with a pitcher like him, who at 24, is already one of the top ten pitchers in baseball.
Mike Rizzo and the front office could’ve handled this situation so much better. First, they could have pushed the start of Strasburg’s season back so he could pitch in September and October. This should really be the way to go for all young or injures pitchers. Instead of cutting their season short, start it late. It gives them more time to rest, rehab, and strengthen their arms so they are ready to go. You could’ve started him out in the bullpen or found some other creative solution. And it’s not like this decision can’t be made in advance. The Nationals could’ve planned something like this last season when Strasburg was first coming back from Tommy John surgery. However, I really think this is the lesser of the two main problems here. The second mistake was, by far, the biggest one the Washington front office made: telling everyone.
This storyline had been one of the biggest headlines in sports all year. It has been the most talked-about topic in baseball. The Nationals are very lucky that this didn’t turn into a huge distraction that tore the team apart because it sure could have. This could’ve been kept a secret known by Mike Rizzo, his staff, and Strasburg himself. Having the information out there publicly only puts more spotlight and more stress on Strasburg.
There is a real lesson to be learned for front offices around baseball from this situation and that’s to plan farther ahead for injured pitchers but most importantly: keep your plans a secret. It’s been a huge distraction for the Nationals and Strasburg all year. There really was no benefit to telling the press about what was going to happen. Hopefully, GMs around baseball will learn from this and won’t let it happen with other pitchers in the future.