Remember the good old days – you know, when pitch counts didn’t matter and pitchers would go out every four days and throw for nine innings, sometimes even starting both games of a doubleheader?
Well those days are long gone – despite how Nolan Ryan is trying to change the game – and pitchers are seemingly more coddled than ever, just ask Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg. Earlier this season, Nats general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson put a 160-inning limit on the 23-year-old, former No. 1 overall pick.
The idea of the limit was to not overwork or risk a potential injury to Washington’s cash-cow, who the franchise hopes will be putting butts in the seats for the unforeseeable future. But the latest news according to William Ladson of MLB.com is simply ridiculous.
The Nationals – who lead the National League East by 4.5 games – will not let Strasburg pitch in the playoffs if he goes over the 160-inning mark. It’s been two years since his Tommy John surgery and the Nats have the team’s first ever playoff berth in their grasp but that’s not what seems to be most important.
Not too many see it the way Washington does, in fact even Tommy John had something to say about the Nats’ plans to shut down the right-hander. Much like the rest of us, John thinks shutting down Strasburg – who is 12-5 with 127 strikeouts in 127 innings – isn’t a good call.
“They have a lot of money invested in him and are erring in the side of caution. Is it right? I personally don’t think so," John told CSN Washington. “It’ll be hard to tell the other 24 guys on the ballclub, ‘you busted your [butt] and we’re not going to pitch our best pitcher the last month of the season.”
Barring an injury, Strasburg is expected to miss the last few starts of the season due to the limit.
It’s certainly a bold move by the Nationals, who appear to be sticking with the plan. It might be driven by revenues, making money and all that hub-bub, but the team is in the process of building a fan base and is perhaps a legitimate contender to win the National League pennant this season. Wouldn’t you want your team to use its best player, rather than wonder what could have been?
As the innings continue to rack up, Strasburg is going to enjoy Washington’s first taste of October baseball from the dugout. I just wouldn’t want to be the one who has to tell him that!
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