The Nasty Nationals have been quite a force this
season. With their enviable balance,
coupling solid pitching with timely hitting and young stars with
By best player, I obviously mean Stephen Strasburg, the
24-year old pitching powerhouse from
There are valid arguments for and against
But this same reasoning could be turned around to justify
the risk of extending Strasburg's season, regardless of the potential
But as it turns out, this wasn't really a baseball decision. It was a medical decision. Apparently, based on information provided by Strasburg's rehabilitation team, a number of innings was agreed upon and once Strasburg reached that number of innings, his season was over. It isn't clear what that amount was, but Strasburg got to 159 before they shut him down. And he won't be coming back for the playoffs, either; his 2012 season is over.
And it is the medical aspect of this decision that bothers me. Granted, none of us know the intimate details of Strasburg's 2011 surgery and recovery like his doctors do, nor are any of us experts in sports medicine, which doesn't afford us any sort of informed opinion on the health risks of Strasburg throwing a certain amount of innings compared to a different amount of innings. Still, something about the whole thing smells rotten. There's nothing wrong with taking medical advice, but the blind acceptance with which the Nationals have accepted the doctors' opinion in regard to Strasburg seems hypocritical to the risk/reward nature of sports that makes it such electric human drama. Fostering a culture of risk aversion, even when based on sound professional advice, undermines the very nature of athletic competition. I mean, if they were given free reign to instruct the whole sport, doctors might shut down the MLB all together, as there is no medical benefit to standing near a concentrated mass of cork and leather flying ninety miles per hour a foot from your head. And as far as we've been told, Strasburg is not hurt. He is fully recovered from his surgery and seems as good as ever (as evidenced by his aforementioned season stats). True, Strasburg has never pitched a full season, or ever approached 200 innings in his life, but uncertainty doesn't condone cowardice. This idea goes beyond sports: you don't need to be hesitant or conservative just because you don't know what might happen. You take the information at hand, make a value judgment, and figure out whether it's worth the risk. That's the crux of this entire issue: is it worth it to bench Strasburg for the rest of the season?
We can't say. We can't say it's worth it to miss out on a great chance to win this season just to have Strasburg healthy in the future. We also can't say it's worth it to risk Strasburg's arm this season when he might be sacrificing the quality of that future. Both routes, as with all things in life, lead to uncertain outcomes. But, there's something to be said for being practical about what's at stake and how legitimate the danger is. Should the Nationals have resorted to such a drastic move based on opinions and speculation about the probability that he might get hurt? There are so many qualifiers and half-truths in that question that I feel pretty comfortable saying that a World Series is an urgent enough impetus to stretch the risk margin and roll the dice that Strasburg will be fine. I have great faith in the resiliency of the human body, but I have even greater faith that Stephen Strasburg knows his own body better than any doctor. He's been bred since he was a boy to do one thing: throw baseballs. Thousands of other pitchers have been in his situation and kept on throwing baseballs. Some ruined their arms. Some ended up in the Hall of Fame. I'm not predicting which is more likely for Strasburg, but I tell you one thing: you don't get into the Hall of Fame by shutting it down with a month left in the season when your team is headed towards winning a pennant.
So let's examine the potential outcomes of
But those outcomes ignore the worst case scenario, which,
in my opinion, is the most likely outcome of all: that Stephen
into the big league powerhouse we all know he can be and his arm
enough to last an entire season and he leads his team to a World Series
championship, only, that team isn't the Nationals.
Because that's an aspect of this decision
All things considered, I'd rather take the uncertainties of the present than the utter unpredictability of the future. The National's can win a World Series this year, for fuck's sake; they should probably let Strasburg pitch and go after it. I mean, it's not like his arm is going to fall off. Probably not, anyway.