Benching Strasburg not fair to fans of the game (Tiffany)
The Washington Nationals face a huge dilemma with their best pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, who's fast approaching the 180-inning cap at which pitchers supposedly enter a “danger zone” concerning their longevity as a pitcher.
Of course it was a great idea at first — who would’ve thought the Nats would be in the position they find themselves in now; atop the NL east and nearly assured a playoff berth barring a catastrophic meltdown.
It would make sense not to place unnecessary risk on your star pitcher towards the end of a lost season, but this season is not lost for the Nationals — it’s not the maturing year everybody thought it would be for them. It’s a year for them do something their franchise has never done — make it to the World Series.
There’s actually no real proof shutting Strasburg down at 180 innings will preserve his arm and there’s no concrete proof that letting him surpass it will damage his longevity or hinder his development. The 180 inning logic is pulled from stats, not science. There is no science that says shutting a pitcher down will benefit him, and it’s simple really — everyone is different.
The truth is the stats mean nothing because you just don’t know — they’re stats and they can be slanted any which way to make an argument. Every pitcher is different from their wind up, to their delivery, to their pitch selection and that just brings in too many variables to base reason on.
New York Yankees fans love Derek Jeter. Heck, I love Derek Jeter and I’m the furthest from a Yankees fan you can get. Why is he so beloved? Because he loves the game, he loves to win and he dives face first into the stands just to get an out. Nobody questions that kind of commitment and I don’t see anybody concerned over whether or not the Yankee should be letting him do that because he might break his neck.
Let’s bring it a little closer to the mound — Curt Shilling anyone? He pitched for the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees with an ankle injury so severe that his sock was soaked in blood by games end. They won that game, went on to win Game 7 and swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series — talk about inspiring. Players are paid to play the game and give it their best, especially when it’s crunch time, and that involves risk — it’s what’s given us the greatest moments in sports history.
Without getting too far off the beaten path — has anybody considered what Strasburg wants to do in all of this?
He was recently quoted in the Nationals clubhouse: “I feel great. I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank.”
It sounds to me like he might be getting at something, in a media-savvy kind of way of course. I think it’s a bit unfair to him, the fans and the game to shut him down on a hypothetical statistical analysis with so many unknowns. It damages the integrity of the game because removing the best weapon from a team as they enter the playoffs means they are no longer the same team — it’s a betrayal of the system that got them there.
So as long as Strasburg is perfectly healthy and still bringing that high-90s heat come October, it makes absolutely no sense to shut him down because otherwise, why do they even play the game?