Shutting Down

OK, I could blog about the state’s “surplus” or Medicare or something else political.

Or I could talk about Stephen Strasburg.  As everyone in the “703″ is aware, the Nationals are planning to shut down their ace Strasburg once he has reached 160 innings pitched.  This is due to the fact that Strasburg had “Tommy John” surgery in 2010, which involved rebuilding his right arm after a catastrophic arm injury.

Praising the Nats for “doing the right thing” is the default option here — and most D.C. columnists have trod that well-trampled path.

But there’s one major difference.  There is no medical opinion (of which I’m aware) which states that a pitcher should pitch less than 160 innings two years after Tommy John surgery.  That number is arbitrary, decided by the team’s management and announced with great fanfare.  Perhaps it’s a number negotiated between the team and the player’s agent.  Perhaps it was chosen by throwing darts at a board.

That’s a number that probably made sense last year when the Nats were struggling through yet another losing season.  But 2012 is different.  The Nats have the best record in baseball and a punched ticket for the post-season.  They have a legitimate chance to win the first World Series for this community since 1924.  Will they ever pass this way again?  (yes, they have lots of young talent — so did the Capitals — need I say more?)

Strasburg may be the best pitcher in baseball.  But this is a sum of many parts.  Strasburg’s ERA is low (2.91), but so is the team ERA (3.27).  Does his presence add ten extra victories?  No.  Five?  I’m not sure.

One of the defining principles of team sports is that the team is more important than the individual.  It does not require a player to rush forward who is not physically fit.  But it is demoralizing to have a player (apparently healthy) to shut down in order to preserve his future prospects.

I’m sure I’ll be in the minority with this opinion.  Again, the default option is to praise management for considering player safety.  But it’s a decision that seems driven by the player’s market power, not by actual safety data.

Update:  Consensus in Deer Park neighborhood (door-knocking there on Sunday) was that Nats are making the right decision.  We’ll see.

 

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