The Washington Nationals yesterday announced that ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg would be shut down for the remainder of the season. The move comes as little surprise: Team management announced early in 2012 that they would strictly limit Strasburg to around 160 innings for the season, in an effort to protect the young right-hander's long-term health. With the Nats currently holding the best record in baseball, the immediate impact of Strasburg's departure may be slight. If, however, the team falters in the playoffs, the second guessing of the decision to bench their best pitcher--a strong contender for the National League Cy Young award--will continue long into the winter.
A fierce competitor, Strasburg chafed all season at the seemingly arbitrary limit that was being placed on his innings. Indeed, Nats' manager Davey Johnson speculated that Strasburg's poor outing Friday night, in what turned out to be his final start of the season, may be attributable in part to distractions caused by the impending shutdown.
In an interview with "The Solipsist," Strasburg, while still expressing disappointment at the decision--"I just wish I could be out there helping my teammates"--was also philosophical.
"Look, I know I'm coming back from [Tommy John] surgery. I understand that Davey and Mike [Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo] are just looking out for me, and they want me to have a long career."
Asked what he would do now, Strasburg stated his intention to continue traveling with the team and supporting them in whatever way he could. "I'm going to be right there on the bench, Man. Anything my teammates need, I'm going to be there. They want me to chart pitches, help warm up guys in the bullpen, whatever. And when we win the World Series, I want to be right there pouring champagne with everyone else."
Asked if there were any positives in the early end to the season, Strasburg grew animated. "Honestly? I am kind of relieved we've finally gotten this over with. I mean, all you guys in the media kept talking about the innings limit, but that was only part of it!
"The Albertson's down the block? Their express lane is for ten items--but they would stop ringing me up after seven! Which, in a way was OK, 'cause Mike and Davey would only let me carry $20 at a time. . . And for some reason it was all in quarters.
"At every meal, I was allowed 100 chews! I tell you, if I never eat another bowl of soup again, it'll be too soon!
Davey Johnson confirmed the Nationals' actions. "Well, sure, he's a young guy. I know he'd like to chew his food all day if he could. But a pitcher's mouth has only so many chews in it, and we want to make sure he'll be around for awhile."
If anyone was more relieved than Strasburg at the lifting of the team's restrictions, it was his girlfriend, Maggie Johnson. "Well, you know. . .Steve would be allowed 25 . . .uh. . . thrusts? Then they'd have to pull him."