Every kid who plays sports dreams of that moment.
That moment of hitting the game winning jumper in an NBA Finals game and sending the crowd into an unparalled frenzy. That moment of throwing the game-winning touchdown to win the Super Bowl and having the confetti rain down on you.
Now imagine having a realistic opportunity to live that once-in-a-lifetime moment. Then imagine it being taken away.
Such is the life of Stephen Strasburg.
With the Washington Nationals owning the majors’ best record, Strasburg could make that childhood dream of pitching in the World Series under the bright lights a reality.
But “Shutdown Day” is imminent for the 24-year-old Nationals’ ace.
When Strasburg, a strong candidate for the NL Cy Young, reaches his preset innings limit somewhere between 160 to 180, he will be shut down for the remainder of the season.
At this pace, he would likely miss the Nationals’ last two or three starts.
The infamous argument remains – Should the Nationals shut down Strasburg, or let him keep pitching?
Strasburg had Tommy Johnny surgery in 2010, and then pitched 44 innings in 2011.
Doctors recommended limiting his innings this year to decrease the stress on his arm and avoid future injuries. So the Washington Nationals set a limit of 160 innings for him.
But that was before the Nationals played themselves into World Series contention for the first time in franchise history. It’s a monumental change for a club that hasn’t made the postseason in 31 years.
The Nationals management wants a healthy Strasburg leading the team to the postseason annually instead of risking it all for one postseason run.
Kerry Wood, once a young, electric pitcher, had surgery at 22. From ages 24-26, he averaged ~200 innings per season, only to be plagued by injuries the rest of his career. But for every Kerry Wood, there are tons of pitchers who had healthy careers.
It’s the ultimate what if game.
Strasburg could be shut down this September and be injured in a few years. He could play it out and get injured down the road or never get injured again.
Nobody knows, but the Nationals seem intent on playing it risk-free.
Strasburg is the pitcher of the next decade, like Sandy Koufax, Roger Clemens, and so many others have once been, so why jeopardize that?
For any team other than the New York Yankees, opportunities to make the World Series don’t happen that often. Heck, it will be 31 years between chances for the Nationals.
How about the Nationals’ 24 other players, shouldn’t they have a say in this?
For most of them, this may be their only chance to make the postseason, let alone the World Series. Those ’24-other’ players have invested hundreds of hours into this and probably spent much of that time away from their families. Now they’ve earned an opportunity to do something special, and their best player won’t be available to help them do it?
It doesn’t seem very fair at all.
Just like any other sport, baseball players don’t play for the regular season. It’s about the postseason. It’s about October.
There has to be a way around this predicament, right?
How about shutting him down for the final three weeks of the regular season and bringing him back for the postseason? Or they could let him take a short stint on the DL for some minor injury (thumb, toe, etc.)?
Doctors say that taking Strasburg out of his routine then throwing him right back into the mix would only increase his chances of injury.
For the Nationals, “Shutdown Day” is not up for debate.
“You know, there’s a lot of different ways you could trick this thing up and a lot of different ways you could try to stretch him out,” Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We want to do what’s best for Stephen in the long run. So we’re going to let him pitch on a regular routine, get him to an innings limit that he’s comfortable throwing and then shut him down, and ramp him back up in spring training to take us to the next level.”
What does Strasburg himself have to say on his innings limit?
“They’re going to have to rip the ball out of my hands.”