August 13, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) smiles in the dugout during the ninth inning at AT

Yet Another Strasburg Shut Down Opinion

Yes, I am just as sick of this issue as the rest of you. ESPN, MLB TV, every online sports site, sports radio station and newspaper in the country has constantly weighed in on the issue of Stephen Strasburg’s impending shut down in September. You can’t escape the chatter, discussions, opinions and articles. The only good thing the current media focus on Strasburg has produced is lack of media attention on Bryce Harper’s hitting slump.

I don’t understand the commentators and fans who insist that, since the Nats have a winning record this year and have a chance to make the playoffs, Strasburg should not be shut down.
If you contrast all the fuss about Strasburg this year vs. the non-issue shutting down Jordan Zimmermann was last year, it becomes clear that the folks that are pushing for Strasburg to keep pitching are only doing so because the Nationals have a winning team this year. That factor should make no difference in the decision making process.

Zimmermann pitched in 2011 in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. The medical information garnered by the Nationals front office indicated that Zimmermann should not pitch more than 160 innings to preserve his health and the success of his surgery. From the beginning of the season, the Nationals announced up front and everyone knew that Jordan would not pitch more than 160 innings. Once he reached his innings limit, he was shut down and did not pitch another inning in 2011, even though at the time he was arguably the best pitcher on the team. There was no controversy about the decision. It was announced up front, it was not bemoaned all through the season, and there were not three thousand articles a day discussing the pros and cons of the decision.

Strasburg is pitching in 2012 in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. As the Nats did with Zimmermann, the team announced at the beginning of Spring Training that Stephen would be shut down after 160 innings. That announcement by Mike Rizzo at the beginning of this season did not generate much controversy at the time. As the season went on and the Nats turned into a winning ball club, spending much of the season on top of the NL East, the decision to shut down Strasburg began to become controversial. Now that the Nats have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time, the pressure is now on Rizzo and the Nats organization to change their minds. Rizzo has refused to change his mind, except that Strasburg’s inning shut down number at the beginning of the season was 160, but recently Rizzo has fudged on the number, stating that it is between 160 and 180 innings. Rizzo has shown he’s not totally immune to the pressure of having a winning ballclub.

The only difference in the Strasburg and Zimmermann situations is this: last year Zimmermann was pitching for a club that was not going to make the playoffs and this year Strasburg is pitching for a club that has a chance to make the playoffs.

Whether a pitcher is throwing for a winning or losing team makes absolutely no difference to the medical information or the expert opinions on how to handle a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery. The medical information doesn’t come with a fudge factor based on whether the team the pitcher is on is going to make the playoffs or not.

So I want to know–who are these people who think that the medical advice should be ignored if the team is winning as opposed to losing? What does that say about Nats fans, baseball fans and sports commentators who continue to whine about this issue and insist that Strasburg should keep pitching because the team should make the playoffs? I find it very strange that these people have not been called out for their “win now” attitude.

Which is why you are reading another opinion about the Strasburg shut down issue. I am calling out all fans, sports writers and commentators who believe that Strasburg should keep pitching. You are wrong. The medical advice says you are wrong. Whether this team is winning or losing does not change the medical advice or the medical opinion on how to handle Strasburg’s innings this year. There is no difference in the way Jordan Zimmermann was treated and how Stephen Strasburg has to be treated. They are patients with the same problem and the same treatment applies to both players. Otherwise, it would turn out that Zimmermann got a better chance at having a longer, more injury free career than Strasburg does. And that is not fair.

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Tags: Jordan Zimmermann Nationals Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

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