After exiting Friday’s start at the end of three innings, Stephen Strasburg was unusually unavailable to the media following the game. Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo did most of the talking that night and again the following morning, announcing that a decision had been reached to end Strasburg’s season a start earlier than they had originally planned. He had been roughed up by the Marlins for 5 earned runs on 6 hits, looked uncomfortable and fatigued on the mound, and after the game the team knew that it was time to shut him down.
By Saturday night the team’s beat reporters, including Nats Insider’s Mark Zuckerman, had gotten a chance to speak with Strasburg about the situation and – surprise, surprise – he isn’t/wasn’t happy with the decision to shut him down for the season. The 24 year old is highly competitive and it wouldn’t be in his nature to be happy about the decision.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to accept it, to be honest with you. It’s something that I’m not happy about at all. That’s not why I play the game. I play the game to obviously be a good teammate and to win. You don’t grow up dreaming of playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter.
Johnson and Rizzo convened late Friday about the situation, discussing his start that night and the general inconsistencies that have been displayed since the All Star Break. Strasburg posted a 2.82 ERA in 17 starts during the season’s first half. But after the break, in 11 starts he saw the number increase to 3.73, the highest post-All Star Break ERA among the team’s starting rotation. He’s had his share of dominant outings but they’ve been intertwined with disappointing outings. In those 11 starts, his earned runs allowed totals were: 0, 4, 1, 6, 0, 1, 2, 1, 5, 0, 5.
Rizzo also cited Strasburg’s mental fatigue as a key piece of their decision to shut him down. Last Monday when the team discussed their plan to give him two more starts on the season, Strasburg apparently confided he had been having trouble sleeping with all of the national attention this story has received since the season began, but especially as he’s neared this expected limit in recent weeks. It was a revelation that caught Rizzo off guard. An argument could be made that the situation has developed into more of a distraction than anything else, which won’t help a team heading to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Physical and mental fatigue are normal for a pitcher in Strasburg’s situation (i.e. a full year into their recovery from Tommy John surgery). Yet, it’s still unfortunate that the man who’s quickly become one of the leaders on this staff will be asked to remain on the sidelines for the remainder of the season. I stand by in my support of the team’s decision to shut him down, as it’s still the best course of action for the team and for Strasburg long term, but I certainly see the value that will be lost by not having him in their projected playoff rotation. But the fact remains, this team is prepared to battle even without him. And while he doesn’t like the decision, Strasburg is mature enough that he understands the reasons behind it:
It’s an unfortunate situation and it’s a lot harder decision because we won this year. I don’t think anybody would be talking about it if we were just finishing out the year in September. But I want to be here for the long haul and I want to be a part of this for many years to come.