Don’t Listen To John Feinstein, Nats Fans: He’s Wrong, And He’s Bad For You

I know how you feel, Nats fans. BOY do I know.

For me, as a Boston Red Sox fan, what befell the Washington Nationals last week stirred unpleasant memories of having my own hopes dashed by the cruel bounces and turns of that little white ball, as it turned my team from sure winners to embarrassed losers faster than you could say”Bucky Dent.” Luckily, as I have explained here, my temporary abandonment of the beloved Hose did not turn me into a Nationals devotee, so I could watch the horrors of the Nats’ ninth inning, decisive game catastrophe, which occurred when they were one strike away from victory and a step closer to their first World Series in 79 years, with analytical detachment. I have consoled my heart-broken friends, and am prepared to help them through the long, hard winter, when visions of “what ifs?”will dance through their heads instead of sugarplums. John Feinstein, the acclaimed sports writer, isn’t helping, however. Continue reading

The Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg Dilemma

The real problem with Stephen Strasburg’s pitching arm is that it’s attached to his neck…

I must apologize to those who care about baseball-related ethics matters. I have been so immersed in the problems dogging my sad and dispirited Boston Red Sox that I have neglected the more glaring ethics issue looming over my current home town team, the Washington Nationals, currently on top of the National League East and almost certainly bound for their first post-season appearance. They face that prospect, however, with a problem: before the season began, management pledged that Stephen Strasburg, the team’s young fire-balling ace who seems destined for a Hall of Fame career, will be shut down for good once he hits 180 innings or less. Strasburg has already had serious arm surgery once, and conventional baseball wisdom now holds that throwing too many pitches before a pitcher has matured risks his arm, his effectiveness and his career. What this means now, however, that was hardly conceivable when the pledge was made, is that the Nationals could be battling the best teams in baseball in pursuit of a World Series title with their best pitcher completely healthy but in mothballs.

I had only given this matter perfunctory focus, concluding as a fan that it was a screwball plan that would never be executed, and not thinking much about the ethics of the controversy—and as you might imagine, it’s a big controversy in the Washington area sports pages. It took respected baseball writer John Feinstein to shock me out of my apathy with his sensible and well-reasoned column on the issue today, that ended thusly:

“Pitching a healthy Strasburg in October is not a betrayal, it’s simply recognizing that circumstances have changed. Not pitching him is a betrayal: to the pitcher, to the team, to the fans and to the city.” Continue reading