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Davey Johnson blames the Stephen Strasburg shutdown on the media

Sep 8, 2012, 11:59 AM EDT

Stephen Strasburg AP AP

Nationals manager Davey Johnson just confirmed that Stephen Strasburg has been shut down for the season effective immediately. And his motivation for doing so was a little curious.

According to Mark Zuckerman of, the team pulled the plug early in part due to the media hype surrounding his impending shutdown.

“He’s had a great year,” Johnson said. “And I know what he’s going through the last couple weeks. This media hype on this thing has been unbearable.”

Yes, let’s blame the media for doing their jobs and reporting on a unique situation where one of the game’s best pitchers is being shut down despite being healthy by all accounts. Meanwhile, his team has a legitimate chance to win the World Series. I mean, why would anyone want to talk about that? You know what could be a real distraction? If the Nationals lose in the postseason and every member of the organization is faced with constant questions about whether they could have won it if they had Strasburg. The chorus could get even louder if Strasburg gets hurt anyway or the team doesn’t get this close again.

Many have disagreed with the team’s decision to shut Strasburg down, but until now it was coming out of concern for the pitcher’s long-term health. But this explanation is just plain weak and only makes Strasburg’s path more difficult moving forward. The next time he is faced with a start in a critical situation, we’ll hear the narrative that he wasn’t mentally strong enough to perform well under the pressure of the shutdown. That won’t get old at all.

UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback, both good and bad. All shape my opinion, which is evolving. I hope you’ll read my most recent post on this matter now that I have had a few hours to think about it.

  1. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    But this explanation is just plain weak and only makes Strasburg’s path more difficult moving forward. The next time he is faced with a start in a critical situation, we’ll hear the narrative that he wasn’t mentally strong enough to perform well under the pressure of the shutdown. That won’t get old at all.

    Or, how about this?

    • D.J. Short - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      Yep, he’s right on.

  2. Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Well to paraphrase that insightful comment from Z, “Always blame the media. Even when you’re wrong, you’re right.”

  3. proudlycanadian - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Lets be realistic. 1) Strasburg seems to be running out of gas. 2) the media is full of people with egos who have never run a baseball team, but secretly think that they would be a great GM.

    • D.J. Short - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      But if the Nationals feel Strasburg is running of gas, why not just say that? Why question his mental toughness in the face of the shutdown? It’s just not doing him any favors.

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:44 PM

        Fair point; however, the most important consideration is his long term health which has always been the primary reason for shutting him down early.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:05 PM

        Agreed. If there’s one criticism that has not been levelled against Strasburg, it’s lack of determination. Well, except for Rob Dibble, and he was fired, quite deservedly I thought.

      • ramrene - Sep 8, 2012 at 9:50 PM

        D.J., you’re as much an idiot as every other media clown out there trying so hard to make this an issue so you’ve got material to work with. You’re a comedian who can’t be taken seriously.

        What about the other side of the story? Where’s that in your piece?

        You know, the part about over 70% of pitchers younger than 25 who increased their workload by more than 30 innings over the previous year’s workload break down & don’t fulfill their promise?

        How many pitchers just this year alone not named Strasburg are being shut down by their teams? Where’s all the hype around them?

        Oh, that’s right, you can’t piggyback off others, those names don’t carry the same cachet as the name Strasburg. You’d have to actually work to buildup those stories and it’s just so much easier to pile on.

        The REAL question and the REAL issues is this… Is a shot at the title worth risking a promising 15-year career over? The GM’s of the league are clearly telling you media retards in simple and plain english, “NO” it’s not but you and retards like you just can’t get that through your little tiny itty bitty brains. The idea of having a promising and rising young star and having him play for you for many many years at the expense at one shot in the playoffs just eludes you.

        Face it, you’re a clown. You’ve got no game.

        Tomorrow, look into a mirror and seriously ask yourself “what do I want to be in this industry?”, another idiot getting lost in the shuffle or an unpopular voice of truth with his idiot colleagues but someone who can be respected and followed by the readers?

        Never mind, you just don’t got what it takes. Go back to being a lap dog. You’ve already been weighed, measured, and found wanting.

        Have a nice day!

    • Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      And who never run out of…gas.

  4. metalhead65 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    since you are the first peson to say he is mentally weak then that should tell you why he is blaming the media. the team made the decsion not him and like Johnson said it has been discuseed endlessly ever since so if he had only 1 start let why make him and the team go thru the same questions again and again?

  5. chill7183 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    You know what, I do blame the media and find your article rediculous. This team is a TEAM yet all anyone outside of the Nationals fan base can talk about is Strasburg being shut down. I am a die hard nats fan and I could care less. We have a great team with 4 other starters with am era below 3.50 who else can say that??? It sucks to lose Stras but you know what if we lose in the playoffs how much would 1 starting pitcher account for anyway? We’ll go just as far with or without Stras and I’ll be glad 5 years from now that he isnt compared to kerry wood or mark prior who got burnt out early in their careers. How bout we talk about the geeat year Gio, J zimm, Edwin, Det, Bryce, Desi, Zim, Moose, Laroche, Espi, Werthwhile, Kurt, Jesus, the goon squad, clip, sean, ryan, and all the rest of the TEAM NATIONALS are having. I love Stras but there are 24 other guys on this squad that are the best in baseball. In rizzo I trust. Get off his back its the right call. I cant wait to win the World Series and shove the Strasburg shutdown talk down every media members throat.

  6. bigbenh8tr - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Get off your high horse the media drooled over this almost as much as the tebow hype. Give it a rest its pathetic

  7. zidanevalor - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Over/under until the first “Strasburg couldn’t handle New York” article?

    • chill1184 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:37 PM

      How does this even make sense? I don’t see the Nationals trading him to the Yankees and the Mets are developing pitchers from within.

    • Tim's Neighbor - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      Because the New York media and fans like to brag about how tough and awesome they are when they constantly harass athletes and celebrities. So they write garbage like that, which highly arouses everyone in NYC.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      Strasburg couldn’t last in New York. Too introverted. Wouldn’t pitch with a torn ligament in his elbow. A complete wuss.

      I win! :)

  8. chill1184 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    While I agree with Johnson (because of my own personal loathing of the mainstream sports media) the front office does have to take some blame. If Rizzo didn’t come out in public about it, it wouldn’t have been this big of a story. But to sit here to say that the media did their jobs is laughable.

  9. Tim's Neighbor - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    Way to cherry pick the quote for a stronger headline. Full quote:
    “He’s had a great year,” Johnson said. “I know what he’s going through for the past couple weeks. The media hype on this thing has been unbelievable. I feel it’s hard for him — as it would be [for] anybody — to get mentally, totally committed in a ballgame. And he’s reached his innings limit that was set two years ago, so we can get past this and talk about other things for a change.”

    Media pressure on Strasburg is just a factor among others here. It’s not just that the media was affecting Strasburg, it seems from the quote it was affecting the whole team. He also alludes to medical advice from team doctors who, you know, probably know a lot more about medical things than baseball bloggers, writers and fanboys.

    Also, there is no righteous indignation on Johnson’s part (unlike the author of this piece). He doesn’t seem angry. He’s not questioning the media’s roll or jobs. He’s accepting this as a part of the game and dealing with it rationally. He doesn’t knock Strasburg’s mental fortitude any more than any other player’s.

    Poor and border-line irresponsible analysis on this one.

    Btw, I’m not a Nats fan like the homer above.

  10. umdred11 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    As a Nats fan, my issue isn’t with the media hyping this.

    It’s with the media acting like they spent 4 years in med school, 3 years in residency and performed Tommy John surgery umpteen number of times.

    Have you guys even asked what someone like Dr. James Andrews thinks? What people in the medical profession who deal with this kind of stuff think?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:09 PM

      Fans/media still trump the old steroids crap we got in school D.A.R.E. discussions 20/30 years ago, what makes you think they’d be up to date on current medical procedures?

      • Tim's Neighbor - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:57 PM

        I wish I could like this about a billion times.

        “Let’s see what Tommy John has to say!”

        Why? Is Dr. John now or something? Should I schedule him to do my surgery and rehab?

  11. keithbangedyermom - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    I am so sick of the pretentiousness of this franchise. Eff you Gnats.

    • Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      Classless, as usual.

      • keithbangedyermom - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        Wow….I’m crushed Gator. What you think of me means so much. Pardon me while I go cry myself to sleep.

      • Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:46 PM

        I doubt if you would. You’re clearly incapable of contemplating what a schmuck you are.

  12. natslady - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    The media wanted their readership and their clicks–hence the excess on Bobby Valentine and Strasburg. The old “If it bleeds, it leads.” I don’t “blame” them, in the sense that they have to make a living. I just don’t feel that there was much fair or in-depth reporting and a lot of rewriting of history.

    I do feel that the Nationals FO was a little unprepared for the spotlight, and that doesn’t just apply to Strasburg, that applies to the Metro, the parade planning, letters about postseason tickets, and so on. Everything is a headline when you are a first-place team, things that no one except us locals cared about when the Nats were losing 100 games or even when this was a .500 team.

    The first two times the Nationals were on “national TV” it wasn’t pretty. Same for the series in LA with Stras pitching and Harper’s debut. Trial by media fire.

    Hopefully this will settle down until the playoffs when it will come up again if the Nats ever lose a game.

  13. yahmule - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Let’s summarize. The media manufactured this story since before spring training and kept it simmering all year. The media’s attitudes toward the shutdown ranged from expressions of incredulity to utter scorn to firm belief Washington would buckle under the pressure and reverse themselves. Now the media is attempting to sanctimoniously blame the Nationals for undermining Strasburg’s confidence while absolving themselves for their part in creating this situation. They’ll cheer for Washington to lose so they can continue trying to elicit visceral reactions from fans with no real stake in the ramifications of this decision.

    • Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:10 PM

      That is correct. You can condense with the best of ’em. And your understanding of that subcutaneous layer of civilization populated by sports journalists is pitch perfect.

      Speaking of condensation, ever consider a career as a rainmaker? When you think about it, if there are enough people in the agricultural red states dumb enough to vote for the John Thune et al or the Tea Party candidates, and who make up much of the readership of said sports journalists, they’ll probably be dumb enough to pay you happily to end the drought, too.

      • yahmule - Sep 9, 2012 at 3:12 AM

        My conscience is my curse, Gator.

  14. natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    DJ, I appreciate the sentiment, but agree with those who point out the media’s role. A lot of this endless argument exists because it is about Stephen Strasburg. Not just a very good pitcher on a contending team but STEPHEN STRASBURG, one of the most hyped young talents ever. Trying to minimize the effect of the extreme hype on the current situation is a bit of denial.

    Having said that, I agree that Davey did the kid a disservice. The hype and the criticism, ridiculous as it may be, goes with the proverbial territory. Strasburg has had to learn how to deal with it. At just 24, he’s still learning. Davey didn’t mean to question the kid’s determination. On the contrary, Davey has praised it numerous time. This time, he misspoke. It will probably take a few sit-downs with Stephen to repair the damage.

  15. iclight79 - Sep 8, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Wow… I don’t think the media is at fault at all here. It is doing its job, plain and simple. The Nationals made this thing a story, not the media. He’s a Nats’ asset, and they have a right to do whatever they want and think is best, but the way they handled it from the beginning was poor.

  16. bigleagues - Sep 8, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    I couldn’t resist reposting this on one of today’s Nats posts:

    This conversation may have or may not have reportedly occurred earlier this week:

    BORAS: OK, I just want to make sure we are all on the same page. Hasn’t everything has gone just as we planned?

    RIZZO: Yeah! You bet! E-Jax has come through as you promised, we’ve built a nice divisional lead and I mean, other than the Strasburg shutdown hysteria, it couldn’t have gone better to this point. Stephen’s bounced back great. Better than expected, in fact. Actually, do we really have to shut –

    BORAS: YES! Yes, we do.

    STRASBURG: But I still feel strong. I haven’t had any lingering effects. Can I at least get an MRI and see if I have any issues to be worried about?

    BORAS/RIZZO (at same time, respectively exclaim): NO/YES

    BORAS: Now listen, Stephen, I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but we can NOT have you pitch well in your final two starts. We need to manage the potential for PR blowback on the outside chance that things don’t go our way in the playoffs. The best way to accomplish that is for you to go out there and throw a couple of stinkers which provide us with some public cache in the form of some evidence to support the shutdown decision. As a result, we’ll hush our critics and refocus attention on the rest of the team

    RIZZO reaches for his pepto bismo.

    STRASBURG: But what if this is my first and only best shot at winning a title?

    BORAS: Look, we’ve been over this repeatedly. You’ll still get a ring. (then, turning to Rizzo) Size 15 for me, by the way.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 6:52 PM


  17. manchestermiracle - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    The media is a business, just like baseball. The media writes what sells. Somebody’s buying it, and lots of it. Strasburg is a professional making millions of dollars. Anyone trashing “the media” and feeling sorry for a multi-millionaire who, in the words of his own manager, “didn’t have his head in the game” either needs a real hobby or perhaps some counseling. I’m betting Strasburg will be just fine, whether he ever wins another game or not. The only people who are more obsessed with this storyline than “the media” seem to be folks like the ones found on here.

  18. elchief157 - Sep 9, 2012 at 6:23 AM

    The Nationals are a bunch of @;:(()$”, hope they lose in first round

  19. ninjasports - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    Davey Johnson did not want to make this move, let Stratsburg pitch ->

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