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The Nationals have shut down Stephen Strasburg effective immediately

Sep 8, 2012, 11:08 AM EDT

Stephen Strasburg, Davey Johnson AP AP

UPDATE: From Davey Johnson’s comments after last night’s game, it sounded like Stephen Strasburg might get an extra start, but the Nationals are actually pulling the plug early. According to Byron Kerr of MASN, Johnson just announced that Strasburg has been shut down effective immediately.

Strasburg was previously scheduled to make his final start of the season Wednesday against the Mets, but Johnson expressed concern after last night’s game that the controversy over the looming shutdown was effecting his performance. He will finish his season with a 15-6 record to go along with a 3.16 ERA and 197/48 K/BB ratio over 159 1/3 innings. John Lannan is expected to take his place in the starting rotation down the stretch.

10:44 AM: Stephen Strasburg’s impending shutdown was the big topic of conversation after he gave up five runs over just three innings last night against the Marlins. According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, Nationals manager Davey Johnson thinks the whole situation is weighing on Strasburg’s mind.

“To be honest with you, I think he was thinking too much about the decision of what we were going to shut him down,” Davey Johnson said. “And he kind wore it like it. … I think he wasn’t focused as much on the game as he was on the impending shutdown. Just he way I read it.”

Strasburg said after the game that the looming shutdown had no impact on his performance last night, but Johnson said the young right-hander is “having trouble sleeping, thinking about letting the guys down.” He is currently slated to make his final start of the season Wednesday against the Mets, but Johnson said that last night’s abbreviated outing “might” make the Nationals reconsider their plan.

It’s hard to see how dragging this issue out for say, one extra start, is beneficial to anyone involved, but it looks like the Nationals want him to at least finish his season on a high note. The 24-year-old is currently at 159 1/3 innings in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. He has a 3.16 ERA on the year, including a 3.73 ERA in 11 starts since the All-Star break.

  1. willclarkgameface - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    I can’t wait until this team is watching the NLCS from some golf course in Hawaii.

    Rizzo and the owners are idiots.

    • chill1184 - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      They’re dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t.

    • paperlions - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      Here is what I know:

      People that know far more than I do about recovery from TJ surgery and far more about Strasburg’s specific situation are making the decision. Those people have far more invested in the decision than any of the rest of us and they don’t look at 2012 as a 1-time deal, they expect to compete for the WS every year for the next 1/2 decade and they want to do everything they can to make sure Strasburg is a part of those years as well.

      I just can’t find any ground to criticize this decision.

      • willclarkgameface - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        Are you 20? If not, you talk like you are. Don’t be so naive. Pitchers have come back from TJ surgery and pitched quite well the next season. It’s not the dark ages.

        We’re are being fed a line of bull shit and if you buy it hook, line, and sinker, that’s your prerogative.

        EVERY team (well, maybe not the Royals and Indians) feel like they can compete every year for a World Series. SO WHAT! If you are this close to glory, are you just supposed to give up and say, “Eh…we’ll try again next time.”

        That’s losers mentality, mijo and I hate people that would rather play it safe than just take it by the jugular and go for it.

      • paperlions - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:17 PM

        Please list ever pitcher that has returned from TJ surgery, and pitched more than 160 innings his first full year back.

        You sound like you are 20, because you are completely okay with being reckless with someone else’s future and investment. You also never provide any evidence/basis for any of your opinions and come off like an asshat the vast majority of the time with your over-the-top, black and white, information free I always know best even when I have no information commentary.

      • paperlions - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:23 PM

        FWIW, the Nats did the same thing with Zimmerman, and that seemed to work out pretty well so far. The fact is that the reward is small compared to the risk. Add in that Strasburg is still a relatively young pitcher, and going balls-to-the-wall 220 innings is just a wreckless and dumb thing to do with such an asset…..ask the Cubs and Mark Prior how well leaning to heavily on a young pitcher works out long-term (hell, ask Denny McLain, not that he’d remember).

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:12 PM

        Please list ever pitcher that has returned from TJ surgery, and pitched more than 160 innings his first full year back.

        Also remember that Strasburg has never pitched more than 130IP in his professional career. So this shut down was a combination of recovery from TJ surgery AND keeping his workload down. Most argue with the former and completely ignore the latter.

      • dallasnative - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:13 PM

        I can list a few pitchers that pitched more than that 1st year back, First Tommy John himself pitched 207 inning his first year back. Almost everyone except the older guys like Smoltz and Nathan and they went to being bullpen pitchers. Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson etc first full year back pitched more than 160 innings. Not saying this situation is not what they should do but that logic is not correct as most of them have pitched more innings than that first full year back.

    • andrewproughcfe - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      Give it a rest – the dude is gassed. He’s given up 7 runs in 5 innings and 5 runs in 3 innings in 2 of his last 3 starts. He had a couple of good starts in August, but in late July gave up 6 runs in 4 innings and 4 runs in 5 innings. He started off the year on fire, but since June 25th, he’s been running into a lot of trouble. Whether they shut him down or not, he probably doesn’t have enough left in the tank to be the ace of the staff in October who would bring home a championship.

  2. keithbangedyermom - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Morons. Dumbest decision since the Yanks with Joba. And now they’re waffling. Just morons
    .

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      What did the Yanks do wrong with Joba?

      • djeter220 - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:38 AM

        Were overcautious with him. Played too many games with him between the “Joba Rules” and switching back and forth between the pen and rotation.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:44 AM

        So they tried something for his benefit, and he ended up getting hurt anyhow? Again, what did they do wrong?

        Plenty of pitchers started in the minors, came up to the pro’s in the bullpen and transitioned back to the starting rotation. The “Joba Rules” were as much for his benefit because Torre couldn’t be trusted in not blowing out a young player’s arm.

      • contraryguy - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        They didn’t put a ‘no trampolines’ clause in his contract.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:13 PM

        They didn’t put a ‘no trampolines’ clause in his contract.

        touche’

  3. succulentnipples - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    They have a little success and now management is running around the building with their junk tucked between their legs.

  4. chill1184 - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Well it’s finally done. If the Nats go onto the World Series and bring home DC’s first sports championship since the Redskins third Super Bowl victory in 1991 then it will be regarded as a precautionary move. If the Nats fail and bringing home the hardware, I can only imagine the uproar that Rizzo is going to hear from the fans and possibly ownership.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      From ownership, no. They have allowed him to do his job, and Rizzo has helped build one of MLB’s best organizations for them. As well as a team that has gone from worst to best record in 3 seasons.

      Fans, some. The shutdown has been known since Strasburg returned last August. We’ve had a lot of time to prepare. Even many who oppose the shutdown have accepted it, however reluctantly. Also, consider that the Nats have lost a lot of man-days to injury this season. They have not only survived, they have prospered. Just as the Cards did despite losing Adam Wainwright for the entire 2011 season. Losing one player should not shatter our faith in this team, a team that has overcome a lot.

      You’re right that this is a no-win situation for the Nats. IMHO, it could have been handled better. But the notion that the Nats can’t win without Strasburg, that the other 24 guys plus John Lannan can’t win, is nonsense.

  5. daveeproc - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Except almost every fan I’ve talked to, at games and otherwise, support the shutdown. But don’t let facts get in the way of your narrative.

    • Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      Facts, or some of the gibbering, spiteful, juvenile jackasses that we have commenting on the issue here. You can tell who they are by the off-the-corner, junior high school maturity level of their handles.
      It’s a smart move by the Gnats, thinking for the long term. Teams with great fully intact rotations – see last year’s Feelies, or one that I’m especially partial to, the 1969 Gloryholes (who, it must be admitted, were at a bit of a disadvantage because they did not have the genius of Peter Angelos to guide them back then) still lost anyway. If the Gnats win or lose in the postseason, it will be a function of the degree of guts, skill and heart of the 25 guys they do put on the field, not of the ones they don’t.

    • xmatt0926x - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:53 AM

      daveeproc, you’re joking right? You can’t be silly enough to actually believe that the fans response to this question right now is a true response that will hold up no matter how the teams season ends. Right now they are running away with the division and making it look easy. Of course everyone is on board right now because they just assume that the team is going keep beating everyone once the playoffs start. Look at any teams fanboards on a nightly basis. When the team wins everything is perfect. When the team loses everyone sucks, the manager is an idiot, the players are choking. Ohh..that’s right. Washington fans are just a little different, right? Stop kidding yourself. If this team loses without going deep in the playoffs you’ll see that those fan polls from June and July don’t hold much water. It’s funny every time one of the Nats fans on here says “but there was a fan poll and 85% agree with the decision!!”. Grow up.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        Your point about fan polls and the volatility of fan attitudes is well taken. However, your comment about “every” Nats fan relying on them is an unfair generalization. Speaking as one Nats fan, I don’t care all that much about such things. I look at the team, how it is playing, what the front office is doing. Looks good. Given that, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

        The organization made a considered decision. Reasonable people disagree. Unreasonable people disagree, but they don’t count. The decision will not be validated or condemned based on whether the Nats win the 2012 World Series, because the decision was made for the long run. Which is OK, since I’m not going to stop rooting for the Nats in October 2012.

  6. willclarkgameface - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    So not only is Strasburg not physically jacked enough to play baseball, he isn’t MENTALLY jacked enough either?

    I love it.

    Not only do I hope the Nationals fail big time, I hope they don’t even win the division. It’s officially time to start being a temporary Atlanta fan. Go Braves!

    • wethog66 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      You are a temporary Braves fan, but you appear to be a full time tool.

  7. wethog66 - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    The NFL is in the midst of taking steps to protect there players from injury and the press and fans applaud it for the most part.

    One team in MLB is trying to look out for the long term interest of a young player and the press and fans call them idiots.

    PRICELESS

    • trigzter - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:30 PM

      head injuries are a little different than elbow injuries.

  8. Ben - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    I actually think their shutting him down is defensible. It’s just how they’re doing it that’s indefensible. There were numerous ways in which they could have limited his innings while keeping him in the rotation for a lot longer. That’s just poor management.

    • wethog66 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      They wanted him to have a normal spring training and to participate in a normal rotation. Considering he is coming of TJ surgery and has never pitched a full MLB season before I don’t see how putting him on a schedule that differs from what a normal pitcher does simply to draw out his starters over a full season helps him.

    • chicagofan4ever - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      Yes, I believe that is what the White Sox have been doing with Chris Sale to some extent. Just about a month or so ago he missed a start due to “Dead Arm” wink, wink! He also missed a start earlier in the year.

    • elmo - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      Agree with Ben above. There are any number of ways the club could have both kept him under the innings limit, and available throughout the season. If the Nats get bounced in the early rounds–especially if it happens because their starting pitching fails–there’s going to be a lot more racket about this. And I bet some of it will come from Nats fans who currently support the shutdown.

  9. temporarilyexiled - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    It’s a sound move, but one I wouldn’t make. Luckily, I don’t run the team. The only way we’ll ever know what kind of move this is…is to wait. It’s not likely, but it’s possible that they still win it all, and then all the stupid comments will stand out more. Or maybe we’ll find the Nationals not going very deep in the postseason this year, but doing really well for several years, including winning it all in the near future. And yes, maybe it all goes to hell, and Mike Rizzo and the like don’t sleep a wink for the rest of their lives. Personally, I think it’ll be the middle scenario…but I still wouldn’t have the guts to do what they’re doing. For me, in a battle of cliches, life is too short wins out over patience is a virtue.

  10. willclarkgameface - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    There’s an obvious story here. Who exactly leaked the information that Strasburg was on an innings limit to begin with? Did Larry Lucchino call the Washington Post with this info or something?

    Really, though…they could have done this in a very different way. They could have curtailed his innings all year, not letting him pitch beyond 6, making sure he would factor into a decision, but not letting him get into higher pitch counts if that’s what they were concerned about.

    Again, why did we have to know about this story? What is going on here? Is someone trying to make Mike Rizzo look good if this works? I think it’s a lame move by some deep throat in the organization and reeks of “hey look at me” story telling.

    Lose Nationals. Just lose already. THAT would be a good story.

    • wethog66 - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:11 PM

      No one leaked anything. The Nats and Rizzo have said since before this season started that Strasburg would follow the same schedule that Jordan Zimmerman did coming off TJ surgery the previous season. Us Nats fans that have followed this team from the beginning knew that, just because fans of other teams and national media only picked up the story after the all-star break doesn’t mean someone leaked something. Just means you all weren’t paying attention.

  11. icanspeel - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    I agree with them sticking to the 160 innings limit, but at the same time it seems like they could have spread him out longer since they knew his innings were capped.

  12. cheers4ablumpkin - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Wow. If I was streas, I tell the nationals that I want to be traded. How can they shut a young man down for the rest of the season when there in the middle of a
    Penate race.

  13. 8man - Sep 8, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    Dumbest decision ever to shut him down for the playoffs too. The rest of the National League contenders are giggling, high fiving and liking their chances even more.

    Stoopid.

  14. whodeytn - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    What a terrible decision.

  15. Show Me Your TDs - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Stupid. Can’t help but want to see this team bounced from the playoffs and then we can point to this as a reason why. When you have a chance to go after a championship you man up and go for it because you never know if or when you will ever have another chance.

  16. chicagofan4ever - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    I still have my doubts. Yes, they did it with Zimmermann, but they were not in the playoff hunt then. If they have truly shut him down, he will not be Active on the Playoff Rosters. Just my take on the situation.

  17. yahmule - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I commend the Nationals for sticking to their obviously well considered decision in the face of largely inane and borderline apoplectic criticism.

  18. mplsjoe - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    One part of this decision I haven’t seen written about much is money. The Nats (like all pro sports teams) are both a for-profit business and a competitive team. By shutting down Straburg this year in order to (possibly) keep him healthier for future years, the Nats are choosing the former over the latter, and the former is more financially profitable for the Nats than the latter. That’s the reason ownership supports this decision – they’d rather make more money for more years than try to win this year.

    That’s certainly a rational decision. But choosing to sacrifice a chance to win this season in the name of greater down-the-road profits would bother me very much if I was a Nats fan.

  19. drewzducks - Sep 8, 2012 at 4:28 PM

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