I was talking to a veteran sportswriting friend of mine on Tuesday evening, and he expressed amazement at the way the D.C. media has refused to challenge the Nationals’ plan to shut down Stephen Strasburg.
I know, I know, you support that plan with all your heart, and you despise anyone who doesn’t. Just hear me out for a second.
The vast majority of media members and baseball analysts around the country, my friend argued, seem at least mildly skeptical of the Nats’ plan. The locals, on the other hand, have almost unanimously taken the same side of what seems to be a complex debate. This condition, my friend suggested, makes the titans of the D.C. sports media establishment look like softies, management yes-men (and women) who fear criticizing the powers that be.
I don’t know if I agree. But I have to say, I swallowed hard when I came across this Post Editorial Board statement on the matter.
Mr. Strasburg is a high-performing star. But as The Post’s Adam Kilgore has noted, even without him, the Nationals would still have statistically the best starting pitching rotation in baseball, including all-star Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. There is also the team’s resurgent and sometimes overlooked offense, which leads the National League in runs scored since the all-star break. While the Nats built their reputation on pitching early in the season, they have developed into a well-rounded contender, even without Mr. Strasburg.
The pitcher wants to pitch. “They’re gonna have to rip the ball out of my hands,” he has said. Even so, the Nationals are making a wise move. We hope they won’t need him to push deep into the playoffs this year. They do need him to be healthy for the next 10.
The next 10? Does the Editorial Board know something about Strasburg’s contract status that I don’t? And sure, the offense is resurgent, and the other starters are great, but “we’re good enough without him” isn’t the world’s most persuasive argument for taking a virtually unprecedented step.
(Unless you honestly believe that Zimmermann-Gonzalez-Jackson-Detwiler is better than Strasburg-Zimmermann-Gonzalez-Jackson, not even considering the possibility of an unexpected injury. Do you believe that? Did you watch Tuesday night’s game?)
And this staff editorial came after Thomas Boswell wrote that there isn’t even a debate, that “there is only the Nats’ side, which is correct, and the nincompoop side.”It came after Mike Wise wrote that “there is no best record in baseball, there are no visions of a World Series run, if the Nationals had decided to do it any other way.”
It came after Tracee Hamilton wrote that we should “stifle” the debate, arguing that “honesty, compassion and optimism — isn’t that what you want from your general manager?” It came in the same week that Jason Reid wrote “it just so happens Rizzo has made the right choice. It’s not worth risking Strasburg’s career, no matter how effectively he pitches, by potentially pushing him too far this season.”
That’s a lot of high-powered endorsements from one newspaper.
I’m not saying anyone should go all Skip Bayless on this matter, taking a stand he doesn’t believe in for the purposes of debate. It just seems odd that so many national baseball folks see two sides to this argument while our newspaper sees just one; that not one prominent local voice has cropped up asking whether such a special season might merit special accommodations, whether the window might close faster than we’re now imagining, whether the player himself should have a stronger say in a decision about his own body, whether the science is murky enough to push the limits, whether the Nats are potentially preserving Strasburg’s health for 10 years from now without any inkling of whether he’ll be a National then.
And no, don’t look at me to make those arguments. I don’t do controversy.
Bet it’d be good for pageviews, though.