The season-long “Stephen Strasburg Shutdown OMG” debate really started churning last week, when Thomas Boswell wrote a strongly-worded column endorsing the Nats’ conservative approach. Got more than 700 comments, too. Wrote Boz:
There is no debate here, no “two sides,” about the Nationals’ intention to shut down Strasburg’s season at 160 to 170 innings, probably about Sept. 10. There is only the Nats’ side, which is correct, and the nincompoop side, even if it is endorsed by former players or “experts.”
Well, the past few days have added a few names to the “nincompoop side,” starting with one Stephen Strasburg.
The All-Star pitcher was on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio on Tuesday, and Jim Bowden tried a novel approach to the shutdown question.
“Stephen, a lot’s been made about the inning limit, and I’m sure you’ve been asked it 50 million times, so I’m not gonna go there,” Bowden began. “But just make sure I know: You’re gonna be pitching Game 1 of the World Series if the Nationals get there, aren’t you?”
“Well, they’re gonna have to rip the ball out of my hands, that’s all I can say,” Strasburg answered.
“That was good,” Bowden said.
The former GM, by the way, spoke at great length about this issue earlier Tuesday, while hosting for SiriusXM at the FanFest event. He stressed that his first priority would be to keep Strasburg “healthy for the next five years,” and that “the facts are we have a lot more risks once we go over 170 [innings].”
But Bowden still said he’d find a way to make this work.
“If I’m going to manage innings with a player like that, this is how I manage them,” he said. “I save enough innings for the World Series, the League Championship Series, the division and the month of September. I make sure I have that taken care of first. You have to manage backwards.
“If you want to win a World Series, this isn’t about one player,” he continued. “What about Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper and Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche? This is about a city, a franchise, an organization, a chance to win the World Series. How many chances do teams get to win a World Series?
“So, I have to manage Strasburg, because when I get to October, you think Detroit is going to sit down Verlander because of innings? Really? Do you think the Yankees are going to say, ‘Sabathia, go sit down because our formula says you’re at 220 and you’re ineffective when you go over.’ Really? No, no, no, when you get to October your big boys pitch and you go win a World Series.
“What did the Giants do two years ago? They ran the table. Why? Cain ran the table, Bumgarner ran the table. The Cardinals won last year. Why? They were a wild card team. How did they run the table? Carpenter beat Halladay, they ran the table. Strasburg can do that. You want to have a world championship flag, you got a chance right now, I don’t care how you manage the innings or how you manage the arm, but he’s pitching in October. I don’t care how, and that’s what I’m telling everybody.”
Meanwhile, Washingtonian’s Brett Haber wrote a column siding with Bowden:
The fact is this: Strasburg is healthy until he isn’t. The Nats brought him back last September for the expressed purpose of accelerating his full readiness for 2012. By the time this September rolls around, he will have been back pitching in the bigs for a year. It’s time to take the training wheels off. It’s laudable that Nats management is looking out for his long-term future. But for all we know, Strasburg’s long-term future could be with another team. His present is in Washington, and we have a chance to win now.
Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were getting ready for a similar discussion during Tuesday night’s Fox All-Star broadcast before Strasburg’s inning of work abruptly ended.
There will be more of this over the next two months. There will be lots more of this.