Why Michael Morse still regrets the Nationals’ Strasburg Shutdown


(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Strasburg Shutdown was extensively litigated in Ye Olde Court of Public Opinion and Endless Blog Posts™ for much of the summer of 2012, and yet there’s still no verdict. Absent Stephen Strasburg’s arm self-destructing in a fiery inferno or the Nats winning seven of the next eight world titles, there may never be a verdict.

Local fans, in my estimation, still largely support the team’s stance of protecting its ace for future seasons. Non-local fans and media members, in my estimation, still think it was an overly protective blunder that cost the team a shot at postseason glory, no matter how Strasburg was pitching down the stretch.

And former Nats players? Well, count Michael Morse in Camp Skeptical.

“A lot of people don’t realize you might only get one shot,” Morse recently told USA Today. “One shot. That could have been the only shot. I just wish we could have given it everything we had, but we didn’t.”

The USA Today reporter — Bob Nightengale — also wrote that “several of his former teammates,” like Morse, remain haunted by the decision. Those teammates aren’t named. But if you recall, The Post’s Adam Kilgore described the shutdown as understood but unpopular back in 2012, quoting people like Adam LaRoche and Mark DeRosa on the matter.

“I get their side,” LaRoche said then. “But our side is, the playoffs aren’t guaranteed. You don’t want to shut your best guy down — or one of your best guys, because we’ve got a bunch of them — if you’re never going to go back there. If I knew for the next two or three years we’re going to go back, then it’s probably an easy decision.”

You get the sense from Morse’s recent comments that such talk was not scarce in the Nats’ clubhouse. Here’s another excerpt from the USA Today story:

[Morse] hated the idea his only chance at a World Series ring may have been taken away once the Nationals decided to preserve Strasburg’s arm. He still refused to believe it right up to the final inning of the final game of the 2012 Division Series, when the Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth to win, 9-7.

“It was such a weird feeling,” Morse says. “I kept watching Stras throwing bullpens, still running, still doing his thing. I thought, ‘Man, maybe he’s going to come out of the bullpen.’ Or in Game 5, the lights are going to turn off, the spotlight is going to come on, he’s going to run out.

“I remember talking to guys like Mark DeRosa, and they said, ‘This could be your one and only shot.’ It made sense what they were saying to me.”

This probably won’t be the last time a member of that team talks about the shutdown. Or that I write about it. Or that people in the comments demand I stop writing about it. Or that I follow up a post about the Strasburg Shutdown with a post about the Redskins name.

(Via @recordsANDradio)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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