They’re all parts of dissecting any defeat, but this loss is different because it was brought about by a decision made in February. There’s simply no getting around it, no saying, “Well you never know.”
Maybe you don’t know, but you can make a very educated guess. The Nationals were one pitch from winning this series without Strasburg. Does anyone really think they wouldn’t have been better off with Strasburg in the rotation instead of Jackson? Johnson surely would have pitched Detwiler had he had to choose one or the other.
The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga, Chico Harlan, Adam Kilgore, James Wagner and columnist Thomas Boswell recall the journey of the Washington Nationals since the team moved from Montreal to providing Washington its first first-place finish in 79 years, and all the good and bad moments in between.
Insight on the Nationals and all the latest news from Post reporters Adam Kilgore and James Wagner.
The worst part wasn’t the Strasburg plan itself; the worst part was the insistence on sticking to it. In sports, you have to adjust on the fly. In football, it’s called an audible. When the Nationals spent the first half of the season proving they were as good as anyone in baseball, the brain trust needed to audible — with Boras not part of the conversation.
Strasburg should have been stretched out: a stint on the disabled list; a couple of missed starts; a few games in which his pitch count was no more than 75; anything that could have kept him pitching into October. No one wanted to jeopardize Strasburg’s future — although he was coddled from the moment he was signed in August 2009 and still ended up needing Tommy John surgery a year later.
In the spring of 2010, the Capitals entered the playoffs with hockey’s best record. They took a three-games-to-one lead in the first round against a mediocre Montreal Canadiens team. Then, somehow, they collapsed and lost the series in seven games. The stunned silence of Caps fans leaving Verizon Center that night was deafening. Still, there was always Next Year.
For the Caps, Next Year hasn’t come yet.
It may very well come in 2013 for the Nats — or it may not. Regardless, here’s the difference between the Caps and the Nats: The Caps didn’t rest Alex Ovechkin because his agent wanted to save his legs for the future.
The Nats didn’t lose because Storen couldn’t get one more out. They lost because of hubris and stubbornness and the wrong person leading the decision-making.
Next Year will come soon enough. But the pain of this loss will linger for a very long time.
For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com. To read his previous columns for The Post, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.