I guess when you studied medicine in some form or fashion as I have, that is so resoundingly clear. Outside the medical community, this would be like someone who built the hydrogen bomb coming in and saying, “You know, to be honest with you, I really don’t think the fallout from that is going to affect anybody. I know some people that after one year and they’re fine. Don’t worry about radiation. Don’t worry about it.”
Q: It sounds like Rizzo and you bonded over this early, and that’s the reason why you felt comfortable sending guys to Washington to be developed. Is that an overstatement?
A: Mike was a developmental guy. Why did I have all these draft picks go to Washington? Why? The answer is I had [Max] Scherzer and Stephen Drew with Arizona. I got to know Mike from there. Mike was like me, a former player. You played pro ball, you understand. And Mike understands the benefit long-term of making sure medical health, a player’s health, and the development of a player is appropriately done. He gets that.
Once I knew that, boom, I started putting players into his system that I knew would benefit the player, benefit the team. And the reality of it is, we had this mutuality. Sure enough, in the Strasburg case, he sat down, listened to the doctors. Going into the season, he said early on, this is what we’re going to do.
Q: Both of you are clearly on the same page with this.
A: And you know what, the other thing is, when I looked at this, I said, ‘Riz, we need more innings.’ He agreed. And we went to ownership, and Ted complied. The Nationals, they brought in Edwin Jackson, they brought in the extra innings, they’ve got a couple extra pitchers in [Ross] Detwiler and [John] Lannan sitting back there. And they also have the ability to acquire more pitching if needed. But not at the risk of, you know, the longevity of Stephen Strasburg’s career to the Nationals, to the organization, to baseball — that’s something that is extraordinary important because he is a unique talent. We want to monitor him for the best interest of the game, long-term.
Q: You sound more certain about this than anything. Is that fair?
A: This is the only industry I know where people are saying, ‘Excuse me, I want to risk a benefit of years of performance, years of productivity, for a one-month, two-month benefit. What industry would someone say they would risk the weight of that with what they think is their only opportunity to win? First of all, when you’re talking about the postseason, talking about all these things, the fact of the matter is, the importance of a No. 1 starter is, no doubt, it’s profound. It’s proven.
But on the other side, there are a lot of other factors that go into what players can and can’t do. And the only thing I know is, that if this doctor gave Stephen clearance then he’d be out there doing it. But you know what? I’m sorry. You’re asking me, you’re taking severe risks if you violate the protocol.”
Q: You still seem bothered by the fact that Mazzone pitched Avery so many innings at such a young age.
A: With healthy pitchers, I’ve heard the testimony by many who say we have the ability to judge their effectiveness. And the fact of the matter is, in the short term, they’re fine. Their velocity is great. But in the long term, a career ended, a brilliant career ended prematurely, due to the taxation of innings, where this pitcher threw a season and a half more than [Tom] Glavine and a full season more than [John] Smoltz by the age of 23. And largely because he pitched extra innings in the postseason every year when he was 21, 22 and 23.