(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)


Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal has written frequently on the Strasburg Shutdown over the past few weeks. And every time he does so, diehard Nats fans seem to take umbrage with Rosenthal’s thoughts.

There was the Aug. 22, column, a tongue-in-cheek plea to the Nats to shut Strasburg down immediately.

There was the Sept. 1 column, in which Rosenthal urged Scott Boras to take ownership of the Shutdown, letting Mike Rizzo off the hook.

And then there was Wednesday’s offering, in which Rosenthal examined the continued dissent inside the Nats’ clubhouse on the issue.

“Sorry, it’s time to utter the S word,” he wrote. “Heck, some of the Washington Nationals’ players are saying it, with very little prompting. ‘If we had ‘Stras, we’d be up 2-0,’ one player told me Tuesday.”

I happen to think it’s a compelling topic, no matter how many times we’ve been over this ground, but many Nats fans do not. They are sick of the topic, and believe Rosenthal is excessively critical of the Nats’ front office. They write him screeds on Twitter, and accuse him of anti-Washington bias.

And so it was that Rosenthal appeared on 106.7 The Fan’s Junkies program Wednesday morning, and was greeted by Eric Bickel, incredulously asking whether “one player on the Nats actually told you that this team would be 2-0 if Strasburg was there?”

“No, I just made that up,” Rosenthal replied.

Um, that was awkward. It didn’t get better.

“Are we sparring, Ken?” Bickel asked.

“We’re not sparring,” Rosenthal said. “But I mean, you ask me a question like that. I mean, what do you think?”

Finally we got to the meat of the matter, which is this: How wide is this reported dissent inside the clubhouse?

“Believe me, it’s not that hard to find dissent in that clubhouse about this decision. It’s not,” Rosenthal said. “There are people in that clubhouse who disagree, and there are people in the clubhouse who agree, as I pointed out in the article. It’s not different from fans or any of us. This is a decision that a lot of people question, and it’s a decision that some other people think is a really good decision. So why would 25 men in the clubhouse be any different than the general populace as a whole?”

After some more Junkies commentary about whether Strasburg would actually have made this series 2-0, Rosenthal interjected.

“Guys guys guys, for goodness’ sake, of course it’s speculation, and I point that out in the story,” he said. “There’s no way to know. Just as there’s no way to know if Stephen Strasburg’s going to healthy next year, if they made the right decision by doing what they did, if they chose the right strategy. That’s baseball. We talk about baseball, we debate baseball, and contrary to what some people believe in Washington, there isn’t a definitive answer here. The team’s answer is not definitive.”

“Why do I sense a clear anti-D.C. tone in your phone call today, Ken?” Bickel later asked.

“Because you’re looking for it,” Rosenthal said. “There’s no anti-D.C. tone. If you read my column a few days ago, it was a very glowing story about the Nationals.”

“There’s hostility coming through,” John Auville said.

“You’re kind of being a [jerk], to be honest with you,” Bickel said. “I don’t really understand why.”

After some more back and forth, Rosenthal essentially made his case like this.

“Guys, all I have to say is this: what I will tell you is it’s not a writer’s job to buy into any team’s – not the Nationals, Cardinals, any team’s – narrative and say everything’s great,” he said. “That’s not my job. And if you don’t like that, that’s fine. If you disagree with the article, that’s fine. I’ve got no problem with that. I respect that. All I’m saying is there are different points of view here. If that makes me anti-Nats in your mind, so be it.”