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Here we go again: People quick to blame Stephen Strasburg’s latest setback on Dusty Baker

Stephen Strasburg walks off the field during the third inning Wednesday. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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The extent of Stephen Strasburg’s latest setback wasn’t known by Thursday morning, but several people were quick to assign blame shortly after the 28-year-old pitcher exited Wednesday’s game in the third inning after feeling a pinch in his surgically repaired right elbow. Time to dust off the ridiculous, two-decades-old narrative: Dusty Baker, destroyer of young arms, had done it again.

We may have seen Stephen Strasburg’s best. That’s the good news. And the bad news.

Baker’s reputation as a manager who ruins pitchers’ arms by overusing them preceded his hiring by the Nationals. He was blamed for ruining the careers of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood while with the Cubs and for Edinson Volquez requiring Tommy John surgery while in Cincinnati. (Prior has since said he doesn’t blame Baker for anything.) Baker addressed some of his critics on the day that he was introduced as the Nationals’ manager in November and the words ring true today, as Strasburg, the Nationals and their nervous fans await the results of an MRI exam.

What happens to the Nationals’ rotation now?

“And the people that are talking stuff about how I ruin arms, hey man, after 20 years, how many people don’t have somebody that’s had an arm operation?” Baker told the Sports Junkies. “The last two years, there have been more Tommy John [surgeries] than . . . in the history of the game, and I wasn’t even in the game, so they can’t blame me for those. You look at the Cardinals. [Adam] Wainwright has had two operations. [Chris] Carpenter had to have a couple. [Jaime] Garcia had a couple. You look at every team, it’s happening everywhere. . . . There’s always haters, and you know something, go talk to my guys and see if I ruined them. Supposedly I ruined [Cubs pitcher Mark] Prior. There was no such things as pitch counts, and we had unwritten pitch counts ourselves. Now this stuff is new with [Stephen] Strasburg. If we had had the Strasburg kind of scenario and situation back then, then maybe this wouldn’t have happened, but there was no such thing at that time.”

Baker was referencing how the Nationals handled Strasburg during the 2012 season, when they elected to shut him down in September of his first full season after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010. The Nationals have continued to handle Strasburg, who has made four trips to the disabled list in the last two seasons and signed a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in May, cautiously. Strasburg averaged 99 pitches per start this season, which ranks 20th in baseball. Wednesday was his first start in three weeks because of elbow soreness that Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a different scenario — one in which Washington didn’t enjoy a comfortable lead atop the division — Strasburg could’ve pitched through.

“We’re hoping it’s something minor,” Baker said of the pain that caused Strasburg to exit Wednesday’s game.

Minor or major, it’s ridiculous to suggest that Baker is at all to blame.