Before Wednesday’s news that Stephen Strasburg would indeed pitch Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cubs, former MLB players appeared ready to turn the Nats pitcher into a national punching bag, in a more concentrated and pointed version of the 2012 shutdown debate. And there were some pretty well-publicized suggestions that the Nats clubhouse would not be pleased with their teammate.
“I’m not sure what’s more bizarre,” Mark Teixeira said on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, “Strasburg saying that he’s under the weather, he’s got mold poisoning or something and he can’t go in a playoff game when your team is on the brink of elimination, I’m not sure if that’s weirder or [Dusty Baker’s] explanation. … Just a very bizarre situation, but if I’m a teammate, I’m not happy with the entire situation.”
“The whole organization looks bad,” said David Ross, who won a World Series with the Cubs last fall. “The communication, it all looks bad. But for me, as a teammate, and the guy that I rely on, our No. 1 starter says I’ve got the sniffles and I can’t go? Like, what? They ask you to go. We’ve given you $175 million. There’s not one dude that doesn’t want the ball in the playoffs. It makes no sense. You want to know why the Washington Nationals can’t get over the hump? That tells me a lot about him. I don’t know about that clubhouse, but it tells me a lot about him if these reports are true.”
“If Strasburg really is sick, then Dusty should have said, ‘Hey listen guys, he’s in the hospital getting IVs, there is no way he can go tomorrow,’ ” Teixeira said. “We can accept that. But this rambling answer about mold and his bullpen, we don’t know what to believe now. So to me, there’s going to be more information coming out about this, but you cannot be happy inside that clubhouse.”
“If I’m his teammate and I walk into the clubhouse the next day, I can’t make eye contact with this dude,” Ross said. “I mean, this is as bad as it gets for me as a teammate. This is as bad as it gets.”
“This postseason is his time to shine, since he missed one postseason completely and only got one start in the other one,” said longtime baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. “So I don’t understand this.”
“I played with John Smoltz,” Teixeira noted. “His arm was literally hanging off at the end of the 2007 season, and he was asking to be thrown out there.”
“Edwin Encarnacion’s ankle’s almost broken, and he can’t wait to get in the box,” Ross said. “As a teammate, this is like rule No. 1. You don’t feel good? You can’t take the bump? What? WHAT?”
“Mold poisoning,” Teixeira scoffed.
And they weren’t the only ones scoffing.
Did all this put more pressure on Strasburg to give it a go on Wednesday? It’s hard not to wonder, anyhow.
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