Today, in New York, would have been Stephen Strasburg’s final start of the season. So, in anticipation, I spent a few innings in the stands last week, mostly on the the day of his final home start, asking fans about his shutdown. In all the opining on the matter, I thought it would be interesting to hear from Nationals fans, the ones who have a vested interest in the decision. The one who buy the tickets, and, if so angered, could stop attending games if they were so motivated.
Admittedly, there’s no true way to gauge how fans feel about the Nationals decision. This is clearly an unscientific and informal perusal of fans at two games. But the overall sense of those I talked to was a generally accepting feeling of the shutdown, with some tinges of reluctance. Only two of the dozen or so people I encountered were upset about the shutdown.
“I get what they’re doing,” said Ryan Fay, 28, of Arlington, who debated the issue at length on a email exchange with 14 friends last week. “I get why they want the innings limit. I just wish they’d been more creative with the way they got to it. Look at what the Braves are doing with [Kris] Medlen and they figured out a way in which he could pitch in October. We had six starters that we could have used; look at [John] Lannan. I give them credit for sticking by their guns. I want them to be the Braves for the next 15 years and win the National League East every year and in the playoffs. But how many chances do you really get?”
David and Jennifer Ball — husband and wife, both 55 and from Manassas Park — bought $12 tickets in section 405 to Strasburg’s final start on at 10 a.m. Friday morning. They wanted to see him pitch one final time at home. They, too, would like to see him continue to pitch but understand and agree with the decision to end his season.
“There’s a lot of money invested in him,” David Ball said. “And they want to protect their investment which I can understand.
They make the 40-mile trek from home to Nationals Park often; Friday was their third time in six days. They said they’ have seen enough of the Nationals this season to believe that the team will manage without him. “I am confident enough in them that they can make it [to the World Series] without him,” Jennifer Ball said.
Among those that agreed with the shutdown, there was sense of trust in General Manager Mike Rizzo, the one who had the final say on shutting down Strasburg after consulting with, notably, Strasburg’s doctor Lewis Yocum. Count Tom Payne, 65 of Fairfax, among them. Given Rizzo’s track record with the team already, Payne was at ease. “I’m willing to bet on the long term with Rizzo,” said Payne, seated in along the railing in section 235 with a Ryan Zimmerman jersey t-shirt.
Payne understood and was well-versed on the team’s decisions: Strasburg was not only two years from the injury but had never thrown this much before in his career.
“I’m here for the long haul,” said Payne, who goes to Nationals spring training every year for a week and watches nearly every regular season game, mostly on TV, some in person.. “I’ve seen so much bad baseball here and over my lifetime. I mean really bad baseball that the idea of having a really good team for a long time, to me, that overrides any consideration.”
Rodney Conquest, 44 of Laurel, has debated the shutdown with his brother, Kevin, and both think the Nationals are erring by cutting Strasburg’s season short. It bugs both of them but, for now, not enough to stop them from attending games in the future. The fact the team is winning overall helps.
“You have the league’s best pitcher. I think Strasburg could be an MVP because he’s the best pitcher our there,” said Rodney Conquest, standing at a table in section 143 eating with his family. “You’re going to the playoffs … You want to see the best product on the field at all times.”