They barely have the streets swept clean following the Kansas City Royals’ World Series parade, and the off-season intrigues have begun in earnest. OK, a couple began when it barely began sinking in that the New York Mets had blown a Series they actually could have won, or when Don Mattingly left the Los Angeles Dodgers and became the Miami Marlins’ new manager. But let’s start looking:
Let’s not be too polite about it. The team every expert on earth picked in spring to win the National League East, with no few of them picking them to go all the way to a World Series ring, is doing its level best to make chumps out of every one of those experts. That’s because manager Matt Williams seems to be doing his level best to make sure they don’t even get to the wild card play-in game.
I said it last October, when the Washington Nationals imploded in a division series Game Five they had practically in the bank. And I’ll say it again, John Feinstein be damned. (Only kidding, sir.) The Strasburg Plan had nothing to do with the Nats going no further than the division series last year. And it had nothing to do with them going nowhere but home when the regular season ends this weekend.
Jayson Werth went home Wednesday night to flip on the Orioles-Yankees American League division series game and got a powerful enough message from a former Philadelphia Phillies teammate.
“I got a little something last night,” he huffed happily Thursday afternoon. “Watching my boy Raul Ibanez do it, he gave me a little something today.”
Ibanez, of course, blasted a game-tying bomb in the bottom of the ninth and a game-winning bomb in the bottom of the twelfth. Nowhere near twenty-four hours later, Werth—the high-priced Nat who’s struggled to live up to his mammoth deal for most of his time since—showed just what Ibanez gave him.
Let’s try this again.
Assume the Washington Nationals will stick to the script and implement, some time in September, the exclamation point of the Strasburg Plan. Period dot period. Assume, too, that there’ll be enough blue murder screaming over the Nats torpedoing their own postseason chances. Maybe even some conspiracy theorists demanding a formal investigation, perhaps into whether someone isn’t buying the Nats off bigtime to tank. (Would the conspiracy theorists surprise you, really?)
Now, shove all that to one side and look at the Nats’ rotation without Stephen Strasburg.
The guts-’n'-glory crowd arguing against the looming Stephen Strasburg shutdown has a powerful, or at least influential ally now. And, customarily, when Chipper Jones speaks even the opposition listens.
“If I were him,” the Atlanta Braves’ Hall of Fame-in-waiting third baseman says, to Yahoo! Sports columnist Les Carpenter, “I’d be throwing a fit.”
Jones must surely be aware that if it were up to Strasburg alone, he’d be pitching until a) the Washington Nationals actually take the ball out of his hand; or, b) until his arm vapourises. That isn’t exactly a secret, in Washington or elsewhere. He’s on record as saying as much.
“It’s funny,” Stephen Strasburg told reporters Tuesday night, after he waxed the Atlanta Braves with six one-run innings, not even letting a rain delay affect him. “Nobody talks to me personally about it. Obviously, I can either scour the Internet or watch all the stuff being said on TV or I can just keep pitching and watch the Golf Channel, I guess.”
If Strasburg did any Internet scouting over last weekend, he might have seen the innings limit—the talk of which has dominated just about everything when it comes to the National League East and, really, most everywhere else in the Show—has now achieved what some might think the ultimate affirmation.