To most appearances, when the Mets opened a weekend set with the Nationals Friday night , it looked like this could become the weekend in which the Mets were driven far enough down that they might not get back up again. Battered by the disabled list and losers of nine out of ten—including the previous weekend’s sweep by the Nats in New York—the Mets didn’t just look beaten, they looked half buried.
There were interesting times during the Nationals’ annual Winterfest this weekend. And, interesting remarks, from general manager Mike Rizzo admitting the Adam Eaton deal turned Danny Espinosa into a likely trade candidate to Stephen Strasburg admitting that falling in love with a pitch he didn’t quite throw properly caused him the tendon issue that wiped out his second half and his postseason.
This was the kind of situation the Nats always want, Stephen Strasburg striking out thirteen Phillies, and Bryce Harper smashing a game-winning double in the bottom of the twelfth Saturday afternoon. And it didn’t mean a thing anymore when it ended in a 2-1 Nats win.
Because almost an hour before Harper tagged Phillies reliever Colton Murray with one out, Mets closer Jeurys Familia finished the Mets’ destruction of the Reds in Cincinnati to clinch the none-too-potent National League East. The division just about all the experts picked the Nats to run away with, all the way to a World Series crown, even.
For those curious, and who aren’t always abreast of ancient history, this journal is named for an Original Met (sort of: he was acquired during an in-season deal), Marv Throneberry. God rest his soul in peace, his earnest personality and comic opera play in 1962 earned him the nickname Marvelous Marv.
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.
Mark DeRosa, inactive for the division series but still regarded as one of their team’s leaders, should have spoken the final word on whether the Strasburg Plan ended up costing the Washington Nationals a trip to the National League Championship Series at minimum. The Plan, he tells the Washington Post, is now “irrelevant.”
The easiest thing on earth to understand is that Stephen Strasburg isn’t thrilled with his shutdown. The hardest thing on earth to understand, for an awful lot of people still, is why the Washington Nationals stuck to the plan with the postseason dead in their sights and the World Series a distinct possibility. Somewhere in between is a point too often bypassed, whether you favoured or objected to the Strasburg Plan.
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.
While we’re on the subject of the Strasburg Plan, it might be wise to hark back to past young guns whose careers—or, more accurately, the lack thereof, for most—may or may not have factored into the Washington Nationals’ thinking. (Manager Davey Johnson, who’s absolutely on board with the Strasburg Plan, happens to know about at least one of those guns directly.) They didn’t all have fractured comebacks from Tommy John surgery (though a few of them could have used it, if the procedure had been around), but they did have work use or other physical issues in one or another way that turned them from brilliant or burgeoning youth to gone, or at least nothing near what they first seemed they’d be, before they should have been in prime.