Could this Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals Drama Possibly be Less Interesting?

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I’m so bored to death with this story that it’s hurting my hands to type about it right now. If it comes up on Sportscenter one more time I’m going to throw my dog into the television, and I love my dog.

For anyone who doesn’t know (which would mean you haven’ t turned on a television, radio or computer in the past three months), the Washington Nationals are going to shut down their ace, Stephen Strasburg, sometime next month when he reaches some where between 160 and 180 innings in an effort to preserve his health going forward.

The Nationals are in first place in the NL East, have the best record in the National League and are basically a lock for the playoffs. Strasburg has been their best pitcher with a 13-5 record, a 2.90 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 133 innings. Awesome stats. If he wasn’t about to be sent to the sidelines for the season, he’d be right there in the Cy Young race.

But he is about to be benched for the season. That’s the reality of it. It’s going to happen, whether you think it’s stupid or freaking brilliant. The Nationals aren’t budging, and they’ve been very open about it all season. Once they feel like Strasburg has hit a number that concerns them, they’ll cut him off, even if that means squandering their chances at a World Series

And even though I hate the relentless coverage this story gets, I’m going to throw my hat into the ring. I’m sort of fueling my own fire, if you will.

In theory, it makes sense right? They’re going to shut down a guy who has had Tommy John already, is only 23 and is the future of their franchise. They’ll go as Stephen Strasburg goes, for the next decade. With him at the top of the rotation, they figure to be a World Series contender year-in and year-out.

But that’s the stupid part. They’re a World Series contender right now, and they are shutting down their best pitcher without real proof that it’s going to do any good. It’s just some idea they came up with to feel like they’re taking proper care of their investment, when in actuality they’re just ruining their chances at having a special season.

There isn’t any track record of this thing working, because it’s never been done before. Ever. The Nationals have just decided that once Strasburg hits 180 innings – or whatever the number is – that his career is going to go horrifically south if he continues on.

Washington hasn’t had a baseball team be any good in a long, long time. The Senators stopped being a franchise in 1960 and  the Orioles have sucked forever now (and they’re not even in Washington, I’m just looking for something). Since the Nationals appeared, they’ve been horrible every year.

Even the Expos, who became the Nationals, made the playoffs only once…in 1981.

So what does ownership do now that the team finally has a shot at not only making the playoffs, but actually winning the pennant and the World Series? They take their best player and tell him to go watch from the freaking couch so they can get swept in the first round by the Reds.

It’s all about the future!

Remember in 1999 when Pedro Martinez came out of the bullpen for the Red Sox to pitch in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Indians? He was hurt, and trainers told him that if he went in the game he might never pitch again. What happened? He went in the game, threw six HITLESS innings and led his team to the ALCS.

You don’t have to be particularly smart to figure out whey he went in the game in the first place – he wanted to win. He wanted to help his team get another step closer to reaching and potentially winning the World Series.

Really, that’s the whole point of playing isn’t it? Obviously the money and the lifestyle and all those things are wonderful perks, but at the very core of it, most of these guys get out on the field so they have a chance to pile on each on the mound after the last out and call themselves World Champions. It’s why guys keep playing long after they should retire – so they can get a ring. It’s why people cry when they win. It’s why there are parades and celebrations and parties and everything else.

The Nationals have a shot at that this year, in large part due to Stephen Strasburg. Yet, by trying to have some foresight, the team is being incredibly shortsighted and is sidetracking their at immortality.

What makes them think that they’ll have this opportunity again? Dan Marino is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. He went to the Super Bowl his rookie year with the Dolphins and never went back. It’s not like it’s easy, even if you have the right pieces.

Doesn’t it make sense, then, that you would want to try to do everything you could to win now? Ask the fans. I bet they would take a World Series win this year over an eight-year stretch in which the team makes the postseason four times and never wins a thing.

Everybody likes consistency, but they like the ultimate prize a hell of a lot more. The Nationals are living in a fantasy world.

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