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To Bench Or Not To Bench…Strasburg In Washington

Is it better to reserve your best heels in the closet for that special occasion, or show them off as often as you flash your simile?  Nothing feels better than the confidence you get when you feel like you look good, but is it worth wearing out that perfect special dress or killer heels to feel that great everyday? There is no answer, but you can find comfort in the fact that professional athletes deal with a similar problem.

MLB pitcher Stephen Strasburg, of the Washington Nationals, is arguably the best in the league, but he’s like that perfect pair of heels.  Strasburg was the Nationals number one overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, but underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in 2010 causing him to ride the bench for more than a year during recovery.  Fortunately, for the Nats, their investment is starting to pay off this season as Strasburg has shown that he is just as good, if not better, on the mound than before his surgery.  The caveat: Pitchers are typically put on some sort of pitching restrictions once back in uniform after the surgery.  In the case of Strasburg, the Nats have suggested that he will be limited to 160-180 innings in 2012.  Strasburg has pitched 145 1/3 innings so far this year, his best season of record, so what will the Nats do when they reach the post-season and are in the run for the pennant: wear their stilettos or stick with the flats?

The Nats are staying firm with their plan to limit Strasburg (which at this rate will definitely make him a spectator for any post-season game).  In fact, the Nats have taken this route before with Jordan Zimmerman, another pitcher to undergo the same surgery who was subsequently limited on the mound and now is a critical talent for the team.  However, the disappointment in Washington (and on the Nats bench) is loud and clear – play Strasburg now since the Nats have a chance to win it all.  (The city has not seen a title in 88 years!)  Essentially, fans are saying open that bottle of 2001 Cabernet now, because we are throwing an important business dinner party, even though the wine will taste better next year.

The team is staying strong at the moment limiting Strasburg to protect their pitching asset long term.  But as the temptaion of the World Series nears there may be a change of tune, despite the long-term risk it could have on the pitcher.

By the way, isn’t it odd that we have to hold a pitcher back from working harder in Washington, while our politicians can’t even seem to throw one strike?

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