Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals

They told us it would be different. They said it wasn’t going to be like this anymore. The Washington Nationals promised he would be unleashed. They swore things would change.

They lied.

He gave up a hit to the first batter of the game. Then he retired 18 in a row. He made it through seven innings having thrown just 80 pitches – only 15 of which were thrown from the stretch. Free and easy, the new efficient Stephen Strasburg ruthlessly dispatched the sadsack Marlins, registering just three strikeouts but counting 10 ground ball outs, just as he promised during Spring Training.

This was it. The roaring home crowd would see their ace pitch into the 8th inning for the very first time. History for a team with so little history of which to speak.

Nope. Plug pulled. Strasmas? Cancelled.

Hey, maybe the Nationals are owed the benefit of the doubt for pulling Stephen Strasburg after throwing 80 easy breezy pitches through seven inning. It’s just the first start of the season, after all. The weather took a turn for the worse, I suppose.

That said: would any other team in baseball take out their Opening Day starter after 80 pitches, dominating the opposition and leading 2-0? No. No they would not.

The Nationals overly cautious approach with Strasburg no longer appears like pragmatic asset management. They look scared.

Any benefit of the doubt they might have earned went out the window after last year’s “due diligence” in shutting Strasburg down after 160 innings turned out to be simply guesswork. The consultations with his surgeon were overblown or didn’t exist at all.

If there is some basis for pulling their ace after 80, other than complete and total risk aversion, somebody needs to clue me in. Strasburg threw more pitches in his final Spring Training start, just nine days prior.

It sucks. Would the Nats attempt to limit Bryce Harper in any way? Demand he no longer steal bases out of an irrational fear of hand injury? No (admittedly, this is not a perfect comparison.)

The most dominant pitcher in baseball right now is stuck in third gear, for no reason other than a paranoid fear he might shatter before our eyes. It isn’t about machismo or the old school or any specific ideology. It is about fighting a battle the Nats can win.

If he’s going to get hurt, he’ll get hurt. Let him pitch. The Nats helicopter parent routine wore thin a long time ago. Let Strasburg pitch. Let him throw shutouts and notch complete games and be a real, live pitcher. Let him BE.

And the rest

Felix Hernandez is pretty good and good to his friends, too. [Big League Stew]

Clayton Kershaw had a pretty good day yesterday in his own right. In addition to shutting out the defending World Series champion Giants, he also pounded in the go-ahead run via this long home run to dead center field.

This video clip is 56 seconds long. As Tommy Bennett points out on Twitter, Vin Scully doesn’t say a word for the final 43 seconds of it. The master.

Ten things we learned on Opening Day [Sweetspot]

Um, Bo. About this… [Dallas Morning News]

A.J. Burnett versus the great exploding rosin bag. [Deadspin]

Chase Utley hit the 200th home run of his career last night. He’s pretty good. [High Cheese]

Comments (8)

  1. I don’t care for the Dodgers in either direction, but the fact that they’re spending to win now gives me hope I will get to hear Scully call a World Series.

  2. Could it be that the Nats just really like their bullpen, especially the late inning guys? They’re pretty good…

    • Yes, this. They didn’t pull him out of fear, they pulled him because while they completely trust their bullpen and were only up two runs, so why not try to tack on some insurance? The Nats are my favorite team and obviously I’d love to see 30 complete games out of him, but I wasn’t mad about this. It’s a long season. It’ll happen.

      The real take-home here is that if you have a chance to pinch-hit Chad Tracy, you do WHATEVER it takes to make that happen.

  3. First start of the year, I don’t have a huge issue with it.

  4. This is how the Nats should have handled the situation last year.

  5. Someone should record Vin Scully saying every word in the English language so he can keep broadcasting baseball once he’s gone.

  6. The Nationals goal vis a vis Strasburg seems to have nothing to do with winning and everything to do with not being criticized.

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