We ran a poll last week asking whether or not the Nationals are to blame for Stephen Strasburg’s elbow injury and I’m happy to say that 82.5 percent of respondents agreed with me that the answer is “no.”
I’m not sure if Mark Prior cast a vote–obviously he’s a huge fan of Hardball Talk, but it’s possible he doesn’t particularly enjoy polls–but he’s clearly in the “don’t blame the Nationals” camp, saying the following during a radio interview:
You certainly can’t put blame on the Washington Nationals. … I don’t think anyone needs to or should question what they did. Everybody is coming back to second guess everything and every little detail and how it was handled. I don’t think it was handled wrongly. I don’t think there’s a right way. I don’t think there is a wrong way. Everybody is individual in terms of how they get through their careers. There is no right way or wrong way for anybody, whether it is a pitcher, whether it is a position player.
As a fan, I loved watching him. I think he has a lot of God-given talent and I want to watch him out there. From the standpoint of what happened this year, who knows? Nobody knows. It just because it was his time? What was going to happen was going to happen whether he was in the minor leagues or the major leagues or if he was back in his senior year of college. Nobody knows what the outcome of anything is. It’s just a game where you are relying on your body to do a lot of things in a grinding sport and things happen.
I disagree with Prior in that I think there are plenty of cases where teams are at least somewhat to blame for a pitcher getting hurt and in fact Prior may be one of those cases given the pitch counts Dusty Baker allowed him to rack up. However, in Strasburg’s case the Nationals limited him to such modest workloads that they couldn’t possibly have been responsible.
Strasburg blew out his elbow without ever throwing even 100 pitches for the Nationals, in the minors or majors, and his college workload at San Diego State was significantly bigger. Compare that to Prior, who at the same age as Strasburg was allowed to top 100 pitches in 14 of 19 starts for the Cubs, including outings of 135 and 124 pitches. Prior had a huge workload for a 21-year-old pitcher and got hurt. Strasburg is just a 21-year-old pitcher who got hurt.
The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.
This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.
Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.
I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.
When the Nationals fired Matt Williams a year ago, it might’ve been a safe assumption that they were going to go with that new breed of young, handsome recently-retired player-turned-manager who, despite a lack of experience, allegedly knows how to deal with modern players better and knows how to handle a clubhouse. Those assumptions have proved largely off with these guys — Williams was a disaster, Matheny wins despite himself and Ausmus looks like he’s perpetually on the verge of a breakdown — but that’s the all the rage these days anyway.
Instead, the Nats hired Dusty Baker. Though Baker had tremendous success as a manager everywhere he went, he was maligned by some for some pitcher handling stuff in Chicago (which said pitchers have long denied was an issue, but let’s let that lie). He was also, more generally, thought of as a “retread.” Which is what people who prefer younger folks for jobs tend to call older people, even if the older people know what they’re doing.
And yes, I will cop to thinking about managers that way a lot over the years, so I’m not absolving myself at all here, even if I was pretty OK with the Dusty Baker hiring. I’ve evolved on this point. In no small part because of how Dusty Baker has done in Washington. Flash forward a year, the Nats are division champions and Baker may be a top candidate for Manager of the Year. That, in and of itself, should show you how wrong the haters were.
But if it doesn’t, this sure should:
I have no earthly idea what that means and Castillo gives no further context. All I know is that it sounds cool as hell and of any current manager, only Dusty Baker could say that and pull it off.
Because he’s Dusty Baker and has nothing to prove to you. And if you don’t like it, shoot, he’ll just go back home to his winery or whatever and live out the rest of his days being cooler than you.