Plenty of writers have blasted the Nationals for shutting down Stephen Strasburg. Many of them were likely looking forward to doing it again if only his postseason rotation replacement, Ross Detwiler, would have obliged them by getting lit up and taking a loss as the Nationals were eliminated today.
Detwiler, of course, had other ideas. And it shouldn’t come as any big surprise that a guy with a 3.40 ERA during the regular season was able to hold down the Cardinals for six innings, even with the season on the line. There was perhaps some reason to be nervous; Detwiler hadn’t pitched in 12 days and his last outing, against these very same Cardinals, was probably his worst of the entire year.
Detwiler, though, came out with pretty good command Thursday and kept the Cardinals guessing by mixing up his pitches and changing speeds well. He allowed just three hits, all of which were singles. The only run he allowed came as the result of an error. That he struck out just two didn’t seem to matter.
It was a terrific outing, likely better than the one Strasburg would have turned in pitching in his place. As talented as Strasburg is, there’s a good chance he’d be wearing down had the Nationals allowed him to keep pitching. He may well have been even before he was shut down, as he struggled against the Marlins in two of his final three outings.
While it will continue to be debated in the weeks going forward, Detwiler did the best he could to render the Strasburg decision irrelevant. And hopefully he made a name for himself, too. Terming him a fourth starter doesn’t do him justice, and like Strasburg, he’ll be a part of more postseason rotations going forward.
Rays pitcher Chris Archer doesn’t see himself joining Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest any time soon, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports. Archer said, “From the feedback that I’ve gotten from my teammates, I don’t think it would be the best thing to do for me, at this time. I agree with the message. I believe in equality.”
Archer continued, “I don’t want to offend anybody. No matter how you explain it or justify it, some people just can’t get past the military element of it and it’s not something I want to do, is ruffle my teammates’ feathers on my personal views that have nothing to do with baseball.”
Archer did express admiration for the way Maxwell handled his situation. The right-hander said, “The way he went about it was totally, I think, as respectful as possible, just letting everybody know that this doesn’t have anything to do with the military, first and foremost, noting that he has family members that are in the military. It’s a little bit tougher for baseball players to make that leap, but I think he was the right person to do it.”
Maxwell recently became the first baseball player to kneel as the national anthem was sung, a method of protest popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As Craig explained yesterday, baseball’s hierarchical culture has proven to be a strong deterrent for players to express their unpopular opinions. We can certainly see that in Archer’s justification. Archer was one of 62 African Americans on the Opening Day roster across 30 major league clubs (750 total players, 8.3%).
Last night the Trump Administration announced a new batch of restrictions on people traveling from foreign countries, following up on its previous travel ban on persons from six predominately Muslim countries. The latest restriction could potentially touch on Major League Baseball, however, as it includes Venezuela.
The restriction for Venezuela is far narrower than the others, only blocking visas for government officials on business or tourist travel from Venezuela. There has been considerable uncertainty about the scope and enforcement mechanisms for the previous travel ban, however, and the entire matter is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. With that uncertainty, many around Major League Baseball have asked how and if the league or the union might respond to an order that, while seemingly not facially impacting baseball personnel or their families, could impact them in practice.
To that end, Major League Baseball issued a statement this afternoon, saying “MLB is aware of the travel ban that involves Venezuela and we have contacted the appropriate government officials to confirm that it will not have an effect on our players traveling to the U.S.” It is not clear whether it has, in fact, received such confirmation or if its an ongoing dialog or what.
Again: the ban shouldn’t impact baseball players or their families based on its terms. But based on what we saw with the enforcement of the previous one — and based the unexpected consequences many major leaguers faced when international travel restrictions were tightened following the 9/11 attacks — it’s only prudent for Major League Baseball to make such inquiries and get whatever assurances it can well in advance of next February when players from Venezuela will be coming back to the United States for spring training.