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.
Orlando Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals last month and had pitched very well since moving his comeback up to Double-A, posting a 1.86 ERA, .147 opponents’ batting average, and 12/5 K/BB ratio in 9.2 innings as a reliever.
He was presumably in line for a potential September call-up to join his brother Livan Hernandez in Washington, but yesterday El Duque “abruptly” left the Double-A team because, as Nationals director of player development Doug Harris explained:
He realized the opportunity he was seeking may not present itself here, and he felt it was time to go in another direction.
However, according to Geoff Morrow of the Harrisburg Patriot News “sources said Hernandez left in part because the Nationals hadn’t yet given him a major league shot despite his helping the organization sign highly touted Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya earlier this summer.”
Harris called that “a bad rumor” but then did lend a bit of credence to the notion by saying:
I have no idea about his direct influence [with signing Maya]. I don’t think he hand-delivered him to us. Yunesky Maya’s agent is also Livan Hernandez’s agent. I think [Orlando Hernandez] was comforting for Yunesky, but he didn’t walk him to us.
Who knows what went on behind closed doors, but it certainly wouldn’t seem like a huge stretch if the Nationals signed Hernandez in the hopes he could help them bring in Maya and at least hinted strongly that he’d be in line for a call-up in the process. Or maybe not, who knows. Either way, Hernandez signed a minor-league deal, pitched well for a month at two different levels, and then quit right when a call-up would have been most likely.
Not only does Omar Infante (and his .341 batting average) still loom as a potential Triple Crown spoiler if he can get near the plate appearances necessary to qualify for the batting title, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies has emerged as a Triple Crown darkhorse himself.
Gonzalez has taken over the batting average lead at .326, just narrowly ahead of Joey Votto at .325 and Albert Pujols and .320, and ranks just five RBIs behind Pujols for the league lead.
Gonzalez trails Pujols by six homers, which is why he’s not quite fully in the Triple Crown discussion for now, but he’s one big week away from making it a three-man race for the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Carlos Gonzalez .326
JOEY VOTTO .325
ALBERT PUJOLS .320
ALBERT PUJOLS 35
JOEY VOTTO 32
Adam Dunn 32
Carlos Gonzalez 29
RUNS BATTED IN
ALBERT PUJOLS 95
JOEY VOTTO 93
Carlos Gonzalez 90