Mark Prior says "you certainly can't blame the Nationals" for Stephen Strasburg's injury

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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.

Mike Rizzo and Shawn Kelley almost got into a physical confrontation

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A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.

Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:

Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .

Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?

That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.

Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?