Nationals manager Davey Johnson just confirmed that Stephen Strasburg has been shut down for the season effective immediately. And his motivation for doing so was a little curious.
According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, the team pulled the plug early in part due to the media hype surrounding his impending shutdown.
“He’s had a great year,” Johnson said. “And I know what he’s going through the last couple weeks. This media hype on this thing has been unbearable.”
Yes, let’s blame the media for doing their jobs and reporting on a unique situation where one of the game’s best pitchers is being shut down despite being healthy by all accounts. Meanwhile, his team has a legitimate chance to win the World Series. I mean, why would anyone want to talk about that? You know what could be a real distraction? If the Nationals lose in the postseason and every member of the organization is faced with constant questions about whether they could have won it if they had Strasburg. The chorus could get even louder if Strasburg gets hurt anyway or the team doesn’t get this close again.
Many have disagreed with the team’s decision to shut Strasburg down, but until now it was coming out of concern for the pitcher’s long-term health. But this explanation is just plain weak and only makes Strasburg’s path more difficult moving forward. The next time he is faced with a start in a critical situation, we’ll hear the narrative that he wasn’t mentally strong enough to perform well under the pressure of the shutdown. That won’t get old at all.
UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback, both good and bad. All shape my opinion, which is evolving. I hope you’ll read my most recent post on this matter now that I have had a few hours to think about it.