Anyone who watched at least half of any MLB baseball game since September has heard the Great Debate - should the Nationals (Natinals?) have shut down the highly-touted Stephen Strasburg just weeks before the post-season? In my opinion, there is only one answer. Absolutely not.
The list of reasons against shutting down Strasburg is lengthy and comprehensive. For starters, if Strasburg truly did have an innings cap, why not save Strasburg for this time of year. There were other ways to keep Strasburg under his 160 innings limit even if he did pitch in October. Since there was clearly was a hard cap in place, the Nationals should have developed an alternate plan besides pitching him every fifth day since April 1st.
Phillies fans have to face the music - the Nationals will likely field a competitive, talented team for at least the next several years. Washington is finally reaping the benefits of finishing dead last in the MLB for multiple seasons; while not necessarily the quickest, the cheapest way to develop talent is through top 5 draft picks. Despite this, the playoffs and a chance of winning the World Series are never a guarentee.
Sure, the Nationals could very will win the World Series next year, or the year after, or the year after...you get the point. But this year, the Nationals sported the best record in the MLB. This year, there is no well-definited "favorite" in the National League. In fact, with Strasburg, the Nationals likely had the inside track to the World Series. When it became fairly obvious that the Nationals were going to win the NL East, or at least make the playoffs, Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo should have ensured Strasburg would be pitching in October.
Not having been in a playoff situation before, Rizzo and Co. made a rookie mistake. By adhering to the "there is always next year" mantra, they decided Strasburg would become the ace of the cheerleading team come playoff time. Without Strasburg, the Nationals got pounded in Games 2 and 3 against the 2011 Champion Cardinals, quickly erasing the 1 - 0 series lead they earned on the road in St. Louis. While there is no guarentee the Nationals would have won those games with Strasburg in the fold, their chances would have been much greater.
Jordan Zimmerman and Edwin Jackson pitched their way to an 0 - 2 record in the NLDS thus far, combining for 8 innings, 9 runs, and 13 hits in 12 - 4 and 8 - 0 losses. Washington became the first team to lose two consecutive playoff games by at least 8 runs in MLB history. Even Nationals players are disagreeing with the decision off-record, telling Ken Rosenthal "they would likely be up 2 - 0 with 'Stras." Instead, the Nationals are now 1 loss away from going home, and the outlook looks bleak with Ross Detwiler facing Kyle Lohse tomorrow afternoon.
The lesson here is obvious - if you have a chance to win the World Series, go for it. The Nationals could have easily done that this year without risking the health of their young ace by exercising proper management and foreward thinking. Instead, it looks like the Nationals will just have to wait for "next year," whenever that may be.
Adam Gonsiewski is a blogger for Philliedelphia. Follow him on twitter @TheGons45.