THE BIG PIECE: TAKING THE NATS’ GM TO TASK
Before the season began, they were coming off an 80-81 season with optimism that Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and eventually Bryce Harper were going to raise the team to a competitive level for the first time since Montreal. Not to mention that the team’s ace Stephen Strasburg was, barring another setback, going to pitch for them all year after returning from Tommy John surgery and pitching just five games at the back end of the 2011 season.
Reasonably assuming that his young team wouldn’t be able to make a playoff run in a division that included the Phillies, Braves and newly-stacked Marlins, GM Mike Rizzo made it clear that Strasburg would not pitch an entire season. After all, he was and is a huge piece of the future of the franchise and was just coming back from major surgery.
It was a good idea at the time.
But now here we are on August 13, and the Nationals have the best record in Baseball. Atlanta trails by 4 1/2 and the mighty Phillies and Marlins rest at the bottom of the division under the Mets and ten games under .500. Since Rizzo’s team is right in the thick of it, you would think that he would rescind his vow to shut Strasburg down in the middle of the season, right?
Wrong. Strasburg is at 133 innings this year, and it’s very unlikely that the team will let him go over 180 before making him sit out the rest of the season. And I mean all of the rest of the season–the stretch run and the playoffs.
“There is no magic number,” Rizzo said of Strasburg’s innings back in July. “It will be the eye test. [Manager Davey Johnson] won’t decide and ownership won’t decide. It will be the general manager, and that’s me. …
“When we signed Stephen I made a promise to him and to his parents that I would take care of him and that’s what we are going to do. I told them we would always do what’s best for him. This is a kid who has never pitched more than 123 innings in a year.
“We are looking at not only competing for the playoffs this season, but also in ’13, ’14, ’15 and beyond. Stephen is a big part of those plans and I will not do anything that could potentially harm him down the road. …
“When it happens, Stephen will not pitch again until spring training,” he said a month ago, apparently still sticking to his guns. ”We tried something similar with [Jordan Zimmermann] last year and he just could not get going again. We won’t make the same mistake.”
I can appreciate preserving a commodity like Strasburg in a lost season or even a very good, fringe-playoff rebuilding season. But what Rizzo is saying to the fans, players, staff and anyone involved with this team is that he doesn’t care about this year. He’s willing to completely give up on the first winning season that team has had since moving to DC in hopes that another opportunity like this will come along every year for the next few years.
I don’t want to see the Nats go down after having a spectacular year following several joke seasons in a row, especially if the reason is that their GM is being bullheaded. But I’d like him to get a taste of just how stupid a decision this would be and to learn that playoff spots in Major League Baseball, even after being diluted by Bud Selig, should never be taken for granted.
If he doesn’t care enough to let his ace pitch in the most important games of the year, he doesn’t deserve to win. And it’s a shame everyone else in the organization has to suffer for it.
The bullpen did it.
Everything was cruising along just fine after an expected disaster inning from Lance Lynn in the first, with the Cardinals putting up seven to make it 7-4 heading into the eighth.
With three lefties coming up, Marc Rzepczynski was brought in and utterly failed, walking two of those lefties before Mitchell Boggs came in and got two outs before giving up a game-tying bomb to one Erik Kratz.
Extras ensued; and in the eleventh, a leadoff double by that same Erik Kratz made the end look inevitable until he was killed on a fielder’s choice on his way to third. Brian Schneider moved Jimmy Rollins up to second on a groundout; after which Rollins stole third with Juan Pierre up.
Barret Browning, who blew the game a couple nights ago, had Pierre down to two strikes when he grounded one to Rafael Furcal, who made a valiant effort to get the out at first. but even Furcal’s cannon couldn’t beat out Pierre’s speed, and the Phils walked off on an infield hit.
Oh, and the Pirates won after the Padres blew a 5-0 lead. But you knew that already.
“He’s all beat up. He’s still a little sore from the elbow and the hand today. He’s just so tough, and we’ve been riding him. He gets so much respect from the guys in this clubhouse. … He’s been grinding through for us, and he just needs today.”
“I’ve tried not to think that far ahead, but whenever you get to a certain age and begin to play year to year, you almost have to. At some point it ends for everyone, no matter what. A guy like Jim Thome is trying to play forever. But he’s not going to. No matter what, at some point you’re going to have a last game or a last day. I’d by lying if I said I didn’t contemplate that.”
> I wonder if Lance would do better if he pitched a simulated inning before each game or something. He seems to settle down just fine after the first inning (38% of his earned runs come in the first), so maybe get whoever’s not starting on a given day and have them hit against him in BP before the game to loosen him up?
> Giving your players occasional days off is essential in a long season, but why did David Freese and Yadier Molina get theirs on the same day? Look at how the starting lineup takes a dive halfway through:
I’d like to see M-Carp hit in the two-slot in the future as opposed to Craig, but at Descalso’s expense, not Freese’s.
“He’s got all five tools. And those are the type of guys you want to take a chance on to give them more time. … I think he’s the type of guy that can really turn it around given a second chance.”
> After giving up three first-inning runs today, Lynn’s first-frame ERA has risen to 8.22.
> Ryan Howard lifetime against the Cards: .360, 17 homers and 53 RBI in 48 games.
> Jay and Carpenter went 7-11 with five RBI and three runs combined.
> Cruz has started 18 games this year. Yadi has started 96.
> Ryan Ludwick has gone full dark side on us, hitting his 21st homerun this year for the Reds.
> After last night’s start, Shelby Miller has gone 29 2/3 with 31 strikeouts and zero walks.
THE DAILY PUJOLS
Our hero is hitting .043 (1-23) in his last six games. This might help explain why:
Just like his old team is doing now, Albert Pujols‘ new team has a mediocre record despite having over a dozen freaking assassins on the same team.
“We just need to continue to push and realize we are a good ball club,” Pujols told the LA Times. ”Everyone has to go through this to be a championship ballclub because when a tough situation comes, how do you handle it?
“We have a bunch of veteran guys who know what baseball is. Staying positive, that’s the main thing—not hanging your head. The young guys feel it, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
I don’t know what he’s looking at, but neither the Angels or Cardinals can be described as beautiful things at this point.
> These were being given away at the Cardinals’ single-A park last night.
> This happened at today’s game in Philadelphia because where else would this happen.
> Rangers fans are trending in a disturbing pattern. This from October:
And this from yesterday: