A National Mistake
September 13, 2012INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Let's start by making one thing clear: Everyone wants what's best for Stephen Strasburg. He is the greatest collegiate pitcher of all time, and in his short major league career, Strasburg has averaged more strikeouts per nine innings than Randy Johnson. No matter where you stand on The Strasburg Rules, everyone wants to see him pitch for 20 seasons, strike out 5,000 batters, and make a pretty speech in upstate New York in the summer of 2039.
It's worth stating the obvious, because to hear some of the rhetoric, you'd think that there are only two positions on the subject — those who believe the Nationals are correct to shut down Strasburg and those who think it's fine to sacrifice Strasburg's arm on the altar of October baseball.
But there is a middle ground, which comes from understanding that the only sure way to eliminate injuries in baseball is to eliminate baseball. There is some baseline risk of injury that exists every time a player takes the field. That risk is elevated for pitchers, whose value derives solely from the kinetic chain that is centered in the shoulder and elbow of their pitching arm. But injuries are not 100 percent preventable. Just ask Brandon McCarthy: He left the ICU Sunday after brain surgery to remove an epidural hematoma, caused by a line drive that fractured his skull.
If the goal is the complete prevention of pitching-related injuries, the only answer is to turn over the job to an indestructible batting-practice machine (or Livan Hernandez, which is the same thing). But if the goal is to prevent pitchers from an elevated injury risk due to overuse of their arms, Major League Baseball accomplished that several years ago.
Stephen Strasburg was supposed to make his final start of the season tonight, but after he allowed five runs in three innings last Friday, the Nationals announced that he would be shut down immediately. Manager Davey Johnson, in what was not his finest moment, blamed "media hype" for not allowing Strasburg to "be totally mentally concentrating on the job at hand."