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No Second Thoughts on Strasburg

Charles E. Sutton | 10/22/2012, 2:21 p.m.

The storyline simply wouldn't go away. The Washington Nationals chose to shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg in early September after weeks of criticism over their plans. Everyone felt that if the Nats made the playoffs, part of the October baseball landscape would be the image of Strasburg in the dugout, instead of on the mound.

Those who argued against the decision received a firm answer during spring training. Nationals' management made it clear that Strasburg would be shut down prior to the postseason. Once the decision had been made in February, general manager Mike Rizzo was ready to face all criticism and stand boldly by it. He was fully committed to not change his mind irrespective of how much criticism was leveled against him. Many baseball analysts feel that things would have worked out differently for the Nats with Strasburg after they were beaten in five games by the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series on Friday.

It's hard to dismiss that Washington's starting pitching in Game 3 with Edwin Jackson left a lot to be desired. In fact, Jordan Zimmermann was subpar in Game 2, and Gio Gonzalez gave up seven bases on balls in Game 1. But in all likelihood, the starting pitcher Strasburg would have replaced in this specific series is Ross Detwiler, who pitched the best against St. Louis. So who's to say how the series would have really turned out.

What it actually came down to was that Rizzo believed the risk of future injury wasn't worth this year's postseason. However, he could have done a better job of explaining the actual medical studies the team used to reach its conclusion. It is still unclear why that information is considered proprietary and kept within the organization. In addition, the team was using a more sophisticated method than an innings limit to determine Strasburg's status. That too, could have been explained in far greater detail. Apparently, however, there are no second thoughts.

"I'm not going to think about it, no," Rizzo said after Friday's loss. "We had a plan in mind, and it was something that we had from the beginning. I stand by my decision, and we'll take the criticism as it comes. But we have to do what is best for the Washington Nationals, and we think we did."