Monday, August 20, 2012

More on the Strasburg Shutdown

The Nationals shut down Jordan Zimmermann
last season after 161.1 innings.
The Monday print column is about the Washington Nationals' intent to shut down Stephen Strasburg at some point in September.

Here I intend to follow some tangents, largely on the role of uber-agent Scott Boras, I passed over for the always-tight Monday newshole in sports:

* This innings limitation is not strictly a Nationals idea. It appears to be the new standard in Tommy John cases.  Consider the Twins and pitching prospect Kyle Gibson.

Gibson, like Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann (another young Nationals starter who was shut down after topping 160 innings in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery), returned to game action in mid-season roughly one year after having his ligament replaced.

The Twins have made it known that Gibson's innings next season — his first full season after the surgery — will be limited.

In short, the Twins appear to have the Strasburg/Zimmermann protocol in mind for Gibson's future.

* On Saturday we ran this Washington Post piece — a column by Mike Wise — in which Boras gets to depict himself as the power behind the throne of the Nationals.

I found it a fascinating piece, partly because it so echoed Boras' self-description last winter as a partner to the Detroit Tigers.

Boras does have a record of landing high-priced clients repeatedly with certain teams; I've tended to think of it more as a case of those front offices (or owners) being particular suckers for Boras' sales pitch.

The plan to shut down Stephen Strasburg
for the postseason — and perhaps the final
weeks of the regular season — is
hotly debated around the game.
As I said in the previous link, it's dangerous for a team to behave as if Boras is its ally. The Texas Rangers learned that the hard way, or at least its previous ownership did.

* Strasburg has been depicted throughout this controversy as opposed to a shutdown.

It's always useful in such cases to remember: The agent works for the player. It's never the other way around.

If Boras is pushing the Nationals to take it easy on Strasburg, it's a safe bet it's with Strasburg's approval. It may be Boras' idea that Strasburg shouldn't exceed 160 innings (or whatever the number is), but Strasburg is on board.

If he really wanted to push the envelope, he could publicly rebuke Boras, even fire him. He hasn't, and he won't. And, at least in this case, shouldn't.

* I find myself wondering what role the pitcher shutdown plan had in Jim Riggleman's decision last summer to quit as Washington manager.

The Nats had won 11 of 12 when Riggleman walked out on June 23, citing Mike Rizzo's refusal to talk contract extension. Now I wonder if the plan to limit Zimmermann's innings might have been part of the issue.

Riggleman was the manager who had the rookie Kerry Wood in 1998. In retrospect, he rode the kid hard that year, and it understandable. Riggleman was under pressure to win now, not to keep an eye on the long haul.

Still, Rizzo may well have seen Riggleman's track record as being exactly what he didn't want handling Strasburg and Zimmermann. And if Riggleman wasn't on board with limiting Zimmermann last year, Rizzo probably didn't mind seeing him leave.

1 comment:

  1. These petty conflicts really. It's a waste of argument but, hey, why not just keep all the good players in while they can still play or until they want to retire? That way they can mentor rookies as they play.