Okay, Strasburg shutdown haters, you’re about to have to step up your game if you don’t want to appear to be a bunch of hypocrites. Because in the next two years, two teams and two ace pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery may well find themselves exactly where the Nats and Strasburg were in 2012–and amazingly they hail from the Nats’ own division.
There’s no doubt that had Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez been healthy for all of this season, that Nats would not coasted to the NL East after the Braves collapsed. Not to say that either the Mets or Marlins would have had the horses to beat them out for the division title–neither team did–just that they would have no doubt won quite a few more games and kept things a bit more interesting. In fact, if Giancarlo Stanton could also have avoided that beanball the Marlins might have had a chance to slip into the playoffs as a wild card team.
The fact is that the Mets and Marlins are both teams that feature a handful of decent veterans and a number of up-and-coming players, particularly good young pitchers–in other words they look an awful lot like the Nats did circa 2011. By as early as next season, the Mets with Harvey leading their rotation along with young guns Zach Wheeler and Jacob deGroom could easily become contenders for at least a wild card spot.
For his part, Harvey is already predicting a Mets 2015 Opening Day victory, presumably with him getting the win. But what happens if the Mets are in the hunt come September and decide the prudent thing is to do what the Nats did two years ago? Will the New York sports media tear them apart? Or how about if the Mets do let Harvey keep pitching (he threw a career high 178.1 innings in 2012 before blowing out his elbow), and the wear and tear of going well over 200 innings on a recently repaired elbow becomes painfully obvious in the NLDS (kind of like Robert Griffin’s knee in that 2012 Redskins’ playoff game)? Does that same media then start screaming for Harvey to be immediately shut down?
The same scenario could play out for the Marlins in 2016 (though with Fernandez being injured earlier in the season than Harvey was last year, he might be able to log some a half-season or so worth of innings next year). Their window to win before Giancarlo Stanton becomes free agent eligible (assuming they don’t trade him or convince him to sign an extension) will be down to exactly that one year. Knowing that, do they ride the super talented Fernandez like a horse until his arm is ready to fall off hoping to become one-year championship wonders for the third time in team history? Would you trust sleaze bag Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to NOT do that, especially knowing there is no way he’ll want to pay Fernandez what he is worth when the time comes?
The point is that with the number of players undergoing Tommy John surgery skyrocketing these days this issue is going to come up over and over again with young stud pitchers needing multiple years to get back to full strength while their teams desperately need their services NOW in order to take a shot at winning that elusive championship. Teams are going to have to decide whether to risk those valuable young assets or be patient and hope they can win in the playoffs anyway. By ripping on the Nats for the Strasburg shutdown, the haters have boxed themselves in to a position that may be rapidly becoming untenable.