Next week, the Washington Nationals will begin a playoff series for the fourth time in six years. They have yet to win a series. With a healthy Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg—plus Max Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, and others—this year could be different. I wrote about it in my final regular season column for CBS Local. Starting next Thursday, I’ll be recapping the playoffs with a “Five Things You Missed” column.
It came as no surprise when Daniel Murphy rejected the Mets’ one-year, $15.8 million offer last offseason. At the time, no player had ever accepted a “qualifying offer.”* Instead, Murphy tested the market and wound up with $37.5 million over three years from the Washington Nationals. If Murphy’s first half of 2016 is any indication, he made a mistake not accepting the Mets’ deal.
Two players hit “Little League grand slams” this past week, a feat that typically includes some defensive ineptitude. In one instance, the defensive culprit TOTALLY REDEEMED HIMSELF. Also, a prominent starting pitcher announced he’s hanging ’em up, and the Astros are about to break an MLB record. Read all about it in my latest recap for CBS Local.
Baseball has been played for a long time, so it’s not often there’s a true first. But there was earlier this week, as a game was played in front of no fans. That was in Baltimore. Fifty miles south on I-95, the Nationals are starting to heat up, propelled by a ridiculous comeback win. All that and more in my latest MLB recap for CBS Local.
When the Washington Nationals benched star pitcher Stephen Strasburg before the 2012 playoffs, general manager Mike Rizzo had this to say to any who opposed the decision: “We’ll be back and doing this a couple more times.” The implication was that the Nationals would get back to the playoffs and be in position for a World Series run in subsequent seasons. It was equal parts arrogant and naïve, both at the time and in retrospect, as the Nationals were bounced in the first round and did not make the playoffs the next year. They returned to the top of the National League East this season and will likely enter the playoffs, as they did in 2012, with the best record in the league. But the franchise can never atone for its mistakes two years ago.
Nothing excites baseball fans like a young ace. When one takes the mound, there is a palpable buzz in the stadium. There’s always the chance of something special. Tonight at Citi Field, two of the best young pitchers in baseball, Matt Harvey and Stephen Strasburg, square off. There will likely be a lot of strikeouts and few runs, the kind of game purists love.
The sample size is small, but this figures to be the first of many National League East battles between these two. Harvey, of the New York Mets, was taken with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft and has made just 13 career starts, his first coming in July last season. He will turn 25 next March. Strasburg was taken by the Washington Nationals with the first pick in 2009, debuted the following year, and has made 48 starts. He turns 25 in July. As the image above notes, they both have the size—6’4″, 220-225 pounds—of a dominant starting pitcher.
Continue reading A Pair of Aces: Matt Harvey vs Stephen Strasburg
I’ve never agreed with basketball coaches who remove their best player as soon as he or she gets into foul trouble. Two fouls in the first half? The coach calls for a sub almost reflexively. The thought is that if the player stays in the game, he might foul out and therefore not be available later. In other words, he won’t get to play as much as he usually does. But of course he might not foul out. By removing him for long stretches, the coach is guaranteeing he will miss significant minutes.
And that brings us to Stephen Strasburg, the 24-year-old star pitcher for the Washington Nationals. It had been speculated for months, but recently Washington general manager Mike Rizzo made it official: Strasburg will be shut down for the season after reaching an innings limit of approximately 160. Strasburg has thrown 145 innings to this point, meaning the first-place Nats won’t have their ace for the last 2-3 weeks of the regular season or the playoffs.
Continue reading Should the Nationals Shutdown Stephen Strasburg?