The Washington Nationals are battling the defending World Series St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, and once again the Stephen Strasburg shutdown controversy has reared its ugly head.
Strasburg was left off the Nationals’ roster for the NLDS, with the team sticking to its guns after deciding to shut down their ace at about 160 innings a year removed from Tommy John surgery. With the series shifting back to DC, however, it’s hard not to imagine what good position Washington would have been in if they still had their ace left to pitch.
Legendary pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who made his reputation coaching the likes of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine with the 1990s-era Atlanta Braves, is among those who believe that the Nats made the wrong decision in shutting down the 24-year-old.
"Every team has two great starters that are gonna knock heads," Mazzone said in an interview on KFNS 590 The Fan, according to MLB.com. "But losing Strasburg changes everything in the No. 3 and No. 4 hole. That’s what you’ve got to look at.
"And basically I think it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen a Major League team do in my entire career, and I hope they pay the price for it. Because that’s just not right."
It’s a strong sentiment, but one that many around the league are likely to share. After all, an opportunity to win a World Series is a rare one, and the Nationals appear to be taking it a bit for granted by not taking an all-in approach with their young starter.
"I think it’s a lousy message that you send to your team, it’s a lousy message that you send to your fans," Mazzone said. "And I think it’s not a health issue. There was nothing wrong with Strasburg when they shut him down. He was extremely strong at that point in the season."
Then again, if Strasburg goes on to lead the Nats to a World Series win later in his (hopefully healthy) career — or, should they storm to a championship now without him — then all’s well that ends well. For now, baseball fans will have to just wait and see, while the debate continues to rage on.