bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season

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Stephen Strasburg is a young pitcher for the Washington Nationals, a team that, as of this writing, has the best record in all of Major League Baseball at 86-54. Strasburg, in his first full season in the bigs, is the team’s best pitcher, sporting a record of 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA. He has struck out 197 batters in only 159 1/3 innings. With his team a virtual lock for the playoffs, you would think he would be preparing to lead the Nats into the postseason for the first time since the former Montreal Expos moved to our nation’s capital in 2008. Instead, team officials have shut Strasburg down for the rest of the season.

To be clear, Strasburg is not injured. He was injured back in 2010 after only 12 starts at the Major League level, eventually undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery (a.k.a. Tommy John surgery). He missed a year while rehabilitating from the surgery, making five starts for the Nationals at the end of the 2011 season. Before the 2012 season, the team decided that it would limit his innings to somewhere between 160 and 180 for the year, regardless of the team’s position in the standings at the time that he reached that total. For a player like Strasburg, this is a pretty amazing situation. On the one hand, he never even had a full minor league season. He was drafted first overall in the 2009 draft, pitching only a handful of innings in the Arizona Fall League. He started the 2010 season in the minors but made it to the Majors by June of that year. The injury followed, leaving him with just that little bit at the end of the 2011 season before this decision was made. His potential and his early results would indicate that he has a pretty incredible career ahead of him, and the team clearly wants to preserve his arm for that future. That said, this team has a legitimate chance to win it all this season. How do you take your best pitcher, who appears to be completely healthy, and shut him down for the year? How do you explain this decision to the rest of the team, some of whom will never have a better shot at getting to the World Series than they have right now?

A ton of attention has been paid to this situation all season, in a “will they or won’t they?” sort of way. To the team’s credit, they had a plan and they stuck to it. I guess there is something to be said for that. Still, the competitor in me hates this decision. There is no guarantee that Strasburg will have a longer, healthier career because of this. Hell, he could get hurt separating frozen hamburgers tomorrow. Strasburg is less than thrilled about the move, but he has no real recourse here. If the Nats suffer an early exit from the playoffs, though, this move will be second-guessed in a big way. Should the team have limited his innings in the early part of the season so that they would still have him available for the games that really count? There must have been some other way to do this.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Brandon McCarthy, a pitcher for the Oakland A’s, was hit in the head with a line drive on Wednesday. He resumed his busy Twitter activity on Friday, so it appears that he will be okay.

3) Eight football players who play for North Dakota State were arrested and charged with faking signatures on political petitions. Not a crime you often hear associated with college athletes…

4) Devon Walker, a safety for the Tulane football team, broke his neck during the team’s game against Tulsa on Saturday. Walker collided with a teammate while trying to make a tackle, and he collapsed immediately. He was given CPR on the field and was taken off on a stretcher.  He will have surgery in the next day or two. It is not yet known if he will be paralyzed.

5) The Associated Press reported this week that Lance Thomas, a former Duke basketball player, appeared to have received impermissible benefits from a jeweler during the 2009-2010 season, which ended in a national title for the Blue Devils. This will be a fascinating story to watch, as it could mean a vacated championship and a major stain on a program that is often held up as the model to which all of college basketball should aspire.

6) The Arizona Cardinals managed to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon despite a glaring error by the replacement referees who were working the game due to the current labor dispute between the NFL and the real officials. The Seahawks took a timeout with 30 seconds left in the game, despite the fact that they actually did not have a timeout remaining. The referees were confused by an injury timeout that had been taken shortly before the issue in question, and they made the wrong call. Luckily, it did not factor into the outcome.

7) Dematha High School, a football powerhouse in the suburbs of D.C., was hit by scandal this week. Five players were removed from the team after it was reported that they hired prostitutes while at the team’s hotel in North Carolina last week, where they were staying the night after they beat Hillside, another powerful program. This will get ugly.

Good sports:

1) Tiger Woods became the first golfer to pass $100 million in career earnings this week after he finished third in the Deutsche Bank Open on Monday.

2) San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers tied the NFL record for longest field goal on Sunday, sending a 63-yard attempt off the crossbar and through.

3) Former Formula One champion Alex Zanardi, who was horrifically injured in a wreck back in 2001 that cost him both of his legs, won a gold medal in the Paralympics in London on Wednesday. He won a race in an event called paracycling, which involves a bike that is powered by the arms rather than the legs.

4) Brendon Ayanbedejo, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, has been outspoken in his support for same-sex marriage over the last few years. This week, it was reported that a Maryland politician, Emmett Burns, wrote a letter to team owner Steve Bisciotti asking him to essentially muzzle his player, saying that the team has fans that oppose this view and that Ayenbedejo was guilty of dividing the fanbase. Ridiculous. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe took offense to Burns’ bigotry and flouting of the First Amendment, and wrote a brilliant and quite profane open letter in response that was published by Deadspin. Check it out.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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