Phillies Phoes of the Week Part I: Nationally Ranked


Washington Nationals

The exact timetable is still up in the air, but the Nats are definitely shutting down Stephen Strasburg…sometime. The team announced that they will shut down their ace for 2-3 starts at the end of the regular season. Assuming the Nats keep their strangle hold over first place Stephen Strasburg will not be starting game 1 of the division series. All of this drama over one man’s surgically repaired elbow. Of course, there would be no drama if the Nats just stunk up the joint like they always do, but no. They just had to turn their franchise around create all this media drama over whether Strasburg should pitch or not. That’s just jealousy talking, but there is nothing more fun than a national media controversy about your home team heading into the playoffs. Ah relevancy, sigh.

When We Last Met: The Phightins took 2 out of 3 in their last matchup with the Nats. Believe it or not Cliff Lee actually won a game in the series! My apologies to Lee for the blatant sarcasm, but wins have been hard to come by for the former Cy Young winner. Maybe the Nationals are the charm Lee needs to get to lucky number 3. Ok that was my last one i promise.

Series Predictions: 1) Cliff Lee wins his third game of the season! He has to win at some point, why not Sunday?

2) Kevin Frandsen continues his audition for the open third base position with another strong series. It doesn’t sound completely nuts to have Frandsen start 2013 on the hot corner any more.

3) The proportion of Nats to Phillies fans rises ever so slightly at CBP, starting a media driven campaign to take back our park.

Fansided Perspective: District on Deck staff writer Mike James answered all my Nats questions with out rubbing the Phillies misery in my face. Kudos.

1) The Clock is almost at midnight for shutting down Stephen Strasburg. Are the Nats really going to hold him back during their first meaningful playoff chase ever?Yup. And contrary to what the national media would have everyone believe, as Washington fans, we’re pretty much OK with it. Yes, ideally, we would all rather see him pitching for as long as the season runs, but ideally, he would never have had to have the Tommy John surgery in the first place. You have to play with the cards you’re dealt.

My two cents on the whole thing is this: Firstly, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. Jordan Zimmermann was on a similar restriction last season and Nats GM Mike Rizzo made it clear from spring training that Strasburg would follow suit. And really, if Rizzo changed his mind now and said, yeah, we’re going to take our chances with our ace’s surgically reconstructed arm because of our place in the standings, I think that would really send the wrong message. It’s not like Rizzo and the Nats came into this thing with the goal of being another Florida Marlins story — let’s win one and then dismantle the team, becoming irrelevant for years in the process. The goal has always been to not just build a winning team, but a winning organization, something like the Phillies have had over the past six or seven years, one that is good enough to win the division every year and make noise in the post-season. The doctor that did the surgery and other medical professionals advised Rizzo to put a cap on Strasburg somewhere, not only because of the surgery but also because of the fact he’s never thrown more than 123 innings in a professional season. Even without taking the surgery into account, most people would hesitate to see someone go from a max of 120 to in the range of 220 innings in one season.
Zimmermann is having his best season the year after his innings limit. That’s what we want to see from Strasburg in 2013, and letting him pitch without restrictions increases the odds that that won’t happen. We’ll never know what other outcomes might have been, but Mike Rizzo has delivered a pennant contender quicker than most have us expected or even hoped. I don’t see any reason not to trust him on this issue.

2) Who do you see as the most important positional player for the Nats heading down the stretch?

This is a tough one. Now that everyone is more or less healthy for the Nationals, aside from catcher Wilson Ramos we now have what most would consider to be the team’s “best lineup” available. Since the All-Star break, most of these guys have been turning it up a notch, with one glaring exception: Bryce Harper.

Harper’s struggles since the break have almost continued without pause, last weekend’s series against the Mets notwithstanding. Just when fans think he might be snapping out of it, he comes up with stretches as he had against the Braves earlier this week, swinging at pitches that just aren’t strikes and not squaring up the balls where he makes contact. Taken as a whole, he is still putting together a very solid season for a 19-year-old playing every day on a pennant contender, but manager Davey Johnson has taken to sitting Harper occasionally to get some of his reserves some playing time. Guys like Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi have been deserving of starts and really the only option is to leave Harper on the bench, especially against the “crafty lefty” types that have tied Harper in knots this season. At the same time though, we all know he has the talent to break out of it at any point. If he were to do that, and the rest of the Nationals lineup continued to produce as they have been over the past month and a half or so, Washington would be very difficult to shut down.

3) If the Nats do hold on and make a deep run in October, will we have to worry about Nationals fans invading Philadelphia next season?Invading is a strong word. It’s unlikely there will ever be a reverse of the situation we’ve had in Washington the last few seasons, if only because there needs to be available tickets for anyone to invade anywhere. While I see that the sellout streak has come to an end at CBP, Philly fans are still going to come out for their team. That’s their nature. Plus, I don’t know if this 2012 season is a true harbinger of things to come for the Phillies. Aside from the Toronto Blue Jays, I don’t know if there has been a team so beset by injuries as the Phillies this season. Missing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley from the start of the season, having Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee go down at various point, and now Carlos Ruiz, that’s a lot of star power either on the sidelines or still in recovery mode, and that’s hard for any team to overcome. And while these guys are aging, they’re not dinosaurs yet — I think there will be a bounceback from the Phillies next season, a transitional season as the organization embraces some newer guys while getting what they can from the established veterans. If the Phillies are even in the hunt for a playoff spot next season, the home crowds will turn out, as they are starting to do in Washington now. I would say it will be difficult for fans of either team to stage any invasions over the next few years.