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Davey Johnson admits Nationals decision to shut down Strasburg “probably” cost World Series

  • David Whitlock

As he enters his final games as a major league baseball manager, retiring Washington Nationals skipper Davey Johnson admits that the decision to shut Stephen Strasburg down after 159.1 innings in 2012 “probably” cost the Nationals the 2012 World Series.  This tweet from 106.7 “The Fan” in Washington D.C. disclosed portions of the on-air interview:

Coming off Tommy John surgery in September 2010, the ball club’s strategy all along was to shut Stephen Strasburg down around the 160-inning mark.  Strasburg ended his 2012 season on September 7th, with a 15-6 record, 3.16 ERA, and 197 strikeouts (7th in the National League).  He also was a National League All-Star and won the Silver Slugger (.277 average with 7 RBI).

Johnson and Strasburg share a lighter moment in April 2012 (Credit: AP/Julio Cortez)

Johnson and Strasburg share a lighter moment in early 2012
(Credit: AP/Julio Cortez)

The Nationals promising season ended painfully in the first round of the playoffs, they blew a 7-5 lead in the 9th inning of the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Wild Card St. Louis Cardinals.  Unfortunately, part of the logic in shutting Strasburg down was that, with the young team they had, postseason appearances would be plentiful, and multiple titles (National League or World Series) would be won if they didn’t ruin Strasburg’s arm.  At least that was the thinking of the Nationals brass (led by GM Mike Rizzo) and one Johnson doesn’t necessarily disagree with (from the interview via CBS DC):

“You do what’s best for today with an eye on tomorrow,” Johnson told the Junkies. “I live by the rule and Mike Rizzo lives by that rule. I mean, look at RGIII. You’re still suffering for decisions you made on him, you know, running him out there.”

The discussion turned to whether or not shutting down Strasburg contributed to the Nationals poor 2013 performance, Johnson wasn’t sure (same interview):

“Well, I don’t know about that, we had a little different ballclub this year guys. I mean, it wasn’t the same crew. We had some adjustments to make. Couple new key players; the bullpen a little different; the starters.”

Reality is that the team was mediocre this year, Strasburg only won 7 games (with a better ERA, ironically), and the future prospects of the team are cloudy at best.

The decision was widely debated within the baseball community; we may never know what might have happened, but we do know Nationals fans and ownership may lament the decision for years to come.

Davey Johnson will step down with two Manager of the Year crowns, and 28th winningest manager of all time.

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David Whitlock

David Whitlock - manager

David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

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