Nationals

Quick Links

Ryan Zimmerman thinks Strasburg shutdown is reason why Strasburg is dominant now

Ryan Zimmerman thinks Strasburg shutdown is reason why Strasburg is dominant now

Back in 2012, arrival in the playoffs was unexpected and pleasurable. The Nationals graduated from mediocre (80-81) to force (98-64), producing the franchise’s most successful regular-season team to date.

They weren’t supposed to be. Maybe in 2013 or 2014, when Stephen Strasburg could pitch more or 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper operated with further seasoning, the Nationals would be ready for the playoffs. That’s how the narrative at the time framed up. Yet, here they were, hosting the National League Division Series against St. Louis, now their opponent in the National League Championship Series beginning Friday night.

“It was a long time ago,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I always say 2012 was such a fun year because we weren't supposed to be good for another a year or two after that. I've also said that group of guys sort of reminds me of this group that we have. We kind of got on a roll that year unexpectedly and just kind of ran with it. We had some veteran guys that kept everyone loose. We had a lot of fun on that team. We did some silly things. We made fun of each other. Nobody was safe, I always said, on that team. 

“So there's definitely some comparisons as far as the character of that team. Everything's different. What we've done with this team I don't think is comparable to anyone else. More that feel than the actual series. Every series is different and so many things have changed since then. And the experience that a lot of us have is so much different. It's a fun city to play in ... one of the best baseball towns in the country. Should be a fun environment.”

That series is recalled for two prominent things: the Strasburg shutdown and the organization’s first Game 5 collapse. 

Not allowing Strasburg to pitch in the postseason -- replacing him in the rotation with Jon Lannan -- remains a topic of torment seven years later. Political figures including Senator Mitch McConnell and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, joined a bevy of local and national talking heads to state their opinion on whether Strasburg should be allowed to pitch in October. He said before Game 5 of the NLDS there’s not much personal reflection on the topic.

“No, [I] try not to look in the past, try not to look in the future, really just try and be in the moment,” Strasburg said. “Once you start thinking about how things could have been or what things might happen, it takes your focus away from what your job is.”

Strasburg remains alone if he is not looking back at the start of this series. The decision was, and remains, one of the most striking choices in the history of the franchise. Zimmerman was in his prime then. The choice may have cost him a chance to advance. Though, he thinks it helped set the Nationals up for where they are now.

“I think what we did in 2012 is the reason why he is the type of pitcher he is now,” Zimmerman said. “Obviously I don’t make those decisions, and in 2012, it was a highly debated issue. But at that point, as tough a decision as it was to not pitch him, I think they were honestly looking out for the best interest of the player. You've seen some guys that have tried to push the limit coming back from that surgery and things haven't turned out too well. So in the moment, it was a tough decision and maybe not a very popular decision. But you could also say that Stephen wouldn't be the pitcher that he is now or be doing what he is now if they didn't make that decision.”

And, where would the Nationals be? They became an organization known for failing in Game 5. The 2012 postseason started a faltering legacy when a 6-0 lead in the final game evaporated and Pete Kozma received his moment to shine in a four-run ninth inning. 

This year, they are the unlikely team again. However, the sense is different, as Zimmerman pointed out. No longer are they the upstart franchise. They are home to expectations and, for once, dealing out the heartbreak. Strasburg is along for the ride, too.

 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

One of two flights chartered by Major League Baseball from the Dominican Republic to Miami carried multiple players that tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in the U.S., The Washington Post reported Thursday evening. None of the more than 160 players and staff members were tested by MLB for the disease prior to flying.

Among the passengers on those flights—which flew out of Santo Domingo on July 1—were Nationals players Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Wander Suero and Fernando Abad as well as two of their prospects in Luis Garcia and Joan Adon. All six players are isolating in D.C. and one of them, The Post reported, tested positive for the coronavirus during intake screening July 2.

The Nationals announced Sunday that two players had tested positive upon arriving to D.C. and were in isolation. In addition to the six players who flew from the D.R., Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro and Roenis Elías were absent from practice at Nationals Park this week. Although Castro returned to the field Thursday, Washington has yet to give any updates on the remaining players not cleared for play.

RELATED: MIKE RIZZO SAYS ‘I COULDN’T LIVE WITH MYSELF IF WE WENT ON HAPHAZARDLY’

“We’re still waiting to hear about those other guys,” manager Davey Martinez said in a Zoom press conference Thursday. “But they’re working diligently, MLB and our medical staff, to get those guys cleared. Hopefully, we’ll get them soon.”

The lack of testing prior to those flights was a result of insufficient resources in the D.R. to accommodate the number of people who were to board, The Post reported. The news comes three days after the Nationals opted to cancel practice due to test results taking over 72 hours to come in. General manager Mike Rizzo issued a strong statement that afternoon stressing the importance of quick testing.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” Rizzo wrote. “We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families.  Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp.  Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab.  Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

MLB’s 2020 season is scheduled to begin July 23, when the Nationals are set to host the New York Yankees on Opening Night.

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Could more Nationals opt-out of 2020 season as Opening Day draws near?

Could more Nationals opt-out of 2020 season as Opening Day draws near?

The Nationals begin defending their World Series title on July 23 against the New York Yankees. Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have both opted out of the 2020 season. Could there be more? The crew from the Nationals Talk podcast believes it’s likely. 

“I do wonder once they get into this routine if some players will say ‘Nope, this isn’t for me,’” Nick Ashooh asked. “I have a feeling we’ll probably see some players bow out in the first couple weeks of the season.” 

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle has continued to voice his concerns about the 60-game season. Doolittle told reporters on July 5 that "I think I'm planning on playing. But at any point, if I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health, with all the things we have to think about and this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I'll opt-out."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

Doolittle’s wife, Eireann Dolan, has a chronic lung condition and as NBC Sports Washington Nats reporter Todd Dybas pointed out on the podcast, when at home, Doolittle will not be living with his wife during the season. 

Chase Hughes noted that road games could be a cause for concern for players. Hughes said they could be “feeling that anxiety when you’re at home and on the road,” especially if you have young children in your house.  

RELATED: DAVEY MARTINEZ SAYS WORLD SERIES RINGS WERE ‘DEFINITELY WORTH THE WAIT’

Opening Day for the Nationals is only two weeks away and many unknowns still remain. Could more players opt-out in 2020? It’s possible and definitely worth keeping an eye on as Opening Day approaches. 

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: