By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I have some good news and some bad news if you're a fan of the Washington Nationals.

Let's start with the good.

Your team, after seven seasons of never finishing above .500, or higher than third place, sits atop the National League East and is looking good. The same National League East, mind you, that saw your team end up 21 1/2 games out of first place just a year ago.

That is pretty good news.

Some more good news?

Your young stud pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, looks the part of a real ace. Strasburg takes no-hit stuff to the mound almost every time he's given the ball.


Now, unfortunately, the bad news.

Come Labor Day, or sometime around then, the Nats are going to pull the plug on Strasburg and shut him down for the rest of the season.

Your team could be up by 10 games in the NL East (not likely) or in a dog fight for the division (more likely) like they're in now.

Either way, Strasburg will be just like you, watching and hoping for the best. Now, I'm not a Nats fan, but if I was, this would drive me crazy.

Washington's front office knows it has to be careful with Strasburg. He's already had major surgery on his golden right arm. A right arm they hope hangs around D.C. for another decade or two (the guy won't turn 24 until later this month).

He's made only 33 career starts; and he left his last one after only three innings due to the heat in Atlanta.

I understand that.

But, and there's always a but, you never know when, or even if, your team will be in the position it is now. Right in the mix with the big boys.

Yes, the Nationals have a dynamic young team with a ton of talent. Many, many teams in baseball would gladly trade their roster for Washington's roster faster than you can say Bryce Harper.

However, baseball is a funny game. Dynasties in this day and age don't happen.

And when you have never won a division, let alone a playoff game, that brass ring looks pretty good to the folks who buy your tickets.

Add in the fact that baseball has upped the wild card ante to two teams in each league and you can smell meaningful baseball in October wafting around D.C. I couldn't pass that up. My gosh, you have to go for it. Now.

Yes, indeed, the Nats are doing their best to limit the amount of innings Strasburg throws in order to try and stretch him for as long as they can.

Look at the boxscores and it's usually five or six a start and then he's gone. An inning saved here and an inning saved there could mean two or three more starts squeezed out of him later.

The magic number of innings being thrown around for him is 160. Then, Nats management says, he's done for the season. He's thrown 93 innings so far in 16 starts and is 9-3 with a tiny ERA.

He might be asked to start the upcoming All-Star Game an honor that would look really bad if he turned it down. But one that would add innings to his arm. His team has played 79 games and has 83 to go.

The math isn't in his favor unless the last couple of weeks of the regular season are cancelled and Bud Selig says start the playoffs in early September.

Since that's not going to happen, it looks as if the Nats will have to soldier on without Strasburg when wins are at their toughest to come by, down the stretch in September.

That's a shame for the fans because in modern day baseball, a team really only needs two good starters to go far in the playoffs.

And the Nats have them in Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. That duo rivals any in baseball even if you've never heard of Gonzalez (you will). And that duo could have Washington still playing baseball even while the Redskins are halfway through their season.

Imagine that. Important baseball games in the land of Redskins football. That would be something.

Something, apparently, we won't see this year.

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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