Tommy John, the former Dodgers and Yankees starter for whom the ligament replacement surgery is named after, went off this morning on ESPN Radio when discussing Stephen Strasburg's innings limit.
“I would hope the general manager has a degree in orthopedic surgery, or at least kinesiology or physiology, and I don’t think Mike Rizzo has any of that,” Tommy John said. “Here’s the thing, go back, WikipediaTommy John and see how many innings I pitched in 1976, my comeback year. I think it was like 206 or 207 innings. From the time I came back until I quit in 1989, I never missed a start in 13 years,” Tommy John continued.
“Now, we were archaic back there, but here’s my take on the thing: There’s no guarantee [if] you shut him down. The Yankees screwed Joba Chamberlain over. I mean, this poor kid has had all kind of problems, and they had Joba Rules....It didn’t help him a bit. He still had to have Tommy John surgery.“
“So there’s no guarantee that you’re shutting Strasburg down, that he’s going to be healthy down the road,” Tommy John said. “You want him healthy. I understand that. He’s the franchise. But you know what? The golden ring only comes around on the merry go round maybe one time. There’s no guarantee that if you keep Strasburg out this year and keep him healthy for next year next, year next, year, that you’re gonna win. You’ve got a chance to win now,” John said.
“Now, I don’t say you trash the kid, but you pitch him. And maybe somewhere down the road you skip his turn, you give his arm a little rest. But if I were a fan of the Nationals, I would be SO upset. That I’ve got a chance to be in the playoffs, maybe be in the World Series, and you’re taking that away from me. I wouldn’t buy my tickets next year. I would say hey, go do it yourself. I understand where [Rizzo’s] coming from, I understand that. But he’s not gonna get hurt. If he hasn’t been hurt this year, he’s not gonna get hurt."
There's really a lot that's wrong with what John is saying here. First off, when he had the surgery, he was 32 and had over 2000 career innings in the majors, along with 500 more in the minors. Strasburg had his surgery at age 22, and has logged a total of 307 career innings...with just 123 1/3 of those coming before the surgery. A decade in age and 1900 career innings before the surgery means the world in a situation like this.
John was also the antithesis of Strasburg in terms of pitching style. John never was a strikeout pitcher who threw very hard, as opposed to Strasburg, a flame thrower who strikes out batters by the handful.
For John to come out and say that he'd be pissed off as a fan if Strasburg was shut down is just a silly statement. Comparing himself, a major league veteran who was never thought of as a top-line starter in his early career, to Strasburg, a franchise pitcher who was just drafted three years ago, is insane. It's not as if the window for the Nationals is closing after this year. Their only significant free agents this offseason will be Edwin Jackson, Chien-Ming Wang, and Mike Gonzalez. There's not a superstar leaving the team. Hell, next year's Washington team may be even better than this year's squad, with hopefully full seasons from Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, and Jayson Werth.
The Nationals aren't willing to possibly destroy the career of a pitcher with Cy Young potential to make the playoffs for one season. Hell, a playoff run this year is a near guarantee, with Washington holding a 98.7% chance of making the playoffs right now. Remember back in 2003, when the Cubs ran Kerry Wood and Mark Prior into the ground during their playoff run that year? The Cubs haven't won a playoff game since Game Four of that 2003 NLCS against the Marlins.
[h/t: DC Sports Bog]
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