Ready Made Narrative
This isn't the end of it. Far, far from it, and we have no true idea just how long the discussion will continue. There are ready made narratives for just about every possible outcome. Either shutting Strasburg down will look like the smooth and logical decision as the Nats celebrate on the field in October, or it will be made to look like the dumbest idea on Earth as they are sent home early in a game Strasburg could have started. Even if the Nationals are blown out in October and Gio, Zimmermann, and Detwiler all pitch poorly the focus will remain on Strasburg. His presence would have given the Nationals a mental edge they were lacking. It is a near certainty that some media members already have the story written. They just need the details to be filled in by the Nationals.
All season long the Nationals have dealt with missing players. Look behind the plate on any given day and guess who you won't see, Wilson Ramos. Ramos went down early on in the season with an ACL tear and though he has made appearances at Nats Park recently it is not without a limp. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, and Ian Desmond have all missed time, and let's not forget that Bryce Harper spent a month of the season in the minors giving starts to players like Rick Ankiel and Xavier Nady.
For one reason or another the Nationals have endured, and while the resilience of the Nationals is one possible narrative it is only that. Look deeper on the roster. Look at guys like Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore, or Roger Bernadina who have all filled in while the previously mentioned players were missing time. It is easier to credit the personality of a team than it is the talent. The why of this is a bit of a mystery, but personality is fun and it humanizes the players. We all have personality. Very few people on this planet have the genetic and physical gifts to be top tier athletes.
It is also better for the media to credit the players and their grit than to say that Mike Rizzo is one of the best GMs in baseball and he built a heck of a team from the top to bottom. Money Ball and The Extra 2% are two recent books that have credited GMs with having a bigger role in on-field success than either the players or the field manager, and in some ways this goes against the traditional view of baseball.
Baseball is still a game that is won on the field, but by the time that happens the hard work has mostly been done, and so far this season no one has built a better team than Mike Rizzo. It is interesting then that many in the media are calling this one of the dumbest decisions they have ever seen. GMs in baseball are supposed to know more about building a team than sports writers, and if Mike Rizzo has all the information he says he does then the best thing to do is trust him and hope this works out for Strasburg and the Nats for years to come.
That won't stop the talk though. The media may not root for a team, but in this case it feels like they are rooting for a story. It is like they want the Nationals to get close to the World Series this season, but lose on a day Strasburg should have started, and for Strasburg and the Nats to never make it back. That is the story they won't, but look at how the Nats are set-up. This is not the most talented team the Nationals will put on the field in the next few seasons. That team is still coming, and while nothing is guranteed the story still has yet to be written, and the final story of Strasburg and the Nats could be very different than the desired story.