Nontroversy of the Day: Resting for the Playoffs

Earlier today, Davey Johnson made the statement that should the Nats clinch the Division, that he would be resting his starters. Since word of that broke, the world has gone crazy. I’m not talking about Nats fans, although truth be told I haven’t been on twitter much today so I don’t know what the landscape looks like on this “issue”. I’m talking once again about the outsiders, the national media and fans of other teams.

Let’s get one thing straight; should the Nats clinch the division, Davey isn’t going to bench the entire starting lineup from the next day until the end of the regular season. I said on the podcast a few weeks ago that the most likely scenario is that Davey has a rotation of 3-4 guys per day that are sitting.

Now, the overwhelming majority of comments I’ve read have vilified the Nats because they happen to play two teams (PHI, STL) who are still fighting for the second wild-card, even though the Nats may be in the position to clinch the division in a matter of days, and are planning on resting their starters should they do so. One of the most common thoughts I’ve seen expressed is that the Nats are somehow breaking an unwritten rule by not “playing to win” every day. This one is asinine to me as it’s being phrased like we’re trying to throw a game. Let’s do the math. If the Nats win today the magic number is down to 5, so the absolute earliest that the sitting of starters would start is game 1 of the St. Louis series on Friday (which would involve the Braves getting swept by the Fish).

So this now begs the question: What exactly do the Nationals have to gain by throwing the following six games? The Nats obviously aren’t looking to assist the Cardinals in any way, shape or form as STL has shown the ability over this year and last to get hot and stay that way for a significant period of time and would be a team no one wants to face come a Division series. It also doesn’t make any sense to “not compete” over those last six games because having the best record also carries a big advantage. As we asked on the Podcast this week, would you rather have to travel to ATL/STL to face their #2 and #3 pitchers, not seeing their #1 until Game 4, or head to SFG and faced Cain and Bumgarner? It’s a pretty easy choice there.

In the end, I don’t think this is anything for anyone to get worked up about. It’s not like this is the first time in the history of sport that guys have been rested heading into the playoffs. Davey said it himself that he’s not worried and “doesn’t give a rat’s ass what somebody thinks”, and he’s yet to give any Nats fan a reason to question that.

Ed Note: One of the other prevailing thoughts regarding this news was “Hey, Philly did that last year why don’t you go ask them how it worked out”. I’m not sure a more ignorant statement could’ve been made, let alone wholly repeated ad nauseam. For some reason these people think the Phils were decimated in the 2011 NLDS, when in fact the series went the full five games and the Phillies outscored STL 21-19. Game five was decided by Halladay giving up 1 run on two hits in the first inning (and only giving up 4 H over the next 7IP) and Chris Carpenter throwing a 3-hit complete game gem. While I’m not a Philly supporter, let’s do our best to not perpetuate inaccuracies.

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