Stephen Strasburg’s season is over. Finished. Done. All for the sake of extra innings.
The Nationals are shutting down their best pitcher, a young stud who gives them their best chance to end a Washington championship drought that’s lasted four score and eight years.
The Nats are turning into the Washington Generals. You remember the Generals. Clowns. Foils tor the Harlem Globetrotters for oh so many years.
The Nats are fools. If they knew going in that 160 innings was the limit for Strasburg, the could have done a better job allotting those innings, stretching out his starts to ensure he was available for the playoffs. A start in May is much less important than a start in October.
So now, with a chance to win Washington’s first World Series since 1924, the Nats are waving the white flag for Strasburg. After 159 1/3 innings. Modern baseball. They never did that to Walter Johnson, who pitched the Washington Senators to that 1924 championship.
A better plan
Maybe they should have talked to Strasburg about the shutdown, and together devised a better plan.
“I don’t know if I’m ever going to accept it, to be honest,” Strasburg recently told the Washington Post. “It’s something that I’m not happy about at all. That’s not why I play the game. I play the game to be a good teammate and win. You don’t grow up dreaming out playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.”
Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels wonders out loud what Washington is doing. “I know you want to prepare for the future, but if this is your one opportunity to win the World Series, you have to go for broke,” Hamels told Sports Illustrated.
The last playoff appearance by any Washington baseball team occurred in 1933. In the midst of the Great Depression, with FDR at the helm, the Senators finished 99-53 to win the American League pennant, a comfortable seven games ahead of the Yankees. That Senator team, managed by Hall of Famer and shortstop Joe Cronin, lost the World Series in five games to the New York Giants.
The final game of that World Series was played at Washington’s Griffth Stadium on October 7, 1933, Mark the date. Do the math. Heck throw out the calculator, that’s a long time ago. Almost 79 years. Well DC has not hosted a playoff game since then.
Baseball in Washington
The original Senators never got back to the World Series, and vacated Washington prior to the 1961 season for Minnesota. They were immediately replaced by an expansion Senator team, a club that never made the playoffs before leaving for Texas to become the Rangers in 1972.
Washington went 33 years without a MLB team to call its own before the Expos left Montreal and became the Nationals in 2005. Since then, the Nats have never finished higher than third in the NL East — until this year that is.
And now they’re willing to throw it all away for the sake of a pitch count. Ask Strasburg how his arm feels.
“I feel physically great. That’s the thing,” Strasburg said. “But I think, it’s not just about one player. They want me to be here for many years to come. It’s an unfortunate situation. It’s a lot harder decision because we’ve won this year.
In 1933, the surprising Senators put together a 13-game winning streak in mid-August and easily won the American League pennant, 8 1/2 games over the second-place Yankees.
That year, the Senators hit .287 as a team. Outfielder and eventual Hall of Famer Heinie Manush batted .336 and first baseman Joe Kuhel .322. Playing half their games in massive Griffith Stadium, the Senators hit just 60 home runs as a team. Cronin hit .309 and led the team in RBIs with 118
General Crowder won 24 times and Earl Whitehill 22 and Jack Russell had 13 saves.
In the World Series, the Giants won the first two games at the Polo Grounds, but the Senators won Game Three, 4-0, behind the shutout pitching of Earl Whitehill.
The next day, the Giants, behind ace left-hander Carl Hubbell, won 2-1 in 11 innings. Mel Ott’s 10th inning home run then gave New York a 5-4 win and the World Championship the next day.
Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Sure, Honus Wagner is the greatest shortstop in baseball history. But who alive saw old Hans play. After all, Wagner last played 95 years ago, when Woodrow Wilson was President, World War I was being waged and Babe Ruth was still pitching.
Wagner won eight National League batting titles, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and swiped 722 bases before retiring. In 1917. His career numbers are awesome.
But moving on to shortstops who actually played after the Teapot Dome scandal, the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, Jeter is the best.
With apologies to Joe Cronin, Luke Appling, Arky Vaughn, Ozzie Smith, Pee Wee and the Scooter, Jeter beats out Cal Ripken for the title of best shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Let’s compare Jeter and Ripken:
Batting – Jeter has a .313 lifetime batting average, well ahead of Ripken’s .276. Advantage Jeter
Power — Ripken 431 hit career home runs, nearly 200 more than Jeter’s 246. Advantage Ripken
Run Production — Ripken’s 1,695 RBIs beat out Jeter’s 1,216. Advantage Ripken
Speed — No contest. Jeter has 344 stolen bases, Ripken 36. And Jeter has scored 1,799 runs, well ahead of Ripken’s 1,647. Advantage Jeter
Awards — Both Ripken and Jeter won Rookie of the Year honors. However Ripken was voted AL MVP in both 1983 and 1991. Advantage Ripken
Fielding — Jeter won five Gold Gloves at shortstop, Ripken two, and his .972 lifetime fielding average bests Ripken’s .969. Advantage Jeter
Championships — Jeter was a member of five Yankee World Series winners. Ripken won one World Series with the Orioles. Advantage Jeter
Durability – Jeter has been amazingly durable through his career. But Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record and played in 2,632 consecutive games. He’s the Iron Man. Advantage Ripken
Hits — The tiebreaker. Ripken is 13th on the all-time list with 3,184 hits. Jeter trails him by less than 20, and stands to challenge some of the all-time leaders. Moreover, Jeter is already the all-time hit leader as a shortstop. Wagner is fifth all-time with 3,415 hits, but played a lot in the outfield and at first base and third base. And Ripken was a third baseman in his final six season. Advantage Jeter
So that’s it. Of these nine key categories, Jeter wins five and Ripken four. That makes Jeter the best shortstop of the modern era.
Ted Williams may have been the greatest hitter who ever lived. Williams played for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1960, and missed nearly five full seasons while serving his country in World War II and later the Korean War as a Marine fighter pilot.
The Splendid Splinter hit 521 home runs, third on the all-time behind only Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx when he retired after homering in his final at bat in 1960. Williams had a .344 lifetime average, won six batting titles and was the last player to bat .400 with a .406 average in 1941.
Williams hit .388 to win the American League batting title in 1957 — at the age of 38. He won two MVPs (1946, 1949) and is the only player in history to win the Triple Crown twice. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.
David Cataneo’s book “I Remember Ted Williams” contains anecdotes and memories from the players and people who knew him best.
Here is a sampling of some of top reminisces from that book:
“I always say that Ted needed another planet. You look at what he has accomplished. Ted Williams was one of the best fishermen, so he kind of conquered the seas. He’s one of the best baseball players, so he kind of conquered the land. He was an ace pilot, so he kind of conquered the air. So he’s kind of a man who’s outgrown this planet. He’s the real John Wayne.”
– Maureen Cronin, daughter of Red Sox manager Joe Cronin
“He never wanted to be embarrassed at the plate. Ever. He talked about it. He said, ‘When I walk down the street, I want people to say: ‘There goes Ted Williams, the best hitter I’ve ever seen.”‘
– Broadway Charlie Wagner, Red Sox pitcher, 1938-42, 1946
“One day at Tiger Stadium, he put on the greatest demonstration of batting practice that I had ever seen. He hit one ball after another, most of them in the upper deck. He loved to hit in Detroit. I think out of 20 pitches, he hit 17 up into the stands. And when he got through, it was early, but there were 30-35,000 in the stands. Those people just stood and gave him a standing ovation. You would have thought he had just won the World Series.”
– Boo Ferriss, Red Sox pitcher, 1946-1950
“I never met anybody in my life who was as electric as he was. I’ve met some who are electric, but none to the brilliance that he was. I mean he’d light up a funeral parlor.”
– George Sullivan, Fenway Park batboy in 1949, sportswriter in the 50s and 60s, and the Red Sox PR director in the 80s
Williams had a stormy relationships with the Boston media — whom he referred to as the “Knights of the Keyboard. The sportswriter who hurt Williams most was wrinkly, sour Mel Webb of the Boston Globe. On the opening day of spring training in 1947, Williams greeted the old scribe by saying, ‘Why don’t you drop dead you old bastard.’ Webb vowed to get back at him, and he did during that season’s MVP balloting. He completely left Triple Crown winner Williams off his ballot. Ted lost the award to DiMaggio, 202-201. If Webb had voted Ted at least tenth most valuable, Williams would have won.”
“He always talked to the out-of-town writers just to screw the Boston writers. You know what he’d do? He’d be in the dugout and an out-of-towner would come in and he’d give him a big handshake. “Let’s get out of here.” They go down to the end of the dugout, all alone. They’d be talking, and all the Boston guys would be looking and wondering what the hell he was telling hi. Maybe he was quitting or something. Ted did it on purpose.”
– Tim Horgan, longtime Boston Herald columnist
“Of all the things Ted told me, he said, ‘I’ve gotten all kinds of accolades in the baseball department, but the thing I’m most proud of was I was a good marine fighter pilot.’ He was so darned proud of being a marine.”
– Long-time friend Frank Cushing
Williams on being sold to the Red Sox
“When I first heard the news that I had been sold to Boston, I almost blew a fuse. I always dreamed of playing with the Yankees or Giants. Babe Ruth was my hero. I used to dream of hitting home runs into the friendly right-field stands in the Yankee Stadium or Polo Grounds. Why, I had followed baseball since I was old enough to read and the Red Sox had been mired in the second division throughout my boyhood.”
His opinion on whether, as manager of the Washington Senators, he could get along with a cantankerous player like Ted Williams.
“If he can hit like Ted Williams, yes.”