Memo to Brian Cashman: Starting Pitching Matters
Want proof. Look no further than Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, where Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer pitched brilliantly in leading the Washington Nationals to their first World Series championship.
Or take another look at Gerrit Cole’s, right, performance in Game 5, which brought the Houston Astros to the brink of their second title in three years.
Starting pitching throughout the playoffs ran counter to such noveau strategies as the opener, bullpen games and the super bullpen.
For years now the Yankees have been building a powerhouse teams with a stacked lineup and the best bullpen in baseball, a team capable of winning 100 games each of the past two seasons, and reaching the ALCS two of the past three years.
While spending big bucks on Giancarlo Stanton and fortifying the lineup and bullpen, Cashman and the Yankee brain trust have taken the cut-rate route on starters. Lacking a true number one ace (save for Luis Severino in the first half of 2018), the Yankees have used duct tape and baling wire to piece together a rotation, both at the front and back end.
Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton have been serviceable pitchers, but not aces. Domingo German’s future is uncertain, based on his domestic abuse issues.
Instead, the Yanks banked on CC Sabathia, who had nearly as many injured list visits as victories the past two years, and JA Happ, the so-called Boston killer who has wilted against the Red Sox.
Sonny Gray, a 2017 trade acquisition, turned out to be another Ed Whitson. Lance Lynn didn’t last. Michael Pineda. Jaime Garcie. Need we go on.
It wasn’t enough. While the Astros and Nationals thrived on starting pitching in the playoffs, the Yankees couldn’t hit in the clutch. Eventually their vaunted bullpen wore down, saddled down by innings, opposing batters becoming more familiar and comfortable with each appearance.
Well Hal Steinbrenner, above left, austerity no longer flies with Yankee fans. We know you have the money. Heck, your father wrote an $80,000 check in 1973 when he fronted an investors’ group that bought the Yankees for $8.8 million from CBS.
The Yankees earn 20 percent more than the next wealthiest baseball team, and their $4 billion market value is second in sports, behind only the Dallas Cowboys.
Well Brian Cashman, above right, time to bring on some pitching. Cole would look good in pinstripes. Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner too.
There’s work to be done. 2020 is up next. Time to bully up Yankees.
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.