If you are a fan of Washington pro sports, then you are all wrapped up in the controversy over the pitch count for Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg. If you are a listener of sports talk radio in DC, then you heard a lot of angst about Robert Griffin III’s playing time in Saturday’s preseason game against the Chicago Beats. Same fans want to limit RG3’s pitch count.
Nationals fans are drawing the wrong lessons from Strasburg and Redskins fans are drawing the wrong lessons for how that applies to RG3.
Washington fans are long out of practice in evaluating title teams. We haven’t seen one since the 1991 Redskins.
So, forgive them for the false notion that a guy … one single irreplaceable guy … is the difference between a championship and loserville. That sort of thinking led Daniel Snyder down the wrong path year after year until he, under threat of fan revolt, hired a legitimate GM, Bruce Allen.
If Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo is staunch is managing the health and recovery of MLB’s brightest young stars, it is because he knows a few things everyone, especially Redskins fans and team owners, should take to heart.
You have to be loyal to your strategy, which implies that you have a strategy. The Nationals have the finest pitching staff in baseball, the result of a good plan well executed. Strasburg would be missed in a playoff run, but not by much. The Nationals pitching staff has the best ERA in the Majors. Rizzo and Davey Johnson have managed the entire pitching staff well – that’s where fans should focus their love and attention while they marvel at the richness of the roster.
It’s not as if the Nats had only one super star whose loss would cripple the team the way Clinton Portis’ 2006 injury was a disaster to the Redskins. Redskins fans are Nationals fans. I think the memory of losing Portis in 2006 is feeding the frenzy about losing Strasburg now.
If Washington fans want the Nationals to play Strasburg, why do they want the Redskins to sit Robert Griffin III? The Nats are following medical advice for Strasburg following Tommy John surgery. That medical advice is from Dr. James Andrews among others. James Andrews is a magic name in football circles.
Griffin III is not under Dr. Andrews care. The fan concern is from the risk that the Bears might hurt him.
It’s football. People get hurt. Players learn to take hits. Mike Shanahan shares the fans’ concern, but he still has to prepare his team to win games. His challenge is to get Griffin the reps he needs without taking undue risk of injury. Griffin will play for the first half of the Chicago game, and into the third quarter of the third preseason game against the Colts.
That’s a conventional plan for a rookie first-round quarterback. Shanahan isn’t one for keeping a Ferrari in the garage.
It has been ugly and uneven, but Shanahan and Allen are doing what Rizzo did for the Nationals, build a stronger roster from top to bottom. The Redskins are a year away from real contention. They are in that position because somebody (finally) convinced Mr. Snyder that “rebuilding” is not a dirty word. And that it takes more than one irreplaceable star to win a title.