The case for playing Stephen Strasburg

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The Orioles won the World Series when I was a kid. As a Marylander, I fell in love with the game. And I assumed the O’s would win the World Series every year.

I was wrong.

My hero, Cal Ripken, would go on to play 2,632 consecutive games. He would have a lot of success. But he would never made it back to the show. (And so, symbolically, at least, I would never make it back to the show.)

And here’s the thing: Ripken was actually lucky.

The Miami Dolphins’ Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino lost an early Super Bowl, and never made it back. And New York Yankees’ great Don Mattingly never even made it to a World Series (he started a year too late and retired a year too soon.) A lot of really talented players never make it to postseason. It’s an honor. It’s something special.

Sometimes I feel sorry for Yankee fans. They live such a charmed baseball life — how do they deal with the failure life throws at them? As an Orioles’ fan, baseball taught me some great lessons, including the fact that winning a World Series is rare — and must be savored.

When opportunities present themselves, you’d better be ready to seize the day. (These lessons hold true in politics, too. For example, despite having little experience, Barack Obama was, I think, wise to sense that 2008 was his moment.)

That’s why I’m a little concerned about the decision to bench Washington National’s ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

On paper, the decision makes perfect sense. The Nats are a young team, and expect to have a bright future — possibly even a dynasty. They want to save their investment’s arm by limiting the number of innings he pitches (in 2010, Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery.)

But Strasburg looks terrific. There is no sense that he needs a rest. (On the other hand, the Nats would look incredibly stupid if Strasburg were to get injured some cold October night.)

For the Nats, this is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of decision.

It’s an exciting time to be a baseball fan in the DC region. The Orioles are just a game behind the Yankees (at the time of this writing), and the Nats are in first place. Washington fans have high hopes. But who knows what the future may hold? It will be truly sad if Strasburg grows old, always wondering what might have been in the autumn of 2012. (And I wonder if there might be some young Nats fans for whom this will be their only shot at seeing their hero in the playoffs.)

Life is full of difficult choices. Nothing is guaranteed. If it were me, I’d hand him the ball.

Matt K. Lewis