A couple of Nationals fans, Bud and Lou, are discussing the NL East--leading team and its 24-year-old ace, Stephen Strasburg.
LOU: Explain this to me, Bud. The Nats have the best record in the league, and they're a shoo-in for the first postseason appearance by a Washington franchise since 1933, right?
LOU: But when they get to the playoffs, they're not going to let Strasburg pitch, even though he's been one of the best in the game all year?
BUD: Right again.
BUD: Why what?
LOU: Why won't they let Strasburg pitch?
BUD: Because of his elbow.
LOU: His elbow is injured?
BUD: No, his elbow is fine.
LOU: His elbow is fine, but they're still not going to let him pitch in the playoffs?
BUD: That's right.
LOU: Let's try this again. Why?
BUD: Strasburg had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and the Nats' G.M., Mike Rizzo, has him on an innings limit so as not to put too much strain on it. They're planning to shut him down once he reaches 160 to 180 innings. He's pitched 139 1/3 so far, which means he probably has only a few more starts left.
LOU: The surgery was recent?
BUD: No, it was two years ago.
LOU: But he's had problems with the elbow since?
BUD: Nope, he's been throwing bullets. He's 14--5, 2.91 ERA, second in the league in strikeouts. Absolutely blowing hitters away.
LOU: Then what's the problem?
BUD: The problem is that someday there could be a problem. The Nats' research says that pitchers who have too heavy a workload after TJ surgery tend to reinjure their arms down the line.
LOU: Let me get this straight. The Nationals are afraid of losing Strasburg to a career-ending injury in the future?
LOU: So, they're going to pretend that Strasburg has a career-ending injury right here in the present?
BUD: Now, you're getting it.
LOU: I don't know what I'm getting! (Begins to massage his temples in frustration) Maybe I just don't know enough about baseball, because smart people must support this idea, right?
BUD: Oh, no. Lots of baseball people think it's nutty. Scott Boras, Strasburg's agent, is on board, but Strasburg doesn't like it. His teammates don't like it. One of them, Mark DeRosa, said he would "shed a tear" the day Strasburg throws his last pitch. Leo Mazzone, the highly respected former Braves pitching coach, called the plan "pathetic." Another guy told ESPN Radio, "He's not going to get hurt. If he hasn't been hurt this year, he's not going to get hurt."
LOU: Who said that, some know-nothing fan?
BUD: No. Tommy John.
LOU: Tommy John, as in the first Tommy John surgery patient Tommy John?
BUD: That's the one.
LOU: So, Tommy John, who knows firsthand about recovering from Tommy John surgery, thinks it's safe for Strasburg to keep pitching after Tommy John surgery?
BUD: Yeah, but what does he know?
LOU:(His voice rising) Look, if the Nats knew they were only going to let Strasburg pitch a limited number of innings, why didn't they have him skip a start here and there earlier in the season? Or why not shut him down for a month now so he could be available through the postseason?
BUD: They feel it's important to keep him on a consistent routine, not give him extra rest between starts.
LOU: All year long the Nationals have wanted him to pitch and not rest too much. But when they reach the most important part of the season, they'll want him to rest and not pitch at all?
BUD: Perfectly stated. Congratulations!
LOU: Yes! I mean, no, that's not what.... Look, the goal of every team is to win what?
BUD: The World Series.
LOU: And by shutting Strasburg down as a precaution, the Nats are reducing their chances of winning what?
BUD: The World Series.
LOU: Don't you see? The Nats are so concerned with making sure Strasburg stays healthy they've forgotten why they need him healthy.
BUD: Not exactly. There is no way to make sure that Strasburg stays healthy. He could sit out the postseason, then blow out his elbow again on the first day of spring training, for all we know.
LOU: Excuse me. (Takes off his Nationals cap, puts it over his face and screams into it, then begins to bang his head repeatedly against the wall)
BUD: You seem upset. Maybe we should stop talking about this. Let's just turn on the TV and watch the ball game. Look, Washington already has runners at the corners. Bryce Harper's on third.
LOU: O.K. (Calming down) Who's on first?
SO, TOMMY JOHN, THE FIRST TOMMY JOHN SURGERY PATIENT, THINKS IT'S SAFE FOR STEPHEN STRASBURG TO KEEP PITCHING? YEAH, BUT WHAT DOES HE KNOW?