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I’m With Rizzo

May 25, 2010

We are within range, ladies.  Baseball Jeebus himself, Stephen Strasburg, is slated (purportedly) to make his first major league start June 4th in what will probably be the most intense game ever played at Nats Park (and possibly the most crowded too—maybe we’ll finally break the record those damn Red Sox fans set last year).  There were, of course, a whole lot of people that thought Jeebus’s first start should have been a little sooner than June—like, April or May soon.   They’re right: he could probably be the Naturals’ number 1 or 2 right now given the way he’s tearing up the minors.  But still he remains in AAA.  Joe Posnanski:

Yeah. There’s nothing much to add. He’s too good for this level. He might be too good for the next level too, but we won’t begin to know that until June 4, when he should make his big league debut for the Nationals at home against Cincinnati. That figures to be the closest thing to a playoff baseball atmosphere they have felt in Washington since the Senators of Heinie Manush lost to the Giants in the ’33 World Series.

Strasburg almost certainly won’t pitch in the big leagues until June 4 because the Nationals, understandably, don’t want him to be eligible for arbitration in two years. And they wouldn’t mind him pitching twice on that early June home stand. Of course, that’s not what the Nationals say — they might not even be allowed to say that. Instead, they will say that he still has a few things he could work on. Perhaps his walk to and from the dugout could use a little tightening up. He could improve on the tilt of his baseball cap. Something. Anything. He won’t pitch until June 4.

Yeah, yeah, the Natties are just trying to save some money like a bunch of little cheapskates, Rizzo you need to sack up, this isn’t the Kansas City Royals, we have the money, he could be winning games right now, etc.  Posnanski says “understandably”, but really, people should be a lot more understandably of Rizzo’s decision to wait.  Everybody knows the Naturals don’t want him to attain super-2 status, but the truth is that Naturals really don’t want him to attain super-2 status.  Sure, a majority of the time arbitrators rule on the side of the club over the player, 90 percent of arbitration cases are settled before an actual hearing, and Strasburg already does have a huge contract, but that’s just the point: Strasburg has a huge contract.  And if he’s as good as most are expecting him to be, an arbitration ruling in his favor strikes me as something the Naturals would seriously want to avoid if they could.  Barring any weird “stick it to Scott Boras” theories, that’s why Drew Storen got called up early and 37 had to wait.

But what’s the problem with a few extra dollars?  That’s what teams pay for, right?  Wins?  Well, yes.  Except for two reasons: a) the Naturals aren’t absolutely (and I do stress the word “absolutely” in this context) terrible anymore—they’re actually a game above .500 and b) this guy, whom Rizzo will almost definitely be drafting first overall and whose agent happens to be the same guy that negotiated that gargantuan contract for Strasburg last summer.  So, there goes a huge chunk of change.  Combine that with potentially re-signing Adam Dunn and (in a couple of years) Jason Marquis, possibly trading for and maybe re-signing Roy Oswalt, and (hopefully) renegotiating Drew Storen’s contract after two years, and I’m doubtful that the Naturals will have a lot of wiggle room in two years.

So let Strasburg fan everybody in AAA.  Maybe he’d have won three games by now for the big league club—big friggin deal.  If the Natties miss the Wild Card by three games, then I guess I’ll smear butter all over my chest or something.  Or maybe I’ll let somebody who said Stras should have been in the Bigs all along put me in a Gogoplata.  I’m comfortable saying that because I know it won’t happen.

P.S. Julio Lugo is a little prick.

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