Forget shutting down Stephen Strasburg. There's a World Series to be won.
Washingtonians are so used to losing -- the last major title in any sport came 20 years ago -- that the prospect of the Nationals' best pitcher not finishing the season to save his arm for the future doesn't ring as insane locally as it does around the rest of the country. Wait, are we talking baseball or politics?
The Nats soon will begin the first September of relevance for baseball in this town since 1933. That's so long ago there may not be anyone left in Washington who remembers that season.
Championships are precious. The Nats need to go all out because there's no promise this young team will produce the same results as this season, in which the Nats have baseball's best record. Remember the Maryland's women's basketball team winning the 2006 title with underclassmen? There was talk of a dynasty. The Terrapins never sniffed the crown again.
No one wants Strasburg to blow out his arm by pitching too much in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. He could be a Hall of Famer. But immortals pitch in late September and October, and the Nats need him to contend.
It would be easy to defer to Nats general manager Mike Rizzo's intention to bench Strasburg come some mythical innings count of 160, 180 or whatever. Rizzo has done a tremendous job building the team. It's not often you can write about a local GM who knows what he's doing other than Capitals boss George McPhee, and even he gets occasional negative marks.
Rizzo said he decided on the innings count before the season began. There's the loophole: The timetable needs to move to real time. If Strasburg is weakening, then end his season because he won't be any help. But if Strasburg's still going strong, he has to continue. It's not like he's headed for 300 innings -- just 20 to 30 more than expected.
There has to be a way to stretch Strasburg. Pull him after five innings. Maybe skip a start here and there. Work around days off. To finish the regular season, he would seem to need three starts over the expected limit. That's going to ruin his arm? Really?
Rizzo's a smart guy. He should be able to figure out a way to extend Strasburg without compromising the pitcher's future. Too bad Rizzo has cornered himself with this deadline.
The psychological effects of losing Strasburg can't be understated. Already there's some locker room concern. The players know that a chance at a World Series may never come along again, and they want every resource possible. The fans will feel cheated after they supported a losing organization since its 2005 arrival if Strasburg's ouster costs the Nats a title.
Forget the stats. Remember the rewards of winning a championship for this team, city and fans. They all deserve it.