Thom Loverro: There's no stopping gutless criticism of last year's Stephen Strasburg shutdown

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There is no shortage of valid criticisms to level at the disappointing Washington Nationals this season.

They've managed their disabled list like Frank Burns in an operating room at M*A*S*H.

They've fielded so poorly that they've got more candidates for the Marv Throneberry award than a Gold Glove. As the late Casey Stengel once said about his calamitous New York Mets first baseman, I wouldn't be giving these Nationals any birthday cakes; they might drop them.

They approach the plate as if they are 15-year-old Dominican kids trying to hit their way off the island.

But there is one criticism that has been gleefully leveled at this organization -- the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg last fall, revisited -- that is downright gutless.

Or, as Nats general manager Mike Rizzo might say, it's chicken----.

The second Strasburg went on the disabled list for a strained back muscle, the brave critics surfaced, yelling, "See, see. You were wrong. We were right!"

It takes guts to criticize the Nationals for shutting down Strasburg last fall -- following the same blueprint they used for current Cy Young candidate Jordan Zimmermann's Tommy John recovery -- when you can never been proven wrong and the Nationals can never be proven right.

If Strasburg went on to pitch a 15-year career of perfect health, the Nationals could never prove they were right by shutting Strasburg down. If they win three World Series, the critics would say they could have won four.

Yes, it's bold to declare yourself right when you can never be proven wrong.

Fox Sports columnist Jon Morosi, who let everyone know he thought the Nationals were wrong to shut down Strasburg last fall, wrote, "What if the Nationals miss the playoffs this year? What if 2012 was their best chance to win it all during Strasburg's tenure with the team?"

And then there was, of all people, Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz, who wrote, "For those who believe Washington blew it, this is Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo getting run over by the karma train."

Schultz went on to write, "Rules of thumb: Seasons are fragile. Success can't be assumed. ... Washington had the chance for a special season last year and let arrogance cloud their judgement, believing they would replicate that success again. There are no guarantees."

This from a guy who covers a team that went to the playoffs 14 straight times and has one World Series win to show for it. Those Atlanta Braves are evidence that the postseason is a crapshoot, whether you have Strasburg, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz.

The Braves' legacy changes if not for one Jim Leyritz home run in game four of the 1996 World Series or an Eric Gregg strike zone adjustment in the 1997 NLCS.

To suggest that Strasburg's presence on the DL is validation that he should have pitched last fall is hollow hindsight, or, as Rizzo might say, something else.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

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The Washington Examiner