May 22, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) in the dugout prior to playing the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals defeated the Phillies 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
We've heard from Rob Dibble on the subject. Pudge Rodriguez said there's no way. Former major league closer Mitch Williams said this morning they'd have to forcibly keep him from the mound. There aren't too many if any players who, given their competitive nature, believe that you can tell a seemingly healthy young pitcher that he's going to be shut down just as the the team he pitches for is about to go into the postseason for the first time and bring playoff baseball back to the nation's capital for the first time since 1933. Surely after talking about how the electricity of the crowd during his last start matched that of his sensational debut, and knowing that the D.C. Faithful will be that much more enthusiastic in the postseason, Stephen Strasburg doesn't want to have the ball taken out of his hand.
Of course, the Nationals, and D.C. GM Mike Rizzo in particular, citing a plan put together with the advice of the doctor who performed Tommy John surgery on the pitcher and the evidence they've amassed in researching the subject, think differently. No one's seen the research fruits of the research Rizzo's done (he told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner there's a 50-page presentation on the subject he put together), but when noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews talked about the case recently on the radio (as noted by the Washington Post's D.C. Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg today), he basically agreed with everything the Nationals have been saying for the past year about this probably being the best practice...
Still, the competitive drive that motivates these players and that allows them to perform at such a high level is such that they're never (or at least rarely) going to say they can't do something. Stephen Strasburg wouldn't be the beast of a pitcher that he is if he didn't think he could go out there and dominate opposing hitters, but it doesn't appear as if it's going to be his decision, though all of the former players mentioned above have said that he should express his opinion to management when the time for the decision to be made finally arrives. Add to that list Strasburg's coach at San Diego State University, Hall of Fame hitter Tony Gwynn. The veteran of 20 major league seasons with the San Diego Padres told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern this afternoon that he's not so sure Strasburg's really going to be shut down...
"I still find it hard to believe that if the Nationals are in the hunt that they're going to actually sit Stephen [Strasburg] down in a room and say, 'Hey, Stephen, you're not going to pitch the rest of this year,'" Gwynn told the host this afternoon in an interview on the MLB Network Radio show Inside Pitch. "Because knowing Stephen -- that's the one factor I haven't heard a whole lot of people talk about -- this guy is the most competitive guy that you'll ever meet. When he was here at San Diego State he dreamed about being in the position that he's in. And I just cannot see him sitting in a room and having somebody tell him he's not going to pitch anymore this year,":
"If there's anybody that can do it, I think he can. He's a very hard worker, he's very dedicated to his craft. He's a different dude when he gets out there on the mound. Because he is really just a great kid. But when he gets on the mound he turns into this other animal. And you can see that when you watch him pitch. So whether it's right to shut him down, most coaches like me would love to be on the cautious side because you know you're going to have this guy for a long time, but the competitive side with him... And I'll give a quick example. He was throwing a no-hitter here at San Diego State and he'd struck out, I don't know, 18-19 guys, and going into the ninth inning he had thrown 120 pitches, and in college, my rule was, 'You get near 100 [pitches] I get nervous,' because I don't want them to leave their arm here. And as he walked off the mound in the top of the eighth inning I was going to walk up to him to and ask him how he felt and he told me, 'Hey, Coach, sit down. I got it. I don't want hear it.'"
"I know that's how he is with the Nationals, he loves to be out there, he loves to pitch," Gwynn continued, "He's competitive as anything and before it's said and done, I think he's going to have a say. He's laying low right now, but I think at some point when they try to tell him they're going to shut him down he's going to have something to say about it."
Bowden then asked Gwynn how, as a teammate of Strasburg's, he would have viewed the team's decision to shut Stras down? As a team leader, would he have appealed to management to allow them to keep their no.1 pitcher as they fight for the ultimate goal of every pro baseball player? "I don't think you go to the manager, or you go to management, " Gwynn said, "I think you get in Stephen's ear, because ultimately, they're going to come to him."
I'm not sure it's true that the decision is ultimately Stephen's. Rizzo's said it's all on him, and he'll make the decision when Strasburg's had enough. But that would be an interesting conversation to sit in on.
• Listen to Tony Gwynn on MLB Network Radio's Inside Pitch: