Do the Nats have a communications problem?
As the Strasburg shutdown debate raged over the last month, something was bugging me – why is it that Mike Rizzo and Stephen Strasburg seem to be communicating to each other through the press? Now I see an article by Dave Fleming that says it well:
I’ve followed this story entirely through various sports news channels, and while I can’t claim that I’ve heard every sound bite that comes from the front office, it has seemed to me that the great majority of conversation that should have occurred between the General Manager and the Ace Pitcher has occurred first through the intermediary of those various sports channels. We have Mike Rizzo coming on the radio saying that Strasburg has an innings pitched limit. Then we get Strasburg talking to a reporter and saying that he hasn’t heard anything about a pitch count. Then we get Rizzo saying to someone that Strasburg doesn’t get to make decisions about the team.I don’t know why this has been the case. I don’t know why it’s seemed that for the majority of this season, Stephen Strasburg has sounded like the guy who knows the least about what’s going on with Strasburg.There’s been a strong tone of parentalism coming from the front office; a sense that Mike Rizzo is trying to communicate that he’s the boss. There’s little in the way of flexibility: the purpose of Rizzo’s comments have been to a) communicate that the decision on Strasburg is his decision, exclusively, and b) that he’s made his decision, and will not reconsider it.To my mind, this attitude is needlessly defensive. And it’s needlessly confrontational. Rizzo has escalated an issue that should’ve been resolved in June into something that will dominate all future discussions about this baseball team, for the rest of this year.I don’t understand why Rizzo didn’t go to Strasburg first, rather than addressing the situation to the media. I don’t know why it has seemed, repeatedly, that Stephen Strasburg is the last guywho hears about any of this stuff. I don’t know why the team’s decision has been so staggeringly uncompromising about their decision. I don’t understand why no one had the foresight to realize that a young pitcher in his first big-league pennant race might be reluctant to sit on the bench and rah-rah his teammates in the playoffs.And: I don’t know why this has been allowed to turn into such a needless line-in-the-sand drama, when there were so many avenues available that would’ve allowed for a reasonable compromise.Because Mike Rizzo and the Nationals are probably not wrong about the central decision. It is very wise to limit Strasburg’s innings. It’s a good plan. They’re absolutely right to be careful with Strasburg.But Rizzo and the Nationals have made a holy mess of how they’ve tried to implement their plan. They’ve left Strasburg, a central player for this young franchise, deeply upset. At the very least, they’ve jeopardized the chance that Strasburg would sign a long-term deal with the team to buy out some of his free agent years. They’ve reduced the chances that the Nats will advance far in the 2012 playoffs. And if the team doesn’t win the World Series this year, their players and fans will endure an off-season debating the ‘what-if’ of a needless, unnecessary, stupid controversy that the team and the General Manager have fostered all summer long.