It's something that many know about, but try not to think about. It's something that, when it happens, will rock the Nationals organization to its core. It's something that, no matter what, is unavoidable.
Eventually, at some point this season, before the playoffs, Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg will be shut down for the season.
As part of his recovery from Tommy Johns surgery, surgery done to repair ligaments of the elbow, the Nationals put a cap of 160 innings on Stephen Strasburg's season. Strasburg is currently 48 innings into that 160. Many times this season, the Nationals organization have stated that they are sticking with their game plan no matter what.
It's a tough situation. If the Nationals continue their winning ways, at about the time when Strasburg's innings run out, the Nationals will be in the thick of the playoff race. Then what?
Hopefully, Chien-Ming Wang will return to form. Gio Gonzalez will step into the top starting role for the rotation and Ross Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and then Wang will follow in behind.
So now I propose this question: Should the Nationals leave in Strasburg if they are in the playoff hunt? My answer: No.
It would be a terrible decision to try to push that elbow. After the great care that the Nationals have taken to make sure that Strasburg returns just as good as the day he left to then watch them throw it all away? It would be a sad sight to see.
You have to look at from this angle: Do the Nationals want to be a playoff contender for years to come? If the Nationals are still in the playoff race that deep into the season, that is fantastic. Don't fans want to see them there year after year?
If so, then Strasburg has to be pulled after 160 innings. For the Nationals to be a playoff contender year after year, Strasburg must be part of the rotation. I know the thought of seeing them win it all this year is tempting, but, at some point we have to look beyond this year.
It's still early in the season. A lot can happen between now and whenever those 160 innings run out. The Nationals have already stated that Strasburg will not skip any starts in order to preserve his innings. Whenever they run out, they run out.
It's a day that can be startling to Nats fans everywhere. But, it's a day that's coming. If the Nationals want to contend year after year, they must stick to the game plan and respect the inning cap that has been placed on Stephen Strasburg.