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Stephen Strasburg surgery: Here's the bright side

The saddest part about Stephen Strasburg's imminent Tommy John surgery is that Washington will have to wait at least another year, perhaps until April 2012, until it can pack Nationals Park and watch Strasburg chuck lightning bolts and hang Ks in center field. The baseball fans in this city fell hard for Jeezus, and they will miss him.

The news of the torn ulnar collateral ligament is a brutal blow. It is not devastating. It is not a death knell. General Manager Mike Rizzo said he is looking on "the bright side," and there really is one. Ten pitchers who underwent Tommy John surgery made the All-Star Game this year.

"What we're dealing with here is something that's very manageable," Scott Boras, Strasburg's agent, told colleague Dave Sheinin. "I've had so many clients who pitched until they're 40 have issues like this in their early 20s. I've had a number of clients who feel fine and then, boom, [the elbow] goes, and then they have [the surgery] and they come back and they're fine. As a matter of fact, in the majority of cases, they're better."

Chris Carpenter, the starter who nearly won the Cy Young last year, pitched at Nationals Park last night. Jamie Garica, the starter who might be rookie of the year this season, will pitch tonight. Both had Tommy John surgery.

Strasburg experienced two injuries this year. The tightness he felt jolt through his elbow Saturday night in Philadelphia came less than a month after the Nationals scratched him from a start after he felt inflammation his shoulder.

At that time, I spoke with Dr. Lonnie Paulos, who runs a clinic with Dr. James Andrews. He said the worst-case scenario for the pain Strasburg was describing would be labrum surgery. Ten percent of those cases never pitch again, and 60 percent come back only as relievers. All of them lose several miles per hour off their fastball.

Strasburg's shoulder, the Nationals are convinced, is healthy. Having Tommy John surgery, despite some of the stigmas attached to it, is about 100 times better than undergoing any operation with the shoulder.

Away from the field, Strasburg will be placed on the 60-day disabled list, which means he will not accumulate any service time until he returns to the majors. The Nationals will still control him for six full seasons -- eight actual years now -- before he becomes eligible for free agency. The surgery will not affect his status as a future National.

CORRECTION: The one rough aspect to Strasburg's being out for a season is that he will accrue service time while on the 60-day disabled list, meaning Strasburg will get one year closer to free agency without throwing a single pitch for the Nationals.

Though the Nationals are hurt in a business sense, the future is still bright for Stephen Strasburg. You just have to swallow hard and squint a little to see it.

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 27, 2010; 12:17 PM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Next: Stunned at first, Stephen Strasburg is taking positive outlook on Tommy John surgery


This is devastating but in the spirit of looking on the bright side, here is my addition:

The next couple years will suffer, but long term if Strasburg comes back healthy, this gives us one or 2 more years with Strasburg and Harper on the same field.

Then again it is 1 less year with Stras and Zimm.

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | August 27, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Conflicting information on the service time. This suggests 60 Day DL stints still accrue service time. Can you find out for sure either way Adam?

Posted by: thurminator | August 27, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

MASNA spokesman Todd Webster Dibble said the newspaper was "taking a few days off." Dibble said Webster requested the time off, but declined to comment on whether it was due to criticism of Dibble The rookie right-hander. Stephen Strasburg

Posted by: susan166 | August 27, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

MASNA spokesman Todd Webster Dibble said the newspaper was "taking a few days off." Dibble said Webster requested the time off, but declined to comment on whether it was due to criticism of Dibble The rookie right-hander. Stephen Strasburg

Posted by: susan166 | August 27, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

After overcoming my 90 minutes of abject depression and realizing SS will probably return stronger, I started to think about how unfortunate it is that we have gotten to the point that many major league pitchers need surgery like this. I was struck by someone's comment (sorry I've forgotten who) asking what would baseball look like if TJ surgery did not exist. It shocks me that we have all sorts of theories as to why but no one inside baseball has done an exhaustive study to determine the source of the problem - particularly given the amount of money at stake. Here are a few theories I'd like to see tested:

1. Pitchers aren’t throwing enough. We need to go back to the days of 4 man rotations, 15-20 complete games a year per pitcher, and throwing more between starts. (Nolan Ryan's trying some of this in Texas)

2. Pitchers are throwing too much at a young age. Many of the guys in 1930's, 40' and 50's who routinely threw 250-300 innings year into their mid-30's didn’t throw a lot of innings in their early 20's. (The Atlanta Braves theory)

3. Too much weight lifting is strengthening the muscles in the arm but not the tendons. Arm injuries and weight lifting have increased in direct proportionality. Some have blamed the increase in ACL tears among football, soccer, and basketball players to the same thing.

4. Protecting pitchers at a young age - with little league pitching limits, etc - does not allow young boys to build arm strength, nor does it expose bad mechanics and/or bad genetics.

5. Youth baseball is too intense. The 12 month a year schedules that boys are playing at age 11 and 12 is abnormal for their athletic development. They need to be playing other sports and giving their arms a rest.

As you can see there are all sorts of completely contradictory theories. We need to figure this out for the good of baseball.

Lastly, I add my voice to those who say "save it" on the curse nonsense. Talk about a loser mentality? When you start blaming failure on supernatural forces, you stop working toward success.


Posted by: db423 | August 27, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The last 24 hours reminds me of what makes baseball so great! As Crash Davis said, 'sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains'.

Posted by: Section314 | August 27, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

db, well said, especially this: "Lastly, I add my voice to those who say "save it" on the curse nonsense. Talk about a loser mentality? When you start blaming failure on supernatural forces, you stop working toward success."

Actually, when you start blaming failure on supernatural forces, you become a Cubs fan.

As for your theories, I think it comes down to kids not doing enough all around activity and then trying to focus on high-intensity activity, like throwing a baseball really hard. There was a time when baseball was a true recreational activity; in other words, kids played lots of pickup games. Now it's an adult supervised activity and kids play baseball three times a week in season and then stop.

I think if kids did more general physical activity, be it sports or even chores that caused them to develop their body in a general sense and then gradually developed a more intense routine for a particular sport, they'd be better off.

But I'm just guessing, like a whole lot of other people out there.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 27, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

just heard Curt Schilling say on SC that guys who have this surguery tend to come back throwing harder than before... that's a scary thought

Posted by: joek443 | August 27, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

So I guess Strasburg's return in April 2012 should be referred to as The Second Coming?

Posted by: BobLHead | August 27, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

What's the basis for saying he won't accrue service time? I'm quite certain that's wrong:

Article XXI(A)(2) of the MLB collective bargaining agreement, "For purposes of calculating credited service, a Player will be considered to be on a Club’s Active List if:
(a) ... on the Disabled List ...

Posted by: natsguy1 | August 27, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Is it so unreasonable to give Dr. Marshall's methods an honest assessment? At this point, what have we got to lose?

I've been grasping for the half-full glass all morning, and I'll get there. But there has to be a fundamental shift in how these pitchers are being handled in my opinion. Pitch counts and limiting innings didn't work.

It didn't work! Not only did it not work, it failed miserably.

If this is common, accepted practice, let the group who defined this method step forward and defend it. If you ask me, this is "groupthink" and just another example of passing the buck when something like this happens.

And we all know what Einstein supposedly said - "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Ah well. My Diamond Club seats are for tonight. Let's hope Scotty O can tame those Cardinals.

Posted by: dand187 | August 27, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

And for the Nats brass, it gives them an excuse for another miserable year in 2011. No need to sign any real FA talent or make deals for the present, 'cause the present is so lousy anyway. Might as well keep Nieves and Harris and try out Maxwell/Morse for the RF job for another year. Let's let Ramos season at Syracuse some more. Oh, and I'm sure the ticket agents still have the Philly tour bus companies on speed dial...

Sorry, but since the first half of season number one, everything about this team has been focused on next year, the plan, the future, the bright side of losing 100+ games back to's a depressing routine. Not feeling very 'bright side' today.

Posted by: NATurallyYours | August 27, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse


Stop being a D.C. Candy Ass, get off your lazy behind, and bulldog Rob Dibble to get his reaction to Stephen Strasburg "jaking it".

Let's recall what Dibble said about Strasburg just days ago:

"I also look at this from the player's standpoint, that this is your job. This is what you do. You're never going to be 100 percent healthy, feel perfect. So you have to take accountability that you're gonna throw sometimes, your arm's gonna hurt. You're gonna be out there on the mound sometimes, the mound is gonna be terrible and the dirt is gonna be a little loose and it might not be so great. You can't constantly be complaining over every little thing.

"So for me, a little bit has to be put back on Strasbug here. Ok, you throw a pitch, it bothers your arm, and you immediately call out the manager and the trainer? Suck it up, kid. This is your profession. You chose to be a baseball player. You can't have the cavalry come in and save your butt every time you feel a little stiff shoulder, sore elbow.

"I mean, excuse me. There's guys I played with that had screws holding their elbows together. Chris Sabo played two weeks on a broken ankle. I put a steel plate in my wrist so I could be back in five weeks instead of three months. So, this is your choice. You can either suck it up and be a man at 22 making $2 million a year [with] a $15 million contract, or every time you get an ache and pain you can go out of the game and say I'm gonna let down the other 24 guys right here and possibly end up forfeiting the game."

GET OFF YOUR CANDY ASS and get the story, Kilgore.

Posted by: MarkinJC | August 27, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

dand, you're assuming that pitchers breaking down is the exception. I submit it is not. Pitchers get hurt; they just do. You can do everything right, and still fail.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 27, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse


I played against Mike Marshall-coached teams in college. Unfortunately, the message gets lost because of the messenger. He's seen as a total nut within baseball, and for good reason. I saw him do some crazy things with his teams to test his theories - including a demand that every pitcher throw a screwball. When we arrived at the field, we were always greeted by the sight of 15 St. Leo College pitchers flipping weighted baseballs behind their backs to simulate the torque of this pitch - really funny looking.

It's getting to the point though where he probably ought to be listened to.


Posted by: db423 | August 27, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Markin, with all due respect, bite me.

There's no story there. Dibble shot his mouth off, now he looks like an idiot. Again. What's he gonna say? "Ooopsie."? "If anyone took what I said the wrong way, I apologise."?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 27, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm trying to figure out why so many people are up in arms with what Dibble said.

It now appears he was wrong on how bad Strasburg was hurt. However, what he is saying in general about players today is dead on balls accurate. Too many weak sister's in pro sports today and not enough tough guys.

Too many guys in the booth today don't want to offend anyone and they paint a rosy picture of horrible teams. Dibble gave a strong opinion of what he thinks of someone on the team he covers, feelings be damned. I for one, applaud his moxie.

Posted by: Section505203 | August 27, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

...with all due respect, bite me.
Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 27, 2010 1:03 PM
I eagerly await the day when we hear this in Congress:

"I would like to say to my esteemed colleague from New York, 'bite me.'

Posted by: TimDz | August 27, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

As a STH and Nats team fan, losing SS is not like losing Nick Johnson to injury for the year or Alphonso Sorianno to free-agency. SS is the future,its to bad that future got pushed back until 2012. Now the LernerStank will really be under the gun this winter to find a suitable veteran to fill the breach. What the FA list look like for SP's in 11?

BTW with the demise of Middle School and real good High School baseball programs and the proliferation of AAU baseball this is going to become the norm. It stinks that kids get trapped in the "one sport" mentality, don't play ball in the school yard just for fun and are pressured by parents and coaches to think at 12,13,14,15 that they are all going to be stars someday!

Kids need to play at least 3 sports starting in the 7th or 8th grade and do that until they graduate. Of course that won't happen as long as they are pressured by colleges, parents and coaches. Its shameful!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | August 27, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

What I want know is what are the Nationals going to do now. So that Nationals Park is NOT the away teams favorate place to play.

The fan base is tired of things promised but not delivered.

Now you hear boos when the Nationals walk the other teams player...because half of the people there are rooting for the other team.

SO Stan, Mike, Mark, Ted ....WHAT DO YOU DO NOW ?????

Posted by: CBinDC1 | August 27, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I hope Stras' Tommy John surgery is successful and he is back on the mound better than ever in 2012. Thanks for the amazing season Steven and the great memories and get 100% soon so we can see your flame throwing arm in a Nats season a year from now. Go Nats!

Posted by: jmarks09 | August 27, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I blame SESAME STREET!!!!!!

Posted by: CBinDC1 | August 27, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

OH, STOP....the kid is through! And so is baseball in Washington. They took our Senators away TWICE so the baseball gods are paying us back. With interest.

I wouldn't go to a Nationals game if ya sent me in a limo. Tear the freakin' stadium down and build condos.

Posted by: chipshot410 | August 27, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

TippyCanoe -

The AAU baseball one-sport mentality is exactly what produced Bryce Harper. Would Bryce, his family, and the Nationals really have been better off if he had stayed in high school to play football and basketball?

Obviously every kid is not going to be Bryce Harper. In fact, their may never be another Bryce Harper, but we can't have it both ways. We can't demand excellence from young people but tell them to "take it easy".

The fact of the matter is that baseball is just like any other sport, the best athletes make it to the pros, no matter how much or how little experience they have, because pro coaches think they can turn anybody into a player. Take Nats prospect Destin Hood as an example. He had a full scholarship to play football for the University of Alabama. Probably would have had a shot to be in the NFL. But he wanted to play baseball. I don't know Hood's whole history, but I bet he didn't play on all the same types of AAU travel teams that other guys like Harper played on. He was just a great athlete who played football and baseball, and ended up choosing baseball. Guys like Harper, chose to focus on baseball much earlier.

Strasburg's injury is not going to take down the 12-month-a-year baseball machine from 10 year olds who want to play. I don't blame parents either. If your kid shows an affinity for playing the piano, and enjoys it, you try to find them the best piano teacher you can. If your kid is better than all the other kids at baseball when he is 10 years old, and wants to keep playing, then you try to find him the best coaches and teams to play on. Stuff happens, guys get hurt, some of them come back, and some of them don't. As Kilgore said, we are lucky it wasn't Strasburg's shoulder that blew up.

Get well soon Stephen. The light is on at the end of the tunnel. We will be waiting to cheer for you even louder than before when you come back.

Long rant. SpashCity out.

Posted by: SpashCity | August 27, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse


I second your comments about Mike Marshall. His theories do need an intense look. He never has had a pitcher that he has trained have a serious arm injury. Now he has had pitchers that have come to him with previous pitching injuries to their elbow, and I believe in some instances he has recommended that they go ahead and have the TJ surgery.

db423 -- he is pretty strident in his beliefs cause he has studied pitching for over 40 years. He's the person that told Tommy John he was going to be injured before it happened, as they were teammates together with the Dodgers. It's funny he's considered a "nut" cause of his theories, but with all this pitch count, rest, operations, etc., we still have not diminished surgeries. In fact, they have increased. I'd rather listen to him than all the tired experts that keep getting trotted out (Tom House, Glenn Fleisig, Dick Mills, Will Carroll).

Yes, there's a chance he might come back and do well. He will have a new UCL, but with the same pitching motion. How long will the new ligament last?

I'm predicting Storen and/or Lannan will be next. They already ruined Cordero, among other pitchers on this roster since they've come here. (Hill, Patterson, Zach Day are 3 that come quickly to mind.) The Nats (and all the other teams for that matter) have no idea how to prevent major pitching injuries, despite all the rhetoric they keep pushing out. It's 2010 for cryin' out loud.

Posted by: bubbad | August 27, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Some coaches talk a lot about the difference between gym strong and "country strong" or "farm strong." The idea that a lot of different kinds of general activity strengthen the muscles, ligaments and tendons in a more balanced way that focused exercise programs that don't quite take everything into account.

Aren't some of the newer pitches also supposed to be harder on the arm than anything Cy Young or Walter Johnson threw?

Posted by: zimbar | August 27, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

@susan166 - That makes absolutely no sense...are you talking about Todd Webster and/or Rob Dibble? Who's Todd Webster Dibble? Does anyone edit these comments?

Posted by: GoRed | August 27, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately for the Nats, Strasburg should be back in full form just in time for that slime-bag Boras to move him to the Bronx or even worse to South Philly. Boras will still get his cut, no matter what.

Posted by: blankspace | August 27, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Is there a Walter Matthau type character the Nats can hire? These are the Bad News Bears.

Posted by: richs91 | August 27, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The real bright side for Rizzo is that expectations for his performance will remain low.

Posted by: dfh21 | August 27, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Editors?? This is a BLOG, man--0r ain't you hoid?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 27, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

So how far does this set back the franchise? Can we see a contender before 2015, the 70th anniversary of D.C.'s last pennant race? (Not pennant, or postseason play -- a mere pennant race. We haven't seen significant September baseball in Washington since 1945, Truman's first year, and no pennant since 1933, Franklin Roosevelt's first year.)

Posted by: VPaterno | August 27, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Easter 2012 happens to fall on April 8th, which is probably within the same week Strasburg resurrects his major league career and leads the Nationals to salvation.

Nats win the series in November, 2012. World ends in December, 2012.

This guy really is the chosen one.

Posted by: jmorrisa | August 27, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

The real devastating news is that he accrues major league service time while on the DL. What a kick in the groin. We just lost a full season of control over him, which means one less season before he's pitching for the Yanks. It sickens me.

Posted by: egoodman8 | August 28, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Here's one other bright side tidbit to consider:

Stras may finish next season making rehab starts in high-A around the same time that Harper may be promoted to high-A. Which means a year from now, Woodbridge, Va. may be home to an advance screening of Stras and Harper playing together in a uniform bearing the name "Nationals."

Ever imagine paying $500 for a P-Nats ticket?

Posted by: jmorrisa | August 28, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Here's one other bright side tidbit to consider:

Stras may finish next season making rehab starts in high-A around the same time that Harper may be promoted to high-A. Which means a year from now, Woodbridge, Va. may be home to an advance screening of Stras and Harper playing together in a uniform bearing the name "Nationals."

Ever imagine paying $500 for a P-Nats ticket?

Posted by: jmorrisa | August 28, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

@screwjob21 (from previous chat):
"Roger Clemens played 12 seasons for the Red Sox and 22 years in total. Roger's third season he took the Red Sox to the World Series. Proof that Boston did not burn out Clemens during his rookie year."

Looks like you took this from Roger Clemens' Wikipedia article. Of course, the article omits the following about Clemens' second year (1985):

"Midway through the 1985 season, however, Clemens's career was already in danger of being derailed. His shoulder began hurting so much that he could barely lift his pitching arm. Clemens underwent surgery, removing cartilage near his rotator cuff. While some feared that his career might be over, others, like Red Sox pitching coach Bill Fischer speculated that the injury might actually have been a blessing in disguise..."

This was mentioned in at least two of Tom Boswell's columns on the subject. Way to do research, @$$hole.

Posted by: bertbkatz | August 28, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Cy Young, one of the original workhorse pitchers, barely threw between starts. In spring training, he'd spend most of his time running to strengthen his legs, and save the pitches, saying "I figured the old arm had just so many throws in it," said Young, "and there wasn't any use wasting them." Young once described his approach before a game:

"I never warmed up ten, fifteen minutes before a game like most pitchers do. I'd loosen up, three, four minutes. Five at the outside. And I never went to the bullpen. Oh, I'd relieve all right, plenty of times, but I went right from the bench to the box, and I'd take a few warm-up pitches and be ready. Then I had good control. I aimed to make the batter hit the ball, and I threw as few pitches as possible. That's why I was able to work every other day."

I'd go with Cy Young and limit the throwing outside of games while strengthening the legs.

Posted by: DKUVA | August 30, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

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