In 2010, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series1. There was a parade. Shirts were sold.
You didn't have to give anything up, really. A little dignity when you dove naked into that fountain to celebrate, maybe, but you weren't approached by Mephistopheles before the series and asked to make a deal. Well, at least, I wasn't. Maybe one of you will have to burn in eternal hellfire. That's really "taking one for the team", and I can't thank you enough. Good luck with all that.
But the Giants just won the danged thing. It happened organically. So this is a thought exercise shoehorned into a series preview, mostly because I'm fascinated with the Stephen Strasburg innings limit. I get it. I really, really get it. And then I stop getting it, and I stare at the computer like a dog with my head cocked to the side, as if you just opened a bag of beef jerky. And then I start agreeing with it again. There isn't a right answer. Jake Peavy has important thoughts:
"It would just blow my mind thinking that the Nationals are going to the playoffs and Stephen Strasburg not being part of it? He's arguably the best pitcher in the game. Don't you want to seize the moment?"
Seizing the moment. In Latin, that's known as e pluribusing, and it feels like a million bucks. And it's hard not to think the Nationals are nuts if they pass up a chance to have their best pitcher play in the second playoff series in the franchise's 44-year history. Flags fly forever, and hindsight-based complaints have an even longer shelf-life. If the Nationals get bounced in a short series because Edwin Jackson gets cuffed around, there will be loud noises. This is a controversy that isn't going to go away for decades unless the Nationals actually win the World Series.
So now back to 2010 and that thought exercise up there. What would you have given up for the World Series win?
Madison Bumgarner threw 213 innings in 2010 after a previous professional high of 141. In a way, then, this isn't purely hypothetical. That kind of workload probably isn't something the Giants were planning on -- remember, this was less than a year after Bumgarner's mysterious velocity goblins absconded with a few feet of fastball. There were likely some debates and nervous moments in the front office when it came to the workload, but the Giants were going for the first championship in San Francisco history. What could they do?
They could have sat him. They could have sat him down and started Barry Zito in the playoffs. That's what the Nationals are going to do with Strasburg. I'm sure nothing really would have changed for the Giants in 2010. We would even have a sweet GIF of Barry Zito hitting a triple off Tommy Hunter, I'd guess.
I don't want to get too gross and ask if you'd accept career-threatening injuries for Player X or Player Y in exchange for the title. That seems a little too unsavory. But knowing what you know now, would it have been worth insane risks that you'd never take normally? Would it have been worth a Royals-like stretch of futility over a decade or two? Would it have been worth, say, a hypothetical scenario where Pablo Sandoval demanded a trade after his playing time vanished?
Because my first instinct is to say, "Screw it. Anything goes. The championship was worth anything and everything." All I wanted was one of those silly championships.
But then I think about the future of the Giants, and how we get to watch Bumgarner for the next eight years, or Posey for the next few, at least. The simple joy of watching them play baseball for the Giants has so much value, even if it came on a bad team. The day-to-day grind of a 162-game season is made so much easier when the team is filled with exciting and watchable players. And if they're good, they'll have more shots at a championship.
That's what the Nationals are going through right now. They're putting more value on the idea of Strasburg pitching in a Nationals uniform for a long, long time, making fans thrilled about the team in the micro sense, even if the macro goal of a championship takes a hit in his first season back.
I can go either way. I think I'd … yeah, you know, I think I'd give up something substantial, like watching Juan Uribe sign a three-year contract with the Dodgers. I mean, man, that would have been dreadful. But it would have been worth it. Luckily we have our pie and we're eating it too, and there weren't any serious consequences that popped up after the title, or, at least, none that we can directly link to the extra month of play. Bumgarner's still awesome. Pablo isn't going anywhere. There wasn't a Schofield's Choice that we had to make.
I think the points I'm trying to make are a) Remember when the Giants won the World Series? That was cool, and b) the Nationals should shut Strasburg down before Wednesday's game. Yes. Yes, that will do.