Shortly after Stephen Strasburg got hurt last season, Rob Dibble claimed that he needed to “suck it up” and get back to pitching. Dibble has a reputation for letting his opinions be known even if they rub people the wrong way, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear the remarks. They were unfortunate, especially after it became clear that Strasburg torn ligament would lead to him needing Tommy John surgery, but it was Dibble being Dibble. Of course, the Nationals didn’t take it as lightly as I did and Dibble ended up being fired from his position as the color commentator on MASN.
Now that Strasburg will be starting his path back to playing with the Nationals by making a rehab start in Hagerstown, it looks like Dibble has even more to say about Strasburg’s pitching career. On his radio show yesterday, Dibble abandoned his argument that Strasburg needs to “suck it up” and instead said that the only reason that “he’s too valuable” to bring back now and that the only reason the Nats are doing it is “to put butts in the seats.”
Via the Nats Enquirer, here‘s a transcription of his remarks (above link is to the audio).
"There's absolutely no reason, other than to sell tickets and to put butts in the seats to bring Stephen Strasburg back, to make a few starts at the end of the season. He's too valuable. He's too talented to even think about stuff like that. But in their case, you know, having worked with those people, the only thing I can say is that there are some people there that think they invented the game of baseball. Which they did not."My immediate reaction to the comments was “where was this sentiment last year?” After all, Strasburg’s current trajectory has him getting back to the big leagues about the same point in the season that he got last year. Despite Dibble’s passionate flip flop in position on bringing Strasburg back this late in the season, he’s absolutely wrong that a pitcher can’t benefit from coming back at the end of the season after having Tommy John surgery.
And so they think they can do things differently than 29 other teams in the game. That's the problem I had when I was working there, and now, even when I've been working on this channel for the last seven years. It's pretty simple stuff. You want guys to play 15-20 years, you don't need to rush a guy back just to get a couple starts in so you can sell out the stadium and stuff like that. You know, they've been talking about 2012, and what kind of team they're gonna have in 2012 and stuff like that. And you know, if that's the case, and you don't want to put a Bryce Harper in the major leagues until you think he's ready, there's really no point in rushing this kid back just to get a couple starts out of him for this year."
If you’re looking for an example of how making a few starts at the end of the season can help, all you have to do is look at the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann. After having Tommy John surgery, Zimmerman made came back to the Majors last year and made seven starts beginning in the last week of August. Just like this year, it was pretty clear that the Nats wouldn’t be making the playoffs and Zimm’s performance wouldn’t have helped their efforts even if they were in contention. But he has come back this year stronger and has done relatively well for the Nats this year.
While every pitchers recovery process is obviously going to be a little different, Zimmerman’s experience with the Nats and the fact that Strasburg has been consistently hitting his rehab goals suggest that coming back this season could be beneficial for his recovery. Considering how the team as a whole has also been progressing and even Dibble admits folks have been looking towards 2012 for awhile, having their star pitcher better prepared at the beginning of next season also means this move could greatly benefit the organization as a whole.
What this all means is that Rob Dibble is once again receiving a lot of attention for loudly being on the wrong side of Stephen Strasburg’s recovery process.