Monday, August 10, 2009

This hurts

This could be the beginning of a very bad seven days for Nats fans. We found out today that Jordan Zimmermann is going to have Tommy John surgery, and we'll find out next Monday whether or not the Nats were able to sign Stephen Strasburg.

Like last year's failure to sign Crow, a failure to sign Strasburg will provoke outrage, but I don't think I'll feel the same way next Monday night that I felt tonight when I saw the news about Zimmermann. This hurts.

This hurts because Zimmermann is ours and Strasburg remains an abstraction. This hurts because Zimmermann has been touted since last season as the first fruits of the pitching, pitching, pitching draft strategy. This hurts because when Zimmerman pitches he looks like he could have the kind of future that I don't see Martis or Balester or Stammen or Martin or McGeary having. This hurts because with Zimmermann, Lannan, Zimmerman, a few high ceilings here and a few career years there, I could see the playoffs if I looked far enough over the horizon.

In general, I'm pretty pessimistic about the state of the Nats and how I see the team's short-term future. Without Zimmermann, there's Lannan, maybe Balester, hopefully Strasburg, but still gaping holes in the rotation for the foreseeable future, and that's before being reminded that the Nats also need a second baseman, a healthy and productive Flores, and a real bullpen before they can even dream of being competitive. If the Nats might have begun to be competitive in 2011 or 2012 with Zimmermann and a few breaks their way, how far into the future does Zimmermann's hopefully complete recovery from Tommy John push that long-awaited competitive season?

I'm not usually sappy about players. Soriano leaves, Johnson gets traded, Cordero gets non-tendered -- all fine by me. I understand that building a winner is a process. I know that as much as I might cheer for a Dunn home run or a Lannan double play grounder, I'm really rooting for laundry. And I know that There's No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, that injury flame-outs happen all the time, and that counting on Zimmermann to be a cornerstone of anything was in some ways always a risk-laden pipe dream.

Even though I know all of these things, this hurts.

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