July 6, 2006

When in Doubt, Blame the Pitcher

Poor Mike O'Connor. Sure, he got roughed up in his last few outings, but not like Livan got shelled, and Livan's still here (possibly only because the forklift is still in route.) Yet O'Connor is the one shipped off to the minors to make room for injury-in-waiting Alex Escobar. I applaud the Nats for taking the radical step of having 4 outfielders on the roster simultaneously. Did we really have to sacrifice a starting pitcher, even a struggling one, to make that happen?

Now, O'Connor might not be the poster boy for pitcher abuse, he hasn't really been overworked. If anything, Frank's had him on a too-tight leash. But the same can't be said about the rest of the staff. Of necessity they've all pitched through nagging injuries and been worked like pack mules. Of course, the reason for all that overwork is that not one of our dozen or so starting pitchers has managed to string together three consecutive quality starts. That puts pressure on the bullpen, which puts pressure on the next night's starter to eat innings and spare the bullpen. And so on, and so on...

When the bullpen was struggling and getting slapped around, John Wetteland was a convenient scapegoat. Now that he's gone, the bullpen is still struggling and periodically getting slapped around (today's stellar performance notwitstanding.) With Wetteland gone, what's the excuse du jour? Some of the worst damage was inflicted by Jason "Harvey" Bergmann, who was optioned back to Triple-A and replaced by journeyman lefty Micah Bowie. If Bowie proves to have any staying power, and nothing in his past suggets he will, maybe we can pawn Mike Stanton off on some unsuspecting playoff contender, (Hello Boston!)

In the meantime, O'Connor wasn't scheduled to pitch again until after the all-star break anyway, and the over/under on Escobar's next injury is about 3 days, so Irish Mike could very well be back with the team before Fonzie gets back Pittsburgh. In the meantime, I know we'll all sleep better knowing that absolutely none of this is attributable to Frank Robinson's inability to manage a pitching staff.


Basil said...

I don't know; I don't think it was such a bad move and, while I'm not tremendously optimistic about O'Connor going forward, I don't see this as punishment. As you noted, he wasn't scheduled to pitch until after the break, and he's sort of wasted space on the roster in the interim. And he's got an option. Now, maybe Escobar isn't the best use of that space (okay, he's definitely not), but . . . O'Connor's got an option, so he's temporarily disposable.

But, unless someone gets put on the DL, I don't think O'Connor can actually be recalled for ten days.

Nate said...

I don't know. Whether it was intended as punishment or not, it has to feel like punishment. And we all recognize that this franchise has a gift for screwing with the psyches of it's younger players.

Maybe O'Connor's run as an effective major-league starter is done, but I'd prefer the damage not be self-inflicted.

Farid said...

No, I think it's just a roster move and that he'll be back when they need another starter. Remember, he had only three bad outings in what, 14 starts? He deserves a larger sample to be judged before he is given his walking papers.