Karma . . . is it real?
Amid Stephen Strasburg’s 2015 struggles and Washington’s recent losing skid, here’s a question for Washington Nationals fans to consider: Is any of this the result of karma from the 2012 shutdown? And here’s an answer: No. Journalism is about presenting both sides of an argument, though, and so for the other side, let’s turn to Post contributor John Feinstein. He’s the most ardent proponent of the argument that Mike Rizzo’s chickens have finally come home to roost, in the sense that Washington has baseball’s second-best record since the start of the 2012 season and has twice made the playoffs in that span and is a half-game out of first place. These chickens are a little confused, is all. Forgive them. They will deploy the full force of their karma at some point.
Anyhow, Feinstein recently graded the careers of Bryce Harper and Strasburg for CSN Washington, and he was naturally a bit down on Strasburg’s recent months, which have not been good, no matter your favored explanation.
“I know Nationals fans don’t like to hear this, but there’s always karma in sports,” Feinstein concluded. “And Mike Rizzo was so cocky; he thought he could shut the guy down and still win the World Series in 2012, and it’s come back to haunt them. Karma. Not that Strasburg deserves it, by the way. He did nothing wrong.”
This seemed mildly provocative, and so Feinstein was asked to elaborate during his weekly Friday morning appearance with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. He acknowledged that he wasn’t totally sure he actually believes in karma.
“There are certain times when things happen and you go, wow,” he said. “I mean, did this person deserve it, or did this person not deserve it, because karma can go both ways. You know, Mike Krzyzewski talks about the basketball gods all the time, and he firmly believes in them. He really does. He really thinks that there’s something up there that somehow makes things right or makes things even or whatever it might be. And I really believe that the arrogance of Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras — although I don’t know if it was arrogance as much as selfishness with Boras — has been paid back in what’s happened to Strasburg and what happened to them in 2013. . . .
“I really think that they felt so much pressure to make up for what was at the very least possibly a blown chance to win the World Series, that they played horribly [in 2013], way beneath their talent for two-thirds of the season,” Feinstein later said. “I believe that was the case, and I believe they pressed in the playoffs last year.
“What was the batting average of the lineup? It was just horrific. What’s the old saying, especially in baseball, try easier? I think you play a lot better when there’s less pressure on you, and if they had a World Series flag hanging up there in Nats Park, there’d be less pressure on them. There’s no question about it . . . .
“I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I have absolute proof that karma exists,” he said. “I made the statement because, jeez, Strasburg hasn’t caught a damn break since then, you know? And he, by the way, was blameless in the whole thing. He wanted to pitch.
“Make damn sure that he’s taking the ball in October,” Feinstein said, discussing the shutdown. “He didn’t need to take the ball in August. They were 12 games ahead. That’s where the arrogance came in: that Mike Rizzo said I’m doing this, and I’m doing it my way, instead of saying, ‘Hmm, we didn’t really expect to contend this year, but we’re really good. We’re a year ahead of schedule. Llet’s make an adjustment so we have our best chance to win.’ And he just sat there and said, ‘No, I’m right, I’m right, I’m right,’ and that to me is arrogance.”
The Nationals cannot seem to escape the controversy created when they shut down Stephen Strasburg in the 2012 season.