The conventional wisdom is that too much hubris will bring retribution. The Greek gods are long gone from the equation. But, the meltdown and pending exit of one Drew Storen from the Nationals is the fodder of Greek Tragedies. Rather than start at the beginning, let’s cut to the chase.
It’s July 28 and Mike Rizzo is in a pickle. His bullpen has been a bus terminal of comings and goings. Youngsters, scrap heap reclamations, and former starters have filled the spaces with one consistent characteristic; inconsistency. The Nat’s have blown more 7th inning leads than all but two teams in baseball. The starting pitching has not lived up to the pre-season hopes. And, the position players have spent more time in MRI tubes than a typical NFL team. But, they’re basically back in place with rust aplenty showing. What to do?
There are options for the bullpen. One is to get a solid, proven setup man. Joaquin Benoit is an obvious choice. There’s a basic problem with this, however. The Padres’ General Manager, AJ Preller was fleeced by Rizzo last winter. From across the country he’s watched Joe Ross turn into a promising starter well ahead of schedule. The other half of this deal was Trea Turner who is now going through the minor leagues like Grant took Richmond. He’ll give up Benoit for one of those two coming back, according to the shadowy reports circulating.
Another possibility is to get Aroldis Chapman from the Reds. Pitchers who throw 100+ don’t grow on trees. In this scenario Chapman or Storen would become inter-changeable 8th and 9th inning men. The Reds reportedly want Lucas Giolito, the next jewel in the pitching pipeline.
There’s a cautionary tale unfolding up the road in Baltimore. The year before they traded promising pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Boston for reliever Andrew Miller. Miller was a short term rental now closing for the Division rival Yankees. Rodriguez is blossoming in Boston, another rival. The Orioles are forced to watch their next dominant pitcher for years working for someone else. Giolito stays put.
In the end the fallback was to take Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies. The difference between that move and the potential Chapman move is that Papelbon is a closer, period. This bumped Drew Storen back up to the 8th inning. Given his lights-out year to-date this should have made the back end of the bullpen rock solid. That is, of course, as long as Drew embraced the role.
If this were a book, all you needed to read was the reaction Drew posited the very first chance he got a microphone shoved his way.
By the end of the next day the rumors were flying that he and the agent had demanded a trade to Rizzo. Any doubt that this was going to work out should have been erased right then. The old saw is that your attitude determines your altitude. Stewing in bile for the rest of the year was not going to produce anything palatable.
Fast forward six weeks and the fall from grace is complete. Closing his locker a bit too aggressively Storen breaks his thumb. (That’s the story put into circulation at least.) There is a list of pitchers that have decided to use the tool of their trade to punch out things in the clubhouse. Nats fans think of Ryan Mattheus, but the list is quite long. John Tudor took on an electric fan. Doyle Alexander tried out a wall. So did Kevin Brown. Jason Isringhausen at least challenged something moveable. The trash can still won. Drew’s tirade at least generated the tweet of the year:
In the end Drew leaves as damaged goods. His trade value is greatly diminished. His short-term prospects as a closer are gone. There are only 30 of those jobs in baseball. His job when the trade was announced was to do his best for the rest of the year so as to preserve a chance to have one of the other 29 closer spots out there. He failed miserably. He hurt his team. But, he hurt himself more.