A decision that was made before the season ever began was called into question before Washington proved their worth as one of baseball's elite. But as playoff contention turned into World Series aspirations, the mood on the streets of D.C. began to change.
The general consensus around the nation's capital was that GM Mike Rizzo would back off his claim that the righty ace would be shut down somewhere between 160-180 innings. Fans prayed that an expanding division lead and the league's best record would sway the club's opinion in favor of letting Strasburg continue.
But it didn't even get that far.
And after the 24-year-old failed to reach the fourth inning against Miami on September 7th, it became evident that the pending decision was becoming a distraction.
So the Nationals did the only thing they could. They shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season after 159.1 innings of work.
Nearly two weeks later, the topic hasn't vanished. After the fact, questions still linger as to whether or not Washington made the correct call regarding their young pitching sensation.
The decision for the future has jeopardized the present. And for a team with MLB's best record, it's tough to imagine their best pitcher riding the bench in October.
But that's what will happen, and the Nationals will be forced to move on without the services of their top starter.
Fortunately for fans in D.C., a familiar face can fill in during his absence. And at a time when many clubs across baseball lack depth at starting pitching, the Nats have options.
Veteran John Lannan fills the void on Davey Johnson's staff following Strasburg's departure. The 27-year-old lefty is in his sixth year in the bigs—all of which have been spent in the nation's capital.
After serving as a fixture atop Washington's rotation for years, Lannan has spent much of 2012 in the minors. Spot starts have been rare for the game's best pitching staff, but Lannan has served as the main man out of AAA Syracuse when the Nationals have needed an extra arm.
Now, he gets his chance to make a name for himself. With the spotlight shining on the pitcher's mound in D.C., Lannan will have an opportunity to succeed in Strasburg's spot, and silence the critics once and for all.
Surely a premature postseason exit will cause commotion around town. Any result short of a National League pennant will undeniably leave fans questioning "what could have been".
But there is nothing we can do about it now. And the only direction to move is forward.
Here are a few reasons John Lannan's arm can take us there.