What a shame. Masahiro Tanaka added spice to the first half of the 2014 Major League season and now he is sidelined until nearly Labor Day.
And that’s if everything goes well with the healing process for the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The former Japanese Pacific League hurler was on his way to rookie of the year honors and an appearance in the All-Star game and now instead he has to worry about his future and fans have to worry about whether he will be OK when he returns.
Best in Baseball
As things stand, Tanaka is 12-4 with a 2.51 earned run average and 135 strikeouts. He was the best pitcher in baseball over the season’s first couple of months and that came on top of the most outstanding season in memory anywhere. In 2013, Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 earned run average for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Many wondered how that superlative record would translate to the big leagues and it turned out nothing was lost in the translation at all after Tanaka put himself up for bid and his rights were obtained by the Yankees. Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with New York and given what he had shown thus far seemed to be worth it in as much as any player can be worth such a salary.
Living up to the Hype
There had been a lot of talk on whether or not any pitcher with a track record anywhere but the majors could be worthy of the hype that accompanied Tanaka’s arrival in New York. Tanaka may not have been conversant with the English language, but he showed he was definitely on speaking terms with the fastball and curveball in any language.
Even with his injury and recent time off Tanaka remains among American League leaders in wins, strikeouts and ERA heading into the All-Star break.
While it was announced that Tanaka’s so-called minor tear would keep him off the mound for six weeks the Yankees, who are going nowhere this season, will not rush him back to the rotation. To say that Tanaka was cruising would be an understatement, but if he is ready to return around Sept. 1 it is easy to see the team being ultra-cautious with his future. He is just 25, the Yankees have a lot of money invested in that ailing right wing, and it seems doubtful New York will be part of the pennant race.
The likelihood is high that the Yankees will shut Tanaka down for the season even if he is feeling sound. That would be the fans’ loss. The fresh face on the scene was impressing hometown supporters and neutral fans so his being benched diminishes the game. But it would be far worse if Tanka’s appearance becomes a trivia note and he is like a comet passing in the night sky.
Better that Tanaka, who will be anxious to pitch again this season, and the Yankees do what’s right to ensure a likely brilliant future. At the least, if Tanaka pitches again in 2014 it better be with a sheaf of doctor’s endorsements indicating they are 1,000 percent certain he is well.
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