Cardinals manager Mike Matheny got to pick the National League's starting pitcher in Tuesday's All-Star Game.
He picked his own pitcher, Adam Wainwright. That's the simple explanation, one that left him open for plenty of criticism.
Matheny knew that. He did it anyway. He has to see Wainwright everyday. He wants to back up his guy.
The problem is what it meant. Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, coming off his 41-inning scoreless streak, didn't get the start.
When asked about it on Monday, Rays pitcher David Price said it best. "Clayton is the best pitcher in baseball. He is," Price told the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin.
Kershaw is having a historically good season. He is the best pitcher in baseball. But Wainwright has also been good enough that there could be an argument for him. So Matheny took that and ran.
It's a shame, really, having the best pitcher not get the honor. But Kershaw took the high road, saying Wainwright deserved it.
"You had to assume with Matheny being the manager, he was going to be the starter," Kershaw told MLB.com. "With what he's done, it's not like he's getting a hometown discount. He deserves it. I can't make a bad case for Adam. Adam deserves it.
"If someone asked me if I wanted to start an All-Star Game I'd say yes, but I completely understand. It is something that would be nice, but it is something you look back on after you are done and think about. It's not something that you focus on during the season. Right now the focus is on wining every start and helping the Dodgers."
To this point, Kershaw is 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA. Wainwright is 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA. Kershaw has a 0.83 WHIP. Wainwright is at 0.91. Kershaw threw a no-hitter against the Rockies. Wainwright did not.
Kershaw has 126 strikeouts and 13 walks. Wainwright has 115 strikeouts and 26 walks. It seems clear they are Nos. 1 and 2 in the discussion.
Matheny just got the order wrong. And, though it really doesn't matter for the result who starts the game, it does matter because of the honor and what the start means to a player. It's not a Cy Young, but it's a bit like a midseason one.
It's supposed to be an honor, one given to the best pitcher in each league. This time, that didn't happen. And Kershaw deserves to be upset. Privately, I'm sure he is. But publicly he said the right things, the appropriate things.
Wainwright is having a great season. His manager did make the pick. And we shouldn't be surprised by the result.
"I'm not taking anything away from either of them. Would I like to start an All-Star Game? Of course. It would be great. But it's not what drives you."
Last year, it was Matt Harvey and his 7-2 record who got the start over Kershaw at his home park, Citi Field. This year, it will be Wainwright.
The good part for Kershaw is that, soon enough, he will get his chance.
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