This year it counts. That is the case with next month’s MLB All-Star Game; it will decide home field advantage in the World Series as it has for the last number of seasons.
Unfortunately for the American League, they might have to piece together a pitching staff for the game that is missing the best pitcher in the league. Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the way Masahiro Tanaka‘s starts map out between now and the game, he likely will pitch the Sunday prior and be unavailable to go on Tuesday.
It means Tanaka will start Saturday, then July 3 at Minnesota, July 8 at Cleveland and July 13 at Baltimore. And you know what July 13 is? The last day of the first half. Only twice in the last 20 years — Randy Johnson in 2000 and Brad Penny in 2006 — has a pitcher started the final Sunday of the first half and then also Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
The chances are close to zero the Yankees let Tanaka become the third.
Sherman also notes that his presumed absence from the game, other than perhaps a tip of the cap during introductions, will hurt the ratings in a big way; the appeal for Japanese fans would have been huge had Tanaka been pitching, bumping up the audience beyond the United States.
Those are the concerns for baseball’s executives. As for the AL, this means they will be without the guy who has posted an 11-2 record, a 2.11 ERA and exactly 10 K/9 this season. For a game that counts, it sure hurts not to have that guy available to face the best hitters from the Senior Circuit.