Why is Masahiro Tanaka even talking to doctors?

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Masahiro Tanaka was put on the disabled list due to wrist tendonitis and soreness in his forearm. An MRI yesterday showed that there was no additional tear to his UCL over what came before. What does this all mean? For that, one could consult orthopedists and other doctors. Trained experts who have went to school for years and have mastered what is perhaps the most critical and difficult discipline among all of the professions.

Or maybe he and the Yankees should just have a couple of reporters and some ballplayers weigh in? Like John Harper:

This is why so many teams and pitchers opt for getting Tommy John surgery rather than trying to pitch once they have been diagnosed with a ligament tear. This is why the likes of Martinez and Curt Schilling said they thought Tanaka should have had the surgery.

Nevertheless, Cashman has said all along that the ballclub’s decision was guided by the advice of three orthopedists who recommended that Tanaka try to rehab and pitch with the tear.

That “nevertheless” is the most rich thing I’ve ever heard. Given what Haper has written on this subject before, that’s the equivalent of him saying “welp, you were dumb to listen to medical professionals before, so if you want to do it again, I can’t help you.”

How about Kevin Kernan?

From the moment Tanaka suffered a small tear in his elbow ligament last season, the Yankees and Tanaka have taken the conservative route, the route recommended by team doctors, the route Tanaka wanted to take.

The no-surgery route.

It’s time to change game plans. This is not working. He needs to have Tommy John surgery to have any chance of getting back to being the kind of pitcher the Yankees thought they were getting when they shelled out $175 million.

Will Masahiro Tanaka need Tommy John surgery? Maybe! I have no idea. It’s a distinct possibility! But his doctors said he didn’t need it before and, as yet, they have yet to say he needs it now. That appears to be good enough for the New York Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka, who are wisely consulting with medical professionals and not the a couple of tabloid columnists who, apparently, have no idea that they aren’t actually qualified to make such assessments.

Of course, if and when Tanaka does go under the knife, I’m sure we’ll get a nice round of “told ya so’s” from these guys. “Told ya so’s” that are the medical equivalent of you or I telling the widow at the funeral that we knew her husband was gonna die one day. Eventually.

Two injured MVPs is a major bummer for baseball

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Last week Christian Yelich‘s season ended with a fractured kneecap. At the time he went down he was neck-and-neck with Cody Bellinger — I think a tad behind, though people may reasonably differ — and, at least by my reckoning, a hair or three above Anthony Rendon, Ketel Marte and Pete Alonso in the race for the NL MVP Award. As I wrote last week, I think that means Bellinger is going to walk away with the hardware when the winner is announced in November. Yelich’s injury will prevent him from making a late season surge to surpass Bellinger, but I think it would’ve taken a surge for him to do it.

Over the weekend we learned that Mike Trout’s season is over as well. He’ll be having foot surgery to deal with a nerve issue causing him pain. At the time he went down he was the clear frontrunner to win his third MVP Award. Unlike Yelich, I’m pretty sure Trout will still win the trophy. Sure, Trout hasn’t played since September 7, meaning that he’ll miss more time than Yelich will, but strained articles stumping for alternative candidates notwithstanding, his lead in the MVP race was more secure.

Trout’s 2019 ends with him setting a career high in homers with 45 and slugging percentage at .645—both of which lead the American League. He likewise leads the league in on-base percentage (.438), OPS (1.083), and in both Baseball-Reference.com’s and FanGraphs’ versions of WAR at 8.3 and 8.6, respectively. With just under two weeks to go it seems likely that Jorge Soler of the Royals will pass Trout for the home run lead, but he’s not an MVP candidate himself. Alex Bregman will likely pass him in walks. Trout seems pretty certain to finish with his lead in all or most of the other categories intact. That’s an MVP resume even if he’ll only have played in 134 games. To give the award to anyone else would be an exercise in narrative over reason. Something born of a desire to reward a guy — like, say, Bregman — for playing on a winning team as opposed to his individual accomplishments. Sure, voters are allowed to do that, but they’ve mostly eschewed such tendencies in recent years. It’d be a surprise if they backslid.

Even if Yelich’s and Trout’s injuries aren’t likely to radically change the MVP race — again, I think the NL’s was Bellinger’s to lose — they’re both still lamentable separate and apart from the fact that all injuries stink. Lamentable in a way that, unfortunately, creates a downer for baseball as it gets ready for the postseason.

The Brewers won the game in which Yelich went down and have won four of five since then. In so doing they have remained close in the race for the second Wild Card and currently stand one game back. They also have an insanely favorable schedule the rest of the way, exclusively facing the weak sisters of the National League in the Padres, Pirates, Reds and Rockies. Even so, it’s no gimmie — those Reds and Rockies games are on the road, and Great American Ballpark and Coors Field makes those bad teams better — and the reward at the end of this is likely to be a one-game play-in. You want your best player in any and all situations and the Brewers don’t have theirs. And won’t, even if they make the postseason and even if they win the Wild Card game. Having one of the game’s brightest stars on crutches for the playoffs is not something anyone at the league office wants.

The Angels have no such postseason concerns and haven’t had them for most of the season. Once again they’re terrible. As they have been for almost the entirety of Trout’s career. They’ve made the postseason only once in his career — back in 2014, losing the LDS in three games — and do not appear poised to put a winner on the field any time soon. Trout is still in his prime, obviously, but like all players he’ll either slow down or break down eventually. Given the state of the club, I’m not sure I’d put a ton of money on them being good, let alone consistently good, while Trout is still the best or even one of the few best players in baseball. The upside to me seems to be an Al Kaline situation with the Tigers, in which the team finally put it together behind him only after he began to age and miss time to injuries. Having the best player in baseball outside of the playoffs looking in is not something anyone at the league office should want either.

Yet here we are.

Injuries happen. Every contender is missing at least one and in some cases several important players. But for one MVP candidate to miss the postseason this year and another one to miss the postseason every year is a major bummer for a league that has a tough go of it marketing itself even under the best of circumstances.