When Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound for the New York Yankees, a lot of attention swirls around the right-handed pitcher.
After making the transition from Japan, Tanaka was dominant in his early Yankee days, posting a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts. Things took a turn for the worst with Tanaka, as he was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL) in his right elbow.
In most cases, you hear about an injury to the UCL and figure that Tommy John surgery is the only way to fix it. In the case of Tanaka, doctors advised him to avoid the surgery, choosing the rehab route to try to heal the injury. With this route, Tanaka was able to come back and pitch last September, making two starts in the last few weeks of the season.
As Tanaka recently came back off the disabled list from a right forearm strain and is set to make his next start, I ask a small favor from fans of baseball: please don’t speculate about the “time bomb” you call his right elbow, just let the guy pitch.
Yes, his injury is one of a serious note: UCL injuries are never good injuries for pitchers (especially ones that are making over $100 million on their current contracts), but it’s not rare to see guys pitch through very similar injuries that Tanaka had.
Although not publicized as much as Tanaka, it’s safe to say that a few pitchers are throwing consistently with this injury or with an injury of similar nature, and the scary thing is that some of these pitchers probably don’t even know that their injury even exists.
Of course, I’m not saying that Tanaka is invisible and will beat the injury fully, but just give the guy a chance to perform without the constant talk about whether or not he will stay on the field during the 2015 season and beyond. If the UCL does act up and he does ultimately need Tommy John surgery, let’s worry about it when the timing presents itself.
Everyone likes to be (or tries to be) a sports analyst. People use social media to speculate on stories like this to draw interest from their followers and even friends, especially on slow news days.
What these social media analysts should be focused on is the team itself. Not many people thought the team could even compete for the division title, but yet there they are sitting on top with a 32-25 record while riding a six game winning streak.
It is only June, but it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching the game. It’s common for Yankees fans to hold their breath as Tanaka throws during his regular starts, but let’s not speculate when his elbow will give out. For all we know, it might hold up and Tanaka might be the reason the Yankees do make the playoffs this year.
Enough with the speculation. Before you hit the “Tweet” button on Twitter or the “Post” button on Facebook, just sit back and watch Tanaka pitch. You can talk about an injury when and if it eventually happens.
For now, just like fans enjoy watching Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw and some of the game’s other great young arms, just sit back and watch Tanaka do his thing on the mound. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you sit back and appreciate what this guy does on the mound on a regular basis.