What was Mike Matheny supposed to do, pick against his own player?

Posted by Scott Wuerz on July 14, 2014 

In the latest episode of the most mundane moves by the St. Louis Cardinals becoming the source of great national media controversy, the world is apparently in an uproar because Redbirds skipper Mike Matheny chose St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright to start the All-Star Game instead of Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Well, duh...

What was Matheny supposed to do, tell perhaps his most important player that he's going to screw him over for the sake of perceived propriety? Matheny has to look Wainwright in the eye for the rest of this season -- and presumably for several years -- hoping that the lanky starter can win the big games that lead the Cardinals back to the World Series. Assuming one player or the other was going to be miffed by being overlooked, it's a no brainer that Matheny chaps the guy in the other dugout, not his own.

And, speaking of getting to the World Series, anyone who thinks that its unfair that Kershaw wasn't chosen needs to look only to the 2013 post season for the answer about why things worked out the way they did. 

When Wainwright's Cardinals faced off with Kershaw's Dodgers in the National League Championship Series last October, St. Louis came out on top. The rules say the manager of the pennant winner in each league gets to be the manager in the following All-Star Game. If Kershaw would have pitched better -- instead of losing the deciding game -- we might not be having this conversation.

Kershaw lasted four innings in that deciding game, surrendering 10 hits and seven earned runs to St. Louis. If not for that, one can bet Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly could have given the benefit of the doubt to his guy. And then if Cardinals fans suggested the pick was a mistake or a slight, we could have been called whiners and cry babies for behaving exactly the way Dodgers fans are now.

Even though it's not the way that some members of the national media have tried to portray the situation, a very good case can be made for Wainwright as the better pitcher. Sure, Kershaw has his scoreless innings streak and a sparkling record of 11-2 with a 1.78 earned run average. But Wainwright's 12-4 mark with a 1.83 ERA is pretty hot stuff, too.

And here's where I think Wainwright gains the edge: Kershaw, some have forgotten, missed the about a month of the season with an injury. He's managed only 14 starts covering 96 1/3 innings. Wainwright missed one game as precaution because of some elbow discomfort. He's made 19 starts covering 138 innings. Is it fair to give the edge to a player who has missed more than a quarter of the games played so far the edge to a player who has been on the field the whole time when their baseball card statistics are nearly identical?

If you prefer to take this to the next level and argue advanced metrics and start splitting hairs when both pitchers have been extremely dominant, I'll just wrap up by making one point: What difference does it make?

This is a ceremonial honor. Both players are going to get to pitch in the game. So what the big deal about which one goes first? In all honesty, I'm sure Mattingly wants Kershaw as fresh as possible for the first series -- against the Cardinals -- after the break. So it's not like one of these two is going to go out and pitch a complete game. They're each going to pitch a couple of innings and be long gone before the game is decided.

This argument is nearly as ridiculous as a national broadcaster saying that he thought it was poetic justice that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was injured so Milwaukee Brewers backstop Jonathan LuCroy could start the All-Star game instead. But that's another story.

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