All things considered, as a fan of a contending National League team, the 2015 MLB All-Star Game was a dud. The American League won the game 6-3 and has successfully clinch home field advantage at the World Series. Through the first six innings, NL manager Bruce Bochy went with five very good pitchers in Zack Greinke, Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, and Jacob deGrom. However, when no-longer-flame-throwing Francisco Rodriguez entered a one-run game in the seventh, I will be completely honest in saying that I nearly turned the game off.
@belhaven86 @mcarter0399 @dgoold What, you don't like NL using the 172nd-best pitcher in MLB in a key situation for game that "counts"?— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) July 15, 2015
First, I am not a big fan of the game "counting," but the fact is that it does, so I have come to accept it. Second, while Rodriguez has been pretty effective this season, the seventh seemed like a perfect situation to use either Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha. Of course, I am biased as a Cardinals fan, but there is no denying that these two have been stalwarts on one of the league's best pitching staffs. Unfortunately, according to this tweet from Derrick Goold, it appears that both Martinez and Wacha were essentially unavailable to pitch, as they were being "reserved for extra innings."
While it was not directly stated, a reasonable conclusion can be drawn by reading between the lines: Mike Matheny communicated with Bochy that it was his preference for neither of his young pitchers to be used in the glorified exhibition game. With both pitchers likely on an innings cap this season, this is a perfectly reasonable sentiment by the Cardinals manager.
However, can't the same be said about Cole and the Pirates, Greinke/Kershaw and the Dodgers, and Bumgarner and the Giants? Sure, none of these pitchers are on a documented innings cap, but that still does not preclude them from a possible injury, either in the game or down the road. Thus, why did Matheny get his way in this situation? I bet that if you asked Clint Hurdle for his preference, it would have been very similar to Matheny's, to get his 24-year-old study right-hander an extended break. But Cole made an appearance, threw 18 pitches, and did his part in keeping his league in the game.
In the end, it probably is not that big of a deal considering we do not know how Wacha or Martinez would have performed. Yet, neither Martinez nor Wacha pitched in five or six days, respectively, so throwing one inning in the All-Star Game could have not only served as a bullpen for them but also a way of keeping them fresh and on schedule. Plus, when I watch an All-Star Game, especially one that counts, I'd much rather watch the league's very best pitchers with electric stuff than a crafty reliever from a last-place team. Call me selfish, but seeing Aroldis Chapman light up the radar gun makes me wish we could have seen El Gallo try his hand at cracking triple digits.
What are the long-term effects of this situation? Next year at this time, when the National League manager is making his decisions on which pitchers to add to the roster, it is reasonable to believe that he will be thinking twice before choosing a Cardinal. Why add a pitcher to a not-unlimited bullpen if there is a chance he may not be able to use him? While the All-Star Game does not mean all that much to fans, the way Martinez handled the #FinalVote process and its aftermath on social media, you better believe it means a whole lot to the players, especially considering it is likely a part of their respective contract's incentives.
Ussssss. Thank you for making this dream a reality! #CardinalNation pic.twitter.com/X20dyHrWDb— Carlos Martinez (@Tsunamy27) July 13, 2015