Masahiro Tanaka made his return from the disabled list (DL) yesterday, pitching seven dominant innings in the Yankees 3-1 win over the Mariners. His line was spectacular: 7IP, 3H, 1ER, 0BB, 9K. His ERA went down to 2.76.
In the days and hours leading up to the game, sports media was filled with the usual rhetoric about Tanaka and his elbow. There were lots of different arguments on the air, on social media and in print, but they all boiled down to the same thing: If and when he should have Tommy John Surgery.
Hours before Tanaka threw his first pitch, I reached a breaking point. I realized that I was sick and tired of hearing the same old arguments over and over again. I also realized something else: Though he is still thought of as such, I, myself, no longer think of Masahiro Tanaka as the ace of the staff.
If you can't get through a season without going on the DL, you're not an ace. It might be unfair to think so, but in my mind, durability should be on the list of characteristics for an ace. Teams and their fans have to be able to count on their ace to go out there day-in and day-out. You can't do that with Tanaka. And, yes, I am aware that the same can be said for Michael Pineda.
Manager Joe Girardi's way of looking at it is probably best: Whoever is pitching on a particular day is the ace. He is the number one guy.
Step into the spotlight, Nathan Eovaldi.