The New York Yankees will be without Masahiro Tanaka for at least six weeks after he was diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his elbow on Thursday, and no one feels worse about that fact than Tanaka himself.
On Friday, the 25-year-old right-hander, who signed a seven-year, $155 million deal in the offseason, did something we rarely see in professional sports. He actually issued an apology to the Yankees organization, his teammates and the fans for getting injured. More specifically, he apologized for not being there to fight with them during what will undoubtedly be a difficult stretch.
“As recently announced from the team, I will be going through some treatment and rehab on my injured elbow over the next several weeks. I give everything I have every time I take the ball. With that, I also know that there will always be a risk of injury when playing this game that I love. Right now I feel that the most important thing for me is to keep my head up, remain focused on the task at hand and devote all my energy into healing the injury in order to come back strong.
“I want to apologize to the Yankees organization, my teammates and our fans for not being able to help during this time. I accept this injury as a challenge, but I promise to do everything I can to overcome this setback and return to the mound as soon as possible.”
As the New York Post points out, Hideki Matsui issued a similar apology in 2006 after suffering a wrist injury while attempting to make a diving catch in the outfield, which really highlights the cultural differences between players from Japan and other parts of the world. That's not to suggest other players don't feel bad when they can't contribute, but in Japan it's considered their responsibility to show up to play every day with no excuses. When they can't honor the commitment, it's a genuine let down.
In Tanaka's case, we all hope it's only a short term let down.
At the advice of three different doctors, Tanaka will first attempt to rehab the injury before making a decision about possible Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately, the latter feels like an inevitability for every pitcher given the recent rash of elbow injuries, but Tanaka will do all he can to avoid it.
If required this season, the operation would keep Tanaka out until 2016. If it's not required, the best case scenario would have him returning for the September stretch run. Assuming the Yankees are still in the race, they will definitely welcome him back. If not, we could see them err on the side of caution and keep him out until 2015.
Either way, there's going to be a gigantic void in their rotation that will be impossible to fill for however long he's out. Tanaka was well on his way to an award-winning season, whether it be in the Cy Young or Rookie of the Year category. It's far less likely he'll be able to win an award now, but he's likely won the hearts of many fans with this classy gesture.
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