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Opening Day: Masahiro Tanaka, the Internet, and the issue of trust

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Masahiro Tanaka had an off day yesterday. This has furthered the "Why didn't he get the Tommy John surgery?" idea even more. Let's examine why that is still a thing.

"shoulda got TJS"
"shoulda got TJS"
Elsa/Getty Images

Trust. There are so many ways to define this word that there is little need to quote Webster's dictionary. Those reading this article should know what it is and what it means, especially to one's self. My last piece talked about trust in regards to the whole "If the Boss were here" idea that was, and still is, repeated ad nauseam by the Yankees' fan base after they did not sign Yoan Moncada. Hal and Hank Steinbrenner were greedy, irresponsible owners who cared more about money than they did about winning. Of course, since they took over in 2008 the Yankees have won a World Series, had three years afterwards in which they made it to the postseason, and have never had a team with an under .500 record even during two injury plagued years. However, facts and trust do not always go hand in hand. The "Why didn't Masahiro Tanaka just get the Tommy John surgery?" idea is proof enough of that. Before we go any further, let's just answer that question right off the bat.

Why didn't Masahiro Tanaka just get the Tommy John surgery?

Answer: He went to a panel of medical experts on the subject and they specifically told him not to.

One would think that would be the end of it. If it were, I wouldn't be writing this article right now. Yet here we are. This piece is not about arguing the validity of the "shoulda got TJS" discussion because that argument is, to be blunt, absolutely idiotic. The Yankees did what they were told by people who have medical degrees on the subject at hand, or elbow in this case. This is not to say that he might not need Tommy John surgery in the near future. I cannot stress that point enough. The point is that at this time, we do not know if he will or not. The wisest course of action for the Yankees, and their fans, is to trust what the medical experts informed them to do. So why is this "shoulda got TJS" idea still a thing? What is it that fuels this crazy notion?

Oh right...stuff like this.

If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you might hear a loud, audible sigh promptly followed by the sound of a head repeatedly bashing into a wooden desk. There's no real need to pick on the Daily News in this situation, since they're most likely not the only ones promoting the "shoulda got TJS" ideal. It's just ridiculously and laughably easy to do so. Why it's almost as easy as using a fun, silly Yankees on Demand homage to The Sandlot in order to show how much of a divide there is between them and Alex Rodriguez. We like to joke about an opening day loss equaling the Yankees being doomed, A-Rod praising Didi Gregorius' incredible shortstop defense as A-Rod being jealous, or one bad outing equaling Tanaka needed Tommy John. Paid, professional writers are actually stoking the fires of this lunacy because it's easy to do so.

This brings us back to the issue of trust. A lot of Yankee fans do not trust Hal and Hank Steinbrenner. A lot of Yankee fans do not trust medical experts. A lot of Yankee fans do not trust places like Pinstripe Alley over the New York Daily News. They are a long running credible source of information. Pinstripe Alley is a blog, albeit the best Yankee blog in the universe. We even have David Cone's on-air seal of approval. Shameless self promotion aside, it really is not easy knowing who to trust in this day and age. Like everything in life, trust requires information and that is ultimately where the problem lies. There is too much information out there now. The internet has changed everything. No matter how many times people are told to just relax and trust what the doctors told Tanaka and the Yankees to do, quotes like this just drown out the message.

You have to believe that somewhere in their boardroom the Yankee decision-makers were asking themselves such questions after Tanaka took a pounding in Monday’s season-opening 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays, looking nothing like the pre-injury ace of 2014.

Essentially this was a worst-case scenario for the Yankees, considering that whatever hope they have of contending is built around Tanaka’s every-fifth-day dominance. To see him look so vulnerable on Opening Day had to be felt deep in the clubhouse, even if nobody was about to admit it.

"You have to believe" are the first words in this quote, and it says everything that needs to be said about the idea of there being too much information. No, you don't have to believe such hyperbole. There are zero facts to support such an idea that the Yankee decision-makers were asking themselves these questions, especially after watching him in the offseason and during spring training. It doesn't matter now, because the information of this notion is now out there, facts or no facts. The "shoulda got TJS" fire has a credible news source stoking their flames and pouring gasoline on it. Again, we joked about A-Rod praising Didi's shortstop defense as jealously. It wouldn't take that much effort to make it sound legit. It's not like facts are required. All that is needed is speculation. All that's needed is to get the idea out there and there will be a sizable group of people who might believe it's true simply because the idea was planted inside their head. Cue the Inception "BWONG" sound bite.

This idea of there being too much information could be applied to so many different and current debates in our society. Politics, medicine, religion, climate change, crunchy vs. creamy peanut butter, and many more topics are subject to this study. Since this is a sports blog, we'll apply it to baseball.  The information age and the internet have absolutely changed everything regarding knowledge and trust. With a new found abundance of non-stop, relentless information at people's fingertips at an incalculable pace, everyone thinks that they are now "in the know" regarding everything. Some would argue that having all this information has improved things, but it's still too early to tell. I'd argue that it has made things worse, and the "shoulda got TJS" idea is an example as to why. Allow me to describe how this scenario plays out.

  1. Johnny Angryfan thinks Masahiro Tanaka should have gotten Tommy John surgery, regardless of what medical experts said.
  2. Johnny Angryfan hears Bobby Calmfan say that the Yankees did the right thing in listening to the doctors.
  3. Johnny Angryfan does a Google search for "Should Masahiro Tanaka just get the Tommy John surgery now?"
  4. Johnny Angryfan comes across articles on the internet confirming his viewpoints.
  5. Johnny Angryfan feels justified with his viewpoints now that others share in them, facts and everyone else be damned.
If you fail a college research paper in this day and age, you most likely deserved that F. There is so much information out there now that people have enough credible sources to prove just about any point they want, no matter how illogical or inane it may be. People believed that Robinson Cano was lazy because he didn't bust it out of the box to first base on a routine ground out or pop fly. Sure, his work out regiment and nine years of remaining healthy and playing well should provide enough facts to make that argument seem ludicrous. However, you have articles from credible sources and the TV voice of the New York Yankees repeating and confirming that belief of laziness. There are tons of sources out there on the internet. It's just a matter of which sources you trust. Most people choose to trust the source that confirms their personal beliefs.

The sad truth is that more people are interested in information rather than the truth. This was pretty much always the case. The internet just puts it out there more and more with each passing day. People are perfectly content with believing whatever they want, especially when they have the information to back up their beliefs. It doesn't even matter if facts prove those beliefs to be inaccurate.  Those facts can be interpreted as some kind of conspiracy theory to cover up what they believe to be the truth, because their beliefs affect their trust of the actual, proven facts.

I could have written a "shoulda got TJS" article about how those same doctors that told Tanaka not to get surgery actually told the Yankees front office that he really needed to get the TJS, and that Hal and Hank Steinbrenner decided against it because they are greedy and they know Tanaka brings in money. Would that have been true? Nope. Would I have any facts to actually back up that speculation? Nary a one. Would a good contingent of fans have believed me? Probably not here, no. However, if I worked for any of the major metropolitan newspapers, then 100% yes.