There was little surprise when Washington starter Max Scherzer sat down next to Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon on Monday afternoon at a news conference at Marlins Park.
When Clayton Kershaw pitched for the Dodgers on Sunday, he rendered himself ineligible to start the All-Star game on Tuesday, and made easy Maddon’s decision on who should open the game for the National League.
Soon after Scherzer spoke to reporters, Kershaw settled into a chair on the warning track, surrounded by the other All-Stars. Kershaw has been an All-Star seven times, yet he has never started the game.
“I would love to start someday, no doubt,” Kershaw said. “But Max has earned it. Regardless of whether I was eligible or not, I think Max has earned that right.”
Maddon apparently agreed. Asked how he would have grappled with the decision if Kershaw was available, Maddon indicated he had already made up his mind.
“I have a ton of respect for Mr. Kershaw,” Maddon said. “But if you just broke down the numbers, I am being honest, I had already chosen Max, based on what I had just read numerically.”
The gap between the players statistically is minuscule. Kershaw has a record of 14-2 with a 2.18 earned-run average; Scherzer is 10-5 with a 2.10 ERA. Kershaw has logged 132 1/3 innings; Scherzer has logged 128 1/3. Scherzer has struck out 173 batters, 14 more than Kershaw. Scherzer leads Kershaw in both FanGraphs’ and Baseball-Reference’s versions of wins above replacement.
Kershaw owns a more impressive historical resume, with three Cy Young Awards and a finish in the top five in six consecutive seasons. Scherzer won the American League Cy Young Award in 2013 and won the National League version last season, when Kershaw’s candidacy was hampered by his lengthy absence after injuring his back.
The Dodgers reconfigured their schedule so Kershaw could start the first-half finale against Kansas City. Kershaw turned in his first complete game of the season. He rejected the premise that he took himself out of the running for the All-Star game by choosing to start on Sunday.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said. “I just pitched when they told me to.”