All-Star Pitcher in No Man’s Land

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mlb_a_samardzija11_300Being traded to a playoff contender is typically great news for a player toiling with a struggling team. But when the trade results in the player in question being knocked out of Major League Baseball (MLB)’s All-Star Game, the move from also-ran to pennant-chaser can be bittersweet.

On July 5, 2014, the Chicago Cubs, sitting in last place in the National League’s Central Division, dealt pitcher Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland A’s, leaders of the American League’s West Division, and overall league leaders in winning percentage. Samardzija had a 2.83 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 17 starts for the Cubs and a 2-7 won-loss record. He was evidently having a good enough year to be selected as an all-star player for the National League, representing the Cubs.

However, just one day after Samardzija was traded, news broke that six Oakland A’s – a major league high this year – were chosen to participate in the All-Star Game, which is set to take place at Minnesota’s Target Field on July 15.

According to published reports, MLB said that Samardzija would be ineligible to play for his new team in the mid-summer classic. Instead, he would be permitted to suit up in a generic National League uniform, but not be allowed to pitch in the game.

The thinking behind the decision goes something like this: It wouldn’t be fair to bump an AL pitcher off the All-Star roster just to make room for a late addition to the league; the selected AL pitchers have, after all, toiled for most if not all of the first half of the year in the AL, and would most deserve to represent their league.

At the same time, it doesn’t make sense for Samardzija to pitch as a representative of the NL, since Oakland clearly would love to have the chance to gain home-field advantage for any possible berth in the World Series – the prize that goes to the winner of the All-Star Game.

What does Samardzija have to say about the matter?

“Random happening,” he says. “I don’t think anyone knew I was going to be an All-Star before the trade. It just happened to be that way. I won’t get to pitch, which is a bummer, but that’s all right. I’ll just go through the ceremony and then jump over to the AL dugout with an NL jersey on and have fun with the six other guys we have over there.”