It’s that time of year again. The rosters have been announced and now we start talking about snubs, surprises and who will be playing in Minnesota for this year’s All-Star Game. And, in all of that hubbub, you are almost guaranteed to hear some of the following:
“Man, the fans messed it up here.”
“The fans shouldn’t have the vote at all. At best they should vote for the reserves.”
“This one-player-for-each-team rule is stupid.”
There’s one thing that summarizes all of these statements and any others written in that vein.
They are all wrong.
Look, this is one of my personal hobby horses. I’ve written about it many times, including just a couple of years ago. Honestly, even in my pre-blogging days, the first thing I wrote on at length that I can remember was a piece for Cards Clubhouse regarding the assigning of home field advantage to the All-Star Game (though, with the site redesign of a couple of years ago, I can’t find it again). This is one of those topics that gets me fired up, even more so than Mike Matheny‘s latest strange double switch.
There’s one general tenet that I go by when I’m talking about the Midsummer Classic. One rule that sums it all up, but a rule that so often the talking heads and the “experts” tend to forget when they start talking about the contest.
This is the fans’ game.
If the majority of fans want to see a creaky Derek Jeter at shortstop instead of…well, maybe American League shortstop is a bad example. Let’s say Aramis Ramirez instead of Todd Frazier. If that’s who the fans want to see, then that is the right choice. The fans, who fund this game, who get the raw end of the deal so often, who watch players take off for more money and owners cry poverty when it comes to stocking a team, the fans get one game, one piddling game where they matter, where their voice really counts.
And it’s not like these are the only players that get to play in the game, though it’d be well within the rights of this exhibition to take the fan voting and let it determine the entire roster. So often the “deserving” players taken by the player vote and manager selections wind up making the difference in the game anyway. Look at the list of MVPs. How many of those were starting players, do you think? Just at a glance, I thought maybe 2010, but no, Brian McCann doubled in the seventh, so that mean he didn’t start. You’d probably have go to back to 2007 to find a starting player that was also named MVP. (Again, not checking to see, but that’s my hunch.)
I’ve expounded on my other issues with the All-Star Game in the link to my prior work, so I won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say the only thing wrong with the ASG is TPTB. When Bud Selig got embarrassed in his own back yard (not the first time, because he sat through some bad Brewer baseball when he owned them, but the first time on national TV), he immediately overcompensated with “This Time It Counts”. Except it doesn’t. You don’t see a starter going five innings or a position player out there in the seventh. Stan Musial hit a walkoff home run in the 1955 All-Star Game. You think Mike Trout is ever going to be able to do the same?
The best thing for the All-Star Game would be to “consciously uncouple” the results of the game from the World Series home field advantage. Then we could all enjoy a carefree exhibition of some of the best players in the world without having to get all worked up about the results. An exhibition allows for things like John Kruk versus Randy Johnson in 1993 or even Barry Bonds/Torii Hunter in 2002. I know, I know, the old-timers played for league pride and took it extremely seriously, but how seriously could they have taken it if Bob Gibson never beaned anybody?
I love the All-Star Game. For a while there, I taped every one. Still have 1989 and Ronald Reagan and Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs going deep to start it off somewhere. This should be a lot of fun and it should be a game where the fans get to feel like they are important.
So take your “mistakes were made” line of thinking and shove it in the same closet with the Cubs’ World Series chances. Let’s see the favorite players. Most of the time they are the best, but when they aren’t, it’s still good watchin’.