Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Should the All-Star Game count?

Many baseball fans are complaining about the inclusion of utility infielders like Omar Infante and Ty Wigginton on this year's All-Star rosters over players like Joey Votto or Kevin Youkilis. But the sad but true fact is, because the All-Star game counts for home-field advantage in the World Series, it might be more valuable to Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel to have these players on their roster for late-game flexibility than the big boppers that already populate the rosters.

Which begs the question: Should the All-Star Game count? I know the 2002 tie was a huge travesty but making the game count has taken the MLB All-Star game from a spectacle for the fans (like any other league's All-Star game) to a way for the previous season's pennant-winning managers to use the rest of the players in their league for a shot at World Series home-field. Wouldn't it make more sense to give home field to the team that had a better regular-season record than to the team whose league won a single game?

I can guarantee that if the All-Star Game didn't count for anything, names like Infante and Wigginton would be nowhere near the rosters. I'm okay with middle relievers like Arthur Rhodes, Evan Meek and Matt Thornton being on the roster because they have all had excellent seasons and deserve recognition. But if you aren't even good enough to play every day for one of 30 MLB teams (I'm looking at you, Omar Infante, and Wigginton whenever Brian Roberts returns), then you aren't good enough to be an All-Star. I don't care how many positions you can play.

Now from one rant to another. How is Jason Heyward an All-Star? I know he started the season well but he has tanked since with his average down to .251. What about players like Chris Young and Corey Hart (who made it anyway) or Matt Kemp and Colby Rasmus (who didn't)? That's the only real beef I have with the fan voting, outside of the fact Ichiro should not be starting (Brett Gardner has better stats in every category except batting average (.326 to .314) and Alex Rios is enjoying a huge season, potentially 30-40). But the Japanese voters will push Ichiro into the starting lineup until the day he retires.

I understand why Marlon Byrd and Michael Bourn made the NL squad as the lone representative of the Cubs and Astros, but Matt Holliday over Carlos Gonzalez? Gonzalez is better in every category besides average (.298 to .295) and deserves a spot on the roster. But Holliday was voted in by the players and got credit for his years of solid MLB service. New flash: This is the 2010 All-Star Game, not the 2006-2009 Career Achievements Game.

Fausto Carmona and Matt Capps are two other curious additions. Both are also the lone representatives from their respective teams. If the game counts, shouldn't managers not be forced to take non-All-Star caliber players from terrible teams? Mat Latos and Jered Weaver would help these managers much more pitching an inning or two than either Carmona or Capps, who could eventually blow the game for their particular side.

The All-Star Game is really just one big contradiction. If you're going to have the game count for something, then some changes should be made. The major one is that there should be no requirement to choose one player from each team. If each manager is playing to win the game I'm fine with middle relievers and utility infielders, but the spots taken by players like Bourn, Byrd (who may be slightly deserving), Carmona and Capps should belong to players like Votto, Gonzalez, Latos and Weaver. Wouldn't the teams have a better shot at winning with better players available?

Fan voting should also be eschewed, but that kills the whole allure of the game to the fans, who fuel any sport. When the best idea is to leave the fans out of the voting, that's when you know THE GAME SHOULDN'T COUNT. It's an All-Star game and should remain as such. And to prevent ties, add one more pitching spot to invite an extra player on the premise that he will be saved in case the game goes deep into extra innings. And make it a starting pitcher.

My ultimate All-Star game would be one that didn't count for anything. Then the fans can vote for whoever they want to start the game and the managers can fill their bench with the most deserving players without having to consider position flexibility. And even if there has to be one representative from each team it doesn't matter, because the game wouldn't count. It would be nothing more than a spectacle, which is what an All-Star Game should be. Not a determinant for home-field advantage in the World Series.

Bud Selig, I know you were thoroughly embarrassed by what happened in 2002. But it's time to get over it and move on (like everybody else has) and let the All-Star Game be what it always has been and always should be: A show for the fans. Get on it for 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Good points made here... this game needs an overhaul!