COMMENTARY | Quite frankly, deserve has nothing to do with it. While Freddie Freeman has had a good season and been a solid contributor for the Atlanta Braves, he's been outperformed by two Los Angeles Dodgers: Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig, both of whom have earned the spot over him. This isn't about giving it to the veteran first baseman in Gonzalez as a career achievement award or to the young outfielder Puig as recognition of a changing of the guard.
Freeman, currently the leading vote-getter in the NL Final Vote, is hitting .305/.387/.461/.848 with a .368 wOBA in 2013. He has Braves' Nation behind him, as well as Blue Jays' Nation, as the two teams have come together to promote one another's candidates.
While Freeman's been good, he hasn't been better than either Gonzalez or Puig.
Gonzalez has thrown his support behind Puig, and it's understandable why a veteran who has already played in an All-Star Game would want to ensure his young teammate gets the opportunity to play during the Summer Classic.
That being said, AGon has more than earned a spot on the squad, particularly if the choice is between he and Freeman. Adrian's posted a .298/.349/.480/.829 slash line with a wOBA of .353 and good defense at first while Freeman's glove has been below average this year and quite poor his entire career.
Both AGon and Freeman have posted fWARs of 1.5, so looking at how many facets of the game they've positively affected is the logical tiebreaker.
Freeman's been a bit better with the bat but Gonzalez has been better with the glove. Both have been suspect on the basepaths so it boils down to Gonzalez positively contributing with the bat and glove while Freeman has just been good with the lumber.
Puig's style -- a reckless abandon that produces great highlights, easy-to-avoid mistakes, and scary occurrences including running into the outfield wall -- has quickly endeared him to fans and media members alike who see new-school talent and an old-school mentality in the young Cuban.
Puig has hit .407/.441/.659/1.100 with a .468 wOBA in his first 145 plate appearances with 17 extra-base hits. While his defense and his baserunning have been suspect at times, he's made numerous dynamite throws and catches while running the bases like a gazelle. Puig's posted a 2.1 fWAR in far less playing time than Freeman has accrued, further emphasizing why he should make the team over Freddie.
For those who argue that Puig will have plenty of chances to be an All-Star so Freeman should thus get the vote, I'd point out that Freeman is young as well and if he's really the "heart and soul of the team" and this dynamite young player that Braves' fans make him out to be, he'll also have plenty of chances.
Final Thoughts on Freddie, Adrian, Yasiel, the All-Star Game, and Ways To Make It Better
In the end, whoever is selected in the NL Final Vote is fine by me. The All-Star Game doesn't rate highly on my "Things I Get Worked Up About List," regardless of what writing this article might have you believe. Both Gonzalez and Puig have been more valuable than Freeman thus far, so they get my vote before Freddie.
There are plenty of Braves' fans who call myself and others homers for picking a Dodger when looking at the five players up for the vote, but I'm not of the opinion that every Dodger should make it. There are only two who have without question earned a spot and a few others who earned a shot at a spot (Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen are musts; Gonzalez, Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Hanley Ramirez all have strong arguments).
But in the end, the ASG is an exhibition, and it's unfortunate that it not only "counts" as it determines home-field advantage in the World Series but that it also limits who can go there and exhibit their talent to fans. All three should be involved in All-Star festivities in some fashion.
The simple solution is two-fold. First, don't put so much emphasis on an exhibition. It should never have been worth home-field advantage in the World Series, and that ludicrous decision of Bud Selig should be reversed as soon as possible. Don't let ASGs play a factor when pundits talk about Hall of Fame candidates, and truly make the game an exhibition.
Second, and just as important, is a necessary expansion of the events in and around the All-Star Game. Instead of just the game and the Home Run Derby, transform the event into a spectacle similar to hockey and basketball's All-Star experiences. Add events which showcase your players' wide array of skills, from fielding to baserunning to pitching competitions. More players would be invited and the game would truly be the exhibition it always has and always will be.
Being an All-Star has long carried a cache well in excess of what it should. The game is an exhibition in the truest sense of the word, and baseball should put as many of its best and most exciting players on display for the world, diehard baseball fans, casual fans, and non-sports fans to see.
Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig certainly fit that bill, and to not find some spot for them to put their talents on display during the festivities serves to only harm baseball.Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
- Sports & Recreation
- Arts & Entertainment
- Yasiel Puig
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Freddie Freeman
- Atlanta Braves
- Los Angeles Dodgers