COMMENTARY | Year after year, there seems to be a great deal of disagreement among the fans, players and the media about exactly who should be playing in Major League Baseball's All-Star game. And many of these people get just as worked up about who shouldn't be playing in the All-Star game.
I am one of those people. Though my "outrage" is more of an idle frustration, which passes almost immediately after it occurs to me. By the time I'm done writing this article, I will hardly even know what it is I'm saying here and most likely neither will you.
The selection system is broken if stars having great years are left out and mediocre, no-name players are invited in their places. In the American League, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson and Howie Kendrick will be watching from home as Ben Zobrist, Jesse Crain and Salvador Perez inspire audiences the world over to shout, "Who?!" and "Huh?!" and "Why?!"
The core of everyone's disagreement and frustration over these All-Star game selections is an uncertainty about just what the purpose of the game really is. I am of the belief that the game, being an exhibition, is essentially a publicity stunt meant to attract new fans to our beloved sport. I wrote a more pontificating article about the game's purpose here.
You are welcome to disagree with me -- just as many readers did when I suggested that, for PR value, a surefire Hall of Famer like Albert Pujols should start the game over this year's much more productive Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles. Many readers had seemingly forgotten that the Orioles' own, Cal Ripken, Jr., had started at least seven All-Star games over superior talent. Of course, Davis should be on the team, but stars bring viewers and he's not quite a star yet.
The idea that the game is "rewarding players" is nice, but, in truth, this aspect is incidental. Please remember that this All-Star game was brought into being by the early baseball owners. Do you remember them? The guys who criminally underpaid players and made African-Americans play in a separate league.
This season, the real gaffes in selecting the teams are in the American League, as the National League has actually assembled a better team with very few oddities -- with the notable exception of manager Bruce Bochy's best-buddy choice of Marco Scutaro, who I can only assume is on the team to give high-fives and relaxing shoulder massages.
Jim Leyland has really outdone himself this year with the inclusion of 15 pitchers. With only nine innings in the game, that's almost two pitchers an inning. And at least four of the pitchers he chose are relief pitchers who will probably be terrible next year -- because that's how things go for relief pitchers.
Relief pitchers are mostly failed starting pitchers and sending them to the All-Star game is like giving background extras in movies an Academy Award for Best Actor. Move over Daniel Day-Lewis, you've gotta make room for Steve Alabastar after his gripping performance as "Guy at Bus Stop."
The Los Angeles Angels' Howie Kendrick is an above-average defensive second baseman who is having the best year of his career on a team full of players having down years. I think many would agree this is the type of player who should be rewarded with an All-Star game selection.
Leyland left out a lot of deserving hitters this year, but he made sure that the undeserving Torii Hunter and Prince Fielder from his very own Detroit Tigers were on the team. Maybe it's because of their career contributions to the game. Maybe it's because they're smoking buddies. But it certainly isn't because of this year's performance.
Kendrick's one big mistake this year apparently is being on an under-performing team that isn't named the Tigers. He certainly isn't the most glaring omission, but if there just isn't room for four second basemen on the team then maybe don't bring along the inferior Zobrist and let Howie get out there and show the world what he's been doing all season.
There's no need to expand the rosters. It's time we expanded our understanding of who gets to be an All-Star. And when that happens, we can just skip some of these relief pitchers who are taking up space where the real stars of the game could shine.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @JedRigney.
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