Jun 24

Let’s Fix the All Star Game!

Thanks to Royals mania and the collective joie de vivre of the Kansas City baseball fans, there are seven Royals projected to start the All Star game. This, apparently, is a bad thing. Somehow Royals’ fans of all ages voting for their favorite players to make the All Star game has turned MLB’s summer showcase into a farce and has to be fixed. You should read about it. People are extremely angry. Jayson Stark on ESPN even wrote an article on how to fix the voting because, this is me reading between the lines here, the fans are sort of stupid and shouldn’t be allowed to think for themselves. He doesn’t say this, of course. Stark is a good-natured guy who loves baseball and just wants to see the best players on the field, but it’s sort of how I’m reading it. We fans are barely capable of using forks without the fear of losing an eye, and this game is far too important to hand over to the masses.

I don’t know if the fans are angry about the voting. I suspect that no one cares. In the last week I can say with 100% certainty that I have not once discussed the All Star game with anyone. At Nationals Park on Sunday, no one mentioned the game, and while admittedly I didn’t overhear all 33 thousand in attendance, the few hundred I sat near in left field were more concerned with Gio Gonzalez throwing strikes and booing Jose Tabata. Also there was the sun. It was hot, and my flesh sort of bubbled by the fifth run in that nine-run first. My wife was more concerned with dehydration, sunburns, and a steady stream of five dollar waters. I did not ask her about the All Star game. I did ask her if she was going to eat all of her boardwalk fries, however. Maybe someone there worried that Lorenzo Cain might start in centerfield over Mike Trout or that Omar Infante was even included on the ballot much less to rob poor Jason Kipnis or Brian Dozier of a roster spot. That person is probably the same person who wears black dress socks with Jams and sips coffee in 100 degree weather, but whatever. His or her voice needs to be heard, and by God, the All Star game is a national institution.

Maybe the real issue isn’t the voting. Maybe the real issue is that Major League Baseball can’t decide what they want the All Star game to be. Is it an exhibition? If so, allow the fans to vote, keep the rule where every team needs to have at least one representative, and remove the ridiculous and artificial awarding of home field advantage based on the game’s result. Is it a game to determine postseason scheduling? If that’s the case, remove the fans entirely and allow front office personnel and managers to pick the teams, stop trying to award participation ribbons to teams who have questionable inclusions, and really sell the fact that this game matters. You can’t have it both ways. It can’t be both an exhibition and meaningful. If you want to make every team able to promote their individual All Star participant (and sell those awesome custom jerseys and hats) and still have the game hold meaning then why not just fill the teams with the best players, regardless of team, and have skills competitions to showcase your other stars? I would love to see Wilmer Flores in a routine grounder competition. Will Ian Desmond botch the first soft liner or will it be Flores? Which middle infield duo refuses to cover second on a stolen base first? Both Vegas and I think it will be the Mets! What’s the over/under on poor Eric Campbell decisions? See, there’s so much fun to be had when we really sell the fundamentals.

I’m fully willing to admit that my perception of this game might be clouded by watching the Mets play recently. I’ve seen this team play defense like it’s an NBA All Star game, not care, and pretty much give up on Terry Collins over the last week, so that the thought of players more upset about not getting three days of extra rest than excited about an exhibition game doesn’t get me fired up. I see that pretty much every day, thank you very much.

We’re here because in 2002 the All Star game ended in a tie, and we were all so very upset that an exhibition game didn’t end decisively. Bud Selig and MLB, embarrassed because the game was played at Miller Park and Selig epically froze under fear of doing anything innovative or fun to determine a winner (home run derby anyone?), overreacted and made the decision that haunts us to this day. Also it was Torii Hunter’s fault.

I have an idea, though. It’s an admittedly dumb idea, but my idea at least pretends that the game matters and treats it like it does. Why not fill out the roster with only the players who are currently in line to make the postseason? These players would certainly care about home field advantage—maybe—and they’d probably be willing to try. If nothing else, we’d see the best players from the best teams, and that at least would be worth the viewing. Oh, sure, there are all kinds of issues with this plan. Teams would be less than enthused about their $30M dollar stud pitcher taxing his arm in a game that might not have any direct benefit to them (because that doesn’t happen now, of course), and injury replacements and pitcher rest days would be challenging. Also, why only add players from the teams who are currently in line for postseason berths? The Tigers and Blue Jays are each one game back from the AL wild card, so why can’t Josh Donaldson or Miguel Cabrera play too? In the AL there are seven teams either owning a wild card spot or within 2.5 games while in the NL there are three.

I haven’t worked all of that out. Why bother? It’s a dumb idea. I also haven’t worked out ways to determine tie breakers so that rosters are only selected from the same number of teams, what manager fills out the lineup cards, or how the rosters are actually filled. For the moment, I’ll choose. Here are the 10 teams that either lead their division or own a wild card: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates, and Cubs in the NL and the Rays, Royals, Astros, Yankees, and Twins in the AL. In the spirit of the current game, I’m filling pitcher positions, not necessarily predetermined roles.

 

Position AL NL
C Brian McCann Francisco Cervelli
1B Albert Pujols Anthony Rizzo
2B Brian Dozier Danny Espinosa
SS Alcides Escobar Jhonny Peralta
3B Mike Moustakas Kris Bryant
LF Alex Gordon Randal Grichuk
CF Mike Trout Joc Pederson
RF George Springer Bryce Harper
Bench Salvador Perez Yadier Molina
Bench Jose Altuve Adrian Gonzalez
Bench Evan Longoria Matt Carpenter
Bench Trevor Plouffe Justin Turner
Bench Brett Gardner Chris Coghlan
Bench Steven Souza Jason Heyward
Bench Alex Rodriguez Andrew McCutchen
P Chris Archer Max Scherzer
P Dellin Betances Clayton Kershaw
P Wade Davis Zack Greinke
P Glen Perkins Gerrit Cole
P Andrew Miller Jake Arrieta
P Michael Pineda A.J. Burnett
P Dallas Keuchel Francisco Liriano
P Jake Odorizzi Drew Storen
P Trevor May Jason Hammel
P Josh Fields Aaron Barrett
Homer Pick Chris Sale Jacob deGrom

Hypothetical All Star Lineups

I’m missing players for sure. I haven’t counted how many players for each team are on the roster, and I wasn’t trying to be particularly fair either. I had one rule: if there was a way to not place a Cardinal or a Dodger on the squad, I took it. There’s a reason why I added Chris Coghlan over Kolten Wong and why the Nationals have two relievers (and also Aaron Barrett followed me for like six hours on Twitter once) while Michael Wacha stays home. I also decided to add one special homer pick. These are guys that I want to see at the game no matter if their team is in line for the postseason or not. I’d imagine some of these players could be swapped out for others with no problem, and I added Alex Rodriguez because he’s having a decent season and it’d drum up interest in the game. How many articles will be written here soon about whether Rodriguez deserves to play in the game, should or will make the roster, or what it means to his legacy? I also gave Danny Espinosa a starting nod because he’s having a really good year, and this is my blog.

I can do that.

This is a game I’d watch. The NL’s squad definitely has a strong group of starting pitchers while the AL has lights out relievers. The AL has speed off of the bench while the thought of Bryce Harper facing Dellin Betances in the late innings is almost too much. Does Betances risk throwing him a fastball? Can Harper hit that ridiculous curve?

Does it make sense? No. It doesn’t not make sense, however, especially in comparison to the current game, so why not? It’s sad that we won’t see Giancarlo Stanton or Manny Machado or Paul Goldschmidt play, but apparently denying those that deserve to make it is already a problem. I can’t imagine my approach is really any worse.

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