If there’s a goal I have for this blog, it’s forwarding the evolution of the species. We take that seriously here.
So if there’s anything we need to do as a species … you, me, your grandma, the grocery store cashier, the cable guy, we all need to move forward in our pre-conceived notions of baseball’s All Star Game. I’m sure most of you reading this are steaming over the exclusion of Mike Pelfrey and his ten victories and sub 3 ERA. Just like people in San Diego are scratching our heads over the lack of Mat Latos and Heath Bell, and certainly like the people of Cincinnati are drowning their sorrows in three-way Chili over the snubbing of MVP candidate Joey Votto. We look at their first half numbers and wonder what went wrong …
Yes, me and my archaic/pollyanic view of the world thinks that Pelfrey got hosed. But here’s the problem, and here’s what we all need to realize: Baseball’s All Star Game, long ago, stopped being about rewarding good performances by players. It’s about big names … “stars” as the name implies … and about what will create the most buzz and move the needle. The sooner we realize this, the better off we’ll be. It’s the only explanation as to why somebody like Stephen Strasburg can even be talked about as an All-Star Game candidate after five games in the major leagues. Sure, you could argue that he’s a “star”, and with the game counting that he would be a player that would do well in an eighth inning against the likes of Longoria, Cano, and Mauer.
Except that it isn’t presented to us in that matter all the time. People talk about how America loves him and he gets more people in the ballpark and the ratings go up when he pitches. That’s why people want him in the all-star game. And even though I disagree with that notion, even though I personally feel that the All-Star game should revert to being a reward for a good first half (an entire first half), putting people in because they “create buzz” or because they were in all the commercials leading up to it or they have the sexy name (as was the case when Barry Zito had his All-Star appearance awarded and then taken away when FOX wanted Roger Clemens in the game back a few years ago) is fine with me. I’m willing to concede if baseball wants to make it purely about stars, and names, and what’s good for television. Hell it was headed towards that anyway when baseball and other sports decided to treat their biggest sporting events like Hollywood events with red carpet shows and cross promote them with the latest upcoming movie premiere.
I just wish baseball would admit that’s what it’s about, and lose all remaining pretense that this is about a good first half. And we need to admit that to ourselves once and for all. MLB presents it as “vote for your favorite players” (not for the best players stats wise), and “names” like Ryan Howard, Tim Lincecum, and Chris Carpenter get in over statistically superior (for 2010) Votto, Pelfrey, and Latos. Yet we all act as if there’s been a big crime committed when the deserving players don’t get in. What exactly did we expect? And what kills me is that baseball tries to have it both ways … have their big names in the game at all costs, then have the game count towards Game 7 of the World Series. It makes the All-Star Game baseball’s biggest contradiction. Let’s be honest that this is a big exhibition and nothing more. Or let’s call it a competitive game and forget about big stars and compelling story lines and just worry about the W. Because if this game really did count for something, then Doc Halladay would go eight innings and there would be a full staff of middle relievers and closers ready to go for extra innings.
Charlie Manuel even tries to have it both ways by adding Omar Infante because he plays multiple positions and would be good for a game that “counts”, and then puts in Howard because “he’s my guy”. And again, it’s all fine. But it needs to be one or the other. If Infante is in, then this isn’t an All-Star Game. It’s a playoff game … a playoff game meant to decide home field advantage. It’s an “AL-NL Showdown” as ESPN likes to call interleague play (another thing that drives me insane). If Howard is in because he’s Charlie Manuel’s guy, it’s an exhibition. You can’t have a rule that puts somebody from every roster in the game (no offense, Evan Meek) and then call this game meaningful. So let’s choose one or the other and stop taking the fans for suckers.
Think of it this way: When you put players in the game because they’re “big stars” with compelling storylines, it’s no longer a game. It’s a casting call.
Bottom line: If all of the snubs aren’t corrected in the next week with fan votes and phantom injuries, then Pelfrey gets three days worth of rest and will be ready for the second half of the season, which is infinitely more important than a contrived event which once had great meaning and great entertainment value on its own, yet has since jumped the shark with the presence of interleague play. This is something where we should look at the bright side and move on. It’s time to evolve. Besides, you can see Pelfrey pitch to Votto in a meaningful game on Monday.
All right, now I feel better. I wasn’t in the mood to discuss this yesterday after that horrible defeat, but now that Frankie has righted himself and the Mets didn’t blow an 8-0 lead (no apology necessary this time, Frankie), I can resume the advancement of our species. Thank you, and a very wacky 25th anniversary to you.