Small-Star Game (07/05/01)
I don't mean to insult anyone, but relative to the talent available, this has got to be one of the worst collections of All-Stars in recent memory.
But first, I'd like to correct a popular notion that this game isn't necessarily about showcasing the best players. Under the current system of selecting the rosters, it obviously isn't. But the game was designed and created to showcase the best players.
When trying to define what an All-Star is, one must inexorably conclude that the players who become All-Stars get to that poition by producing. They don't get it by doing more charity work, or signing more autographs or giving better interviews. They're All-Stars because they produce. When they stop producing, they're no longer All-Stars.
Just like we have one president. There are other guys who have been president and we still address them as "Mr. President" but they are no longer presidents. So we can address a player as "All-Star Ryan Dempster" or "All-Star Harold Baines" but it doesn't mean that he's an All-Star this year.
Seems simple enough.
Because of injuries, this year's All-Star game will be without baseball's best pitcher (Pedro Martinez) and three of it's premier sluggers (Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr Mark McGwire).
Also missing the festivities due to injuries that have stifled their seasons will be Nomar Garciaparra and Edgardo Alfonzo, two of the game's best infielders. Greatness has always been predicted for JD Drew and he was beginning to finally live up to the billing until an injury sidelined him for 2 months.
So with all that incredible talent on the shelf, one would think that the voters and managers would do everything possible to make sure that the rest of the rosters were populated with the best available talent. One would think that, but one would be wrong.
Entering June, Cal Ripken was the leading vote-getter for the AL third base spot. This year, of the AL players who have played at least one game at third base, he has been the 29th most productive at the position in the league. There are only 14 teams in the AL. And only one player can play 3rd base at a time. This means that Ripken has not only been worse than the average team's starter, but he has been worse than the average team's back-up player as well.
So the media got on the fans around the first of June, pointing out that there was a clearly better choice at third base than Cal, namely Troy Glaus, who for the past 2 years, has been the AL's best player at the position and arguably the best in baseball.
The fans response? They turned out in droves to vote for David Bell, who took over the lead shortly after. While he hasn't been as bad as Ripken, of the 12 regular third baseman (a couple of teams have used a platoon), he is the 11th most productive. OK, Troy Glaus is only 2 syllables, so I know it's not because he has a difficult name to pronounce.
So the media got on the fans once again for their poor choice. And their response? By voting even more fervently for Cal. All I can say is... DOH!! So when the voting ended, Cal ended up as the starting third baseman and Troy Glaus (thankfully) was named as a reserve.
Every year, the managers get blamed for snubbing one player or another. Many times, their hands are tied, as each team must have at least one representative to the All-Star game. But this year, both managers committed gaffes that were clearly and wholly their own choice.
Joe Torre decided that 7 Yankee players needed to be in the All-Star game. Some of his choices, like Roger Clemens and Bernie Williams were clearly merited. Some of them were not. Like Mike Stanton. Stanton has probably been the Yankees most valuable reliever this year and I suppose that Torre is trying to give him some reward for his stellar service. But the All-Star game is not the appropriate place to give out team awards. Give him a bonus at the end of the year, Joe!
There are a number of more deserving pitchers, like Tim Wakefield, who has performed a similar role for the Red Sox, but in addition has been the bridge for their starting rotation as well. If he just wants a lefty set-up man, Seattle's Arthur Rhodes has been every bit as valuable as Stanton. And how about Tim Hudson? The guy has as many quality starts as anyone in the AL and is currently 5th in the AL in ERA and he doesn't merit a spot?
Likewise, the selection of Paul Quantrill seems a bit squirrelly as well, but in light of the fact that none of the other Blue Jays seem to be having stellar years, it's a forgivable selection.
Not to be outdone, Bobby Valentine made his own squirrelly selections. Greg Maddux currently is leading the NL in ERA and is in the top 10 in wins. But Valentine chose his own guy, Rick Reed, instead. Reed's having a good year, but he's not in the top ten in either of those notable categories.
Like Torre, Valentine also made a pick that appears to be a reward for services rendered. While Mike Hampton has a huge disadvantage pitching half his games in Coors, he has not been that stellar away from the Unfriendly Confines. His 3.22 road ERA would put him 8th overall. Granted, this is not a bad pick and it's certainly better than Jeff Shaw.
Shaw suffers from the opposite affect. His home park helps him greatly. Currently, Shaw's home ERA is 1.65. Away from Chavez Ravine, it's an unsightly 5.93. So can someone tell me why he's a better selection than Robb Nen (currently leading the NL in saves with 25), or the Mets' own Armando Benitez, who only has 17 saves, but has yet to blow an opportunity?
Better yet, why carry 11 pitchers in the first place? Why not take another position player who can help you with pinch-hitting or double switches? Since that will be the primary job of the manager in a game like this one as pitching changes are almost perfunctory with each team changing pitchers after each inning. Why not take another player like Cliff Floyd, for example.
Yes, we all know that Valentine and Floyd have had a very public war of words in the media recently. But that was supposed to have been settled weeks ago. I guess it hasn't.
Even if Valentine is insistent that the NL team needs 11 pitchers, Floyd certainly merits a spot over some of the others who were named. Floyd plays in one of the toughest pitchers parks in the majors and yet has still managed to post a better offensive winning percentage than Moises Alou, who happens to play in one of the best hitters parks in the majors. Floyd is also a threat on the base paths, having stolen 11 bases so far, which would be the 3rd highest total on the team. While Larry Walker is having a fine year, it's obvious that his home park has helped his numbers. Away from Coors, he's hitting .287/.413/.544. Nice numbers, but not deserving over Floyd's .339/.414/.634.
What to do, what to do
Frankly, I'm beginning to think that Bud Selig could do a better job of picking the teams, and that's not a good thing.
Perhaps it's time to look at a new way of choosing the All-Stars. Perhaps a system where fans, managers, front office people, scouts and even the players get an equal vote. Maybe there could be a test, like the written test to get a driver's license or a citizenship test or a GED that you'd have to take to qualify to get a vote. Something fairly easy and short, but would display a person's aptitude to distinguish a stud from a dud. And the higher your score on the test, the more votes you'd get.
That or we could just change the name to the Small-Star game.
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